Morton’s shutters three restaurants

CHICAGO Morton’s Restaurant Group, whose namesake steakhouse chain has suffered dramatic drops in sales this year, recently closed three of its 81 restaurants.

Morton’s spokesman Roger Drake on Tuesday cited “a strategic assessment of trends” for the closures of restaurants in Southfield, Mich.; Westchester, Ill.; and Minneapolis. The Michigan and Illinois stores closed June 26 and 27, respectively, and the Minneapolis location closed July 3.

For the closings in Minneapolis and Westchester, a reported company statement alluded to those restaurants not meeting “base financial targets needed to support continued operations.”

Upscale steakhouse chains like Morton’s have seen falling customer traffic as corporate expense accounts shrink and consumers cut back on spending. In May, Morton’s reported that same-store sales plummeted 24.1 percent for the April-ended first quarter and said it expected same-store sales to continue to drop for the rest of the year.

“The recession affects convention business,hotel occupancy and air travel, which all have a direct correlation on our business at Morton’s,” Thomas Baldwin, chairman and chief executive, said in a statement in May.

Employees at the recently shuttered Morton’s were offered assistance, including opportunities to transfer other Morton’s locations where positions were available, spokesman Drake said.

Meanwhile, a rival steakhouse in Minneapolis is stepping in with deals to try to capture some of Morton’s customers. Manny's Steakhouse, a division of Parasole Restaurant Holdings of Minneapolis, said it would honor Morton’s gift cards and VIP cards.

“No restaurant can replace Morton’s, but we want to give its loyal guests an opportunity to discover a restaurant we hope they’ll love as much,” said Phil Roberts, creator of Manny’s and a founder of Parasole.

Morton’s customers who use their gift cards at Manny’s can apply for a Dining Club card that will come loaded with $100 credit to be used for another dinner at Manny’s. The offer is good through Aug. 31, Manny's said.

Contact Dina Berta at [email protected] [3].