Multi-concept operator Restaurants Unlimited Inc., or RUI, this week debuted Portland Seafood Company, its first new concept in four years.
The new concept is a conversion of an existing restaurant owned by RUI, which previously operated as Newport Seafood Grill. It reopened as Portland Seafood Company — a 270-seat neighborhood seafood restaurant off a busy Portland, Ore., highway — on Thursday.
“This will be a restaurant for locals,” said Chris Harter, RUI president and chief executive. “With the quality we’re delivering at the price point, we think this restaurant will be very successful.”
Portland Seafood Company’s menu was developed by Brian Poor, chef of RUI’s Portland City Grill, a steakhouse atop Portland’s U.S. Bank building and one of the busiest establishments in the company’s portfolio of 46 restaurants under 21 brands.
Portland Seafood Company offers moderately priced seafood with a “chef’s focus,” using sustainable ingredients, Harter said. The restaurant follows guidelines from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, in which participating restaurants pledge to not serve items from the aquarium’s Seafood Watch “Avoid” list and train wait staff about seafood choices.
Most of the fish and shellfish served are from the Pacific Northwest, he said. However, a signature dish of fried clam strips uses giant Quahog clams from the East Coast.
Other menu items include tempura beer-battered fish and chips; a Dungeness crab bucket with clams, andouille sausage, wild prawns, baby red potatoes and corn on the cob; and crispy fried whole rock fish topped with spicy jalapeño ranch sauce.
Portland Seafood Company also has a full bar. The average guest check is $13 at lunch and $18 at dinner, with beverages.
Planning to grow again
Harter said RUI is shifting into growth mode again after spending the past year updating its brands.
Same-store sales are all positive, he said, and the company is “very healthy.”
RUI officials said they hope to open more Portland Seafood Company units, but five of the company’s other 21 brands have been specifically targeted for growth: Kincaid’s and Stanford’s — each with nine restaurants — seven-unit Palomino, and one-offs Fondi, a pizza concept, and Henry’s Tavern, a bar and grill.
The casual-dining operator is looking to fill in existing markets, Harter said. The company has its strongest presence in the Seattle and Portland areas, but is aiming to add more locations in about nine markets where RUI currently operates just one or two restaurants across 11 states.
Harter, who joined RUI in May, said the company has other new concepts in the works, but “Portland Seafood Company is the first to come to fruition.”
RUI is owned by Boca Raton, Fla.-based private equity firm Sun Capital Partners, which also owns Friendly’s and Real Mex Restaurants — both of which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this year — as well as Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp., Fazoli’s, Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill and Bar Louie.