Skip navigation

Restaurant operators on the year ahead

Nation's Restaurant News asked restaurant operators across the country to share expectations for their businesses in 2011. Most are optimistic that the new year will bring renewed consumer spending and opportunities for expansion. Still, a few remain cautious that the economic uncertainty of the past few years will continue into 2011.

Read what they had to say:

“We’re anticipating a slow start to the New Year, but by late fall I think we’ll see business picking up. I judge it by advance booking for our catering business, and we already are seeing more activity in the first quarter [of 2011]. I think people are still looking for price-value and comfort food — everything fresh from farm to table. I think that people who stick with good quality will survive.”

— Walter Staib, chef-proprietor of City Tavern in Philadelphia


“Our restaurant business in 2011 is all about winning guests with talented staff and fresh food. Every action we take is with this purpose in mind. We engineer our training, hiring, purchasing and even our finest details to give our guests the very best. … Our goal is to keep the soul in our style and get constantly better at executing our concepts.”

— Jack Gibbons, president of Front Burner
Restaurants, the Addison, Texas-based parent
to the Twin Peaks and Whiskey Cake concepts


“We’re predicting high single-digit growth in 2011, and that means things are getting better.”

— Joe Fugere, owner of four-unit
Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria in Seattle


“I think 2011 will be a better year than 2010. We certainly saw that in the latter half of 2010, both in terms of same-store sales and franchising. We ended the year with 100-plus locations, and we’re planning to open about 110 in 2011. We have consumer confidence in our product and the ability to expand. Franchisees are attracted to our focus on health and our entry into the self-serve yogurt segment. We also see the opportunity to do a lot more nontraditional locations, like in college locations and airports.”

— Dan Kim, founder and chief concept
officer of Red Mango USA in Dallas


“We have been up all throughout the recession. Even when it looked bad everywhere else around town, we were up. We kept prices low, our volume rose. Bar prices stayed low, happy hours filled two bars and overflowed into the third one outside. We improved the menus, eliminating all the stagnant items and only the best-selling ones stayed. We completely went to a seafood-based menu, left the prime rib, New York strip steaks, pork and chicken [off the menu]. Now we specialize in over 10 varieties of finfish, shellfish, lobster, etc. In 2009 we were up 40 percent over 2008. We were up another 30 percent in 2010, and in 2011 we are looking for no less than 30 percent.”

— Michael Bennett, chef of Bimini in Miami


“I am very optimistic about 2011! My partners and I believe that with our Corner Bakery Café brand we are perfectly positioned for the current restaurant environment. We are aggressively looking to expand with more units in San Diego County this next year. Our only challenge in this environment has been the availability of quality real estate sites. With the lack of bank lending, the development community has come to a halt on construction of new retail space, which means much more competition for quality existing sites.
“The people resource availability has never been better, and we are finding it easy to hire quality hourly and management employees for our new cafes. People are still eating out; they are just more discriminate about their choices. If you offer a quality product in a comfortable environment and provide great service, you can be very successful in this business even during these challenging times.”

— Steve Fricker, president of S&B Development Inc.
in Del Mar, Calif., a Corner Bakery Café franchisee
who recently opened his first unit in Southern California.


“I anticipate current economic uncertainty will continue to challenge the general operating environment well into 2011. However, we are forecasting continued growth in our businesses driven by a strong emphasis on value, culinary innovation, community service and retention of dedicated staff committed to enhancing our devoted guests’ experience.”

— Bob Molinari of the 22-year-old
Uncle Sal's Italian Restauranti & Bar in Scottsdale, Ariz.


“As the economy gets better in 2011, so will the hospitality industry. Most people consider dining out a luxury, and that was one of the first things people cut back on. I am already noticing for 2011 a lot of requests for in-home cooking classes, romantic dinners for two, girls-night-out classes and meal deliveries as gifts. I think people are looking for something where they really feel that their money is going toward an overall experience. I believe in 2011 more hospitality establishments will be getting away from ‘high tech, low feel’ if they want to succeed.”

— Kimberly McCune, chef at Vine & Dining
catering services in Cleveland


“I think it is just going to get better.”

— Gregory G. Flynn, chairman and chief executive
of Applebee’s franchisee Apple American Group.
Read more about the franchisee's outlook for 2011


More outlook coverage
The 2011 NRN a.m. Restaurant Operator Survey
Restaurant sales growth could hit 4-year high

In-Depth for Subscribers: The Jan. 10 issue of Nation’s Restaurant News included "Economic climb offers foothold for the future" in its Forecast & Trends special report with a taste of what's to come in:
Food trends
Consumer trends

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.