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Restaurant Openings Report: The Week of May 18, 2014

Restaurant Openings Report: The Week of May 18, 2014


A look into this week’s restaurant openings

Fast casual Texas barbecue hotspot Tres Carnes has opened a third New York City location in Midtown.

Every week, we take a look at some of the restaurants that have opened or will soon open across the country. Here’s this week’s roundup:

Chicago

Chef Gregory Elliott’s modern Italian-inspired restaurant Current has opened in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood.

Hamptons

This weekend, farm-to-table food concierge service South Fork and Spoon will launch in the Hamptons.

Pop-up restaurant BLT Steak will reopen Memorial Day weekend at the boutique hotel CAPRI Southampton.

New York

Starting on Memorial day and continuing throughout the summer, a fleet of food trucks will be open on Governor’s Island and at the South Street Seaport, including Thai and Vietnamese fusion truck Sweet Chili, and taco truck Paso Taco.

Fast casual Texas barbecue hotspot Tres Carnes has opened a third New York City location in Midtown.

Bait & Hook Seafood Bar, a new casual seafood-centric bar and restaurant, will open on May 28 in the East Village.

Williamsburg musicians-turned-restaurateurs Daddo Bogich and Merle Chornuk plan to open an as-of-yet-unnamed upscale pizzeria on West 106th street.

Big Smoke Burger, a Canadian burger joint, plans to launch its first New York City location in Chelsea in mid-June. The menu will also include craft beers and milkshakes.

Orlando

New casual seafood restaurant Outriggers Tiki Bar & Grille has opened in New Smyrma Marina on Florida’s East coast.


  • Inspect and clean food preparation areas, such as equipment and work surfaces, or serving areas to ensure safe and sanitary food-handling practices.
  • Ensure freshness of food and ingredients by checking for quality, keeping track of old and new items, and rotating stock.
  • Ensure food is stored and cooked at correct temperature by regulating temperature of ovens, broilers, grills, and roasters.
  • Season and cook food according to recipes or personal judgment and experience.
  • Turn or stir foods to ensure even cooking.
  • Observe and test foods to determine if they have been cooked sufficiently, using methods such as tasting, smelling, or piercing them with utensils.
  • Portion, arrange, and garnish food, and serve food to waiters or patrons.
  • Weigh, measure, and mix ingredients according to recipes or personal judgment, using various kitchen utensils and equipment.
  • Bake, roast, broil, and steam meats, fish, vegetables, and other foods.
  • Wash, peel, cut, and seed fruits and vegetables to prepare them for consumption.
  • Coordinate and supervise work of kitchen staff.
  • Estimate expected food consumption, requisition or purchase supplies, or procure food from storage.
  • Substitute for or assist other cooks during emergencies or rush periods.
  • Consult with supervisory staff to plan menus, taking into consideration factors such as costs and special event needs.
  • Prepare relishes and hors d'oeuvres.
  • Carve and trim meats such as beef, veal, ham, pork, and lamb for hot or cold service, or for sandwiches.
  • Bake breads, rolls, cakes, and pastries.
  • Butcher and dress animals, fowl, or shellfish, or cut and bone meat prior to cooking.
  • Keep records and accounts.
  • Plan and price menu items.
  • Compliance software — Food safety labeling systems
  • Data base user interface and query software — Menu planning software
  • Inventory management software
  • Materials requirements planning logistics and supply chain software — Recipe cost control software
  • Office suite software — Microsoft Office
  • Point of sale POS software — Point of sale POS restaurant software
  • Spreadsheet software — Microsoft Excel
  • Web page creation and editing software — Facebook
  • Word processing software — Microsoft Word

Hot Technology — a technology requirement frequently included in employer job postings.


World Famous Fried Chicken Restaurant Moves Into Houston With its Secret Recipe

Gus's Famous Fried Chicken knows it's all about the chicken.

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken came to Texas back in 2014, with a restaurant in Austin.

The wait is almost over. Get set to enjoy Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken in late May.

H ouston will soon have a new claim to chicken fame. You’ve heard rumbles, but now an opening date is in sight. Memphis classic Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken is making its way to Washington Avenue.

You could say this fried chicken mecca’s enjoyed a little more than 15 minutes in the spotlight, with its signature secret recipe dating back more than 60 years.

The celebrated, down-home, Southern comfort food hub is set to open at 1815 Washington in late May. It was originally projected to open last spring, but permitting and construction issues stalled progress.

Gus’s may be arriving a little late, but the devoted following its wings, sweet potato pie and sweet tea garner indicate it’s worth the wait. Just don’t mistake its crispy wings for Nashville Hot Chicken.

Gus’s version tones down the spice, using a hit of cayenne and other spices.

“It’s just enough kick to have you eat piece after piece,” Austin and Houston Gus’s owner Brad Blodgett tells PaperCity. “Sort of like a good queso.”

The recipe is proprietary to the extreme. “It’s a secret recipe,” Blodgett says. “I don’t even know what’s in it.”

There’s debate over whether it’s the exact same recipe created by Maggie Vanderbilt in 1953. Either way, it seems to have stayed a winner.

Its skin is a standout, too. Instead of “traditional flour, heavy batter,” Gus’s chicken has a crispy, crunchy skin not too far off from the Korean style.

Gus’s Tennessee Roots

Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken may be Tennessee born-and-bred, but it’s become a fixture in Texas over the last few years. Blodgett brought the fried chicken to Austin in 2014. He had befriended someone with a franchise in Memphis and told her: “It blew me away. This would work in Austin.”

Austinites definitely agree. It was love at first bite, and now it’s migrated southeast.

Brad Blodgett and his wife always knew they wanted to expand to Houston. They spent 15 years living in the area. Their Gus’s fits in well in with its location.

“There’s a little Austin corridor right there on Washington,” Blodgett says, noting that Austin transplants Tacodeli and Handle Bar will be his neighbors.

“It was always my experience that Houston tended to mirror the United States,” he says. “It’s such a big city, such a diverse crowd.” It’s also comfortable and “almost reminds me of the same kind of vibe that we grew up with in Memphis,” Blodgett adds.

The retired bond trader first enjoyed the Gus’s recipe in the small town of Mason, Tennessee, where it all began. When he took his first taste of what would become Gus’s goods, he hadn’t eaten fried chicken in seven or eight years.

It knocked his socks off. At first, he couldn’t believe it was as good as he imagined. “I thought ‘Oh, we drank a lot of beer, it can’t be that good.’ But every time we went back, it blew me away,” Blodgett says.

The fried chicken will remain “the star of the menu.” The Houston location’s menu will mirror Austin’s exactly. The vibe will be similar, with a few slight differences. When creating his Austin restaurant, “I tried to recreate the one on Front street” in Memphis, Blodgett says. “I think we pulled it off. It has the same kind of feel to me.”

For every location, “We bring in early rock and roll history. It’s kind of a guiding light,” Blodgett says. In Memphis, that meant using old blues music as inspiration. In Austin, that meant incorporating original photographs and album covers of Stevie Ray Vaughan. Houston’s muse? Expect him with bells on. The one and only Archie Bell, the soul music legend.

“One of our big fans happens to live in Houston — Archie Bell,” Blodgett says. It’s a perfect fit. “In Tighten Up, that funky groove song, he even starts with ‘Hi everybody, I’m Archie Bell of the Drells, from Houston, Texas!'”

Bell and his wife take frequent trips to Austin to chow down at Gus’s. “He gave me a business card and said ‘You’ve got to tell me when you open’ ” in Houston,” Blodgett relates.

Our guess is Bell won’t be the only steadfast fan. Blodgett is betting on it. “Who doesn’t like fried chicken?” he asks.


More dining news from the week:

Mega Church is coming to Edgewood. Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium is expanding, taking over the space vacated by Corner Tavern, as reported by What Now Atlanta. With the expansion, Church will expand its menu and could also transform its exterior. The food service will be casual, with counter service for ordering and disposable tableware so that customers can bus their own tables. Grant Henry, the owner of Church, acquired the Corner Tavern space in late April and retained much of the restaurant's staff. The demolition and build-out process is taking place this month, and Henry plans to reopen the bar on June 1.

Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A has surpassed Taco Bell as the second-highest-grossing fast-food chain in the country, now behind only McDonald's. Chick-fil-A earned more than $11 billion in sales in 2019, moving past other behemoths like Burger King and Taco Bell. Outside of McDonald's, the only other chain that outstrips Chick-fil-A is Starbucks, with sales of more than $21 billion. However, both McDonald's and Starbucks have well over 10,000 locations, while Chick-fil-A has less than 2,500. Read more from Restaurant Business Magazine here.

C&S Seafood and Oyster Bar in Roswell has permanently closed due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Opened in 2016, the restaurant was originally called C&S Chowder House but rebranded to match its sister restaurant in 2019. Its two sister restaurants, including the original C&S Seafood and Oyster Bar and Hugo's Oyster Bar, will remain open. Read more here.

Gunter Seeger, the German chef who dominated Atlanta's fine dining scene in the late 1990's and early 2000's, has returned to town and has a new restaurant in the works. Though he is in the early stages of opening his next Atlanta restaurant, he has already moved back to town with his family from New York City. Read our interview with him here.

Midtown Irish Pub Ri Ra has closed after a decade in business. The management team of the popular bar could not come to terms on a lease agreement with their landlord, so the decision to close was made prior to the coronavirus pandemic hitting the city. Read more here.


It Will Take Years for the Restaurant Industry to Recover

The road back will be longer, and far more disruptive, than the Great Recession was.

A lot of correlations are drawn between the Great Recession and COVID-19 in terms of potential recovery. But there are considerable differences. For one, coronavirus is a global crisis. And more, it’s bulldozed “business as usual” for operators segment-wide. In some ways, it’s more similar to the challenges faced by restaurants in disaster events. New Orleans’ landmark Commander’s Palace, for instance, closed for 13 months after Hurricane Katrina—a move that cost it $6.5 million.

Hordes of restaurants, pronounced in the independent sector, have shuttered for several months now. Yelp’s Economic Impact Report, released Wednesday, showed nearly 140,000 total business closures on the review platform since March 1. Of those, 41 percent are labeled permanent. Restaurants made up 17 percent of that six-digit figure, with 53 percent indicating they weren’t going to reopen again.

The National Restaurant Association predicted “tens of thousands” would exit. Restaurants lost $40 billion in May, it said, bringing the three-month total to $120 billion after March dropped $30 billion in an abbreviated window and April sank $50 billion as stay-at-home policies covered the entire month. Overall, restaurants are expected to lose $240 billion by year’s end.

While the majority of restaurants shifted to off-premises-only formats, others elected to sideline the option for financial or brand reasons. It was either unrealistic from a bottom-line perspective or an operations one.

And that’s where the real difference lies between now and 2008–2010. In addition to discretionary income concerns (more than 45 million people have filed unemployment claims since the onset of COVID-19), restaurants are also fighting a fear factor and potential erosion in consumer willingness to dine out. Yet to the disaster comparison, there’s also an element of restarting in the mix that presents a costly proposition. Restaurants owe rent and have past due invoices for food. The Association called the costs tied to new safety measures, like PPE for employees and Plexiglas shields, “extraordinary.” Kiko Japanese Steakhouse, in Missouri, made the social media rounds recently when a customer’s receipt showed a $2.19 COVID-19 surcharge. The restaurant removed the practice, but said it would raise menu prices due to higher charges from its supplier. The Original Pancake House, according to the Miami Herald, added a 15 percent “service fee” to all orders, not including tip.

Post Katrina, Commander’s Palace was mandated to operate under new restrictions. Water had to be boiled and food could only be served on plastic.

COVID-19 shattered the operating status quo on a hyper scale. The No. 1 challenge, though, remains how to satisfy all these costs, hurdles, and new directives with limited capacity seating and still make money. It’s why 75 percent of operators believe it’s unlikely their restaurants will turn a profit within the next six months, according to the Association. On June 18, Sen. Roger Wicker in the Senate and Rep. Earl Blumenauer in the House introduced the RESTAURANTS Act, a bipartisan $120 billion relief package intended to help independents, especially those left behind by the Paycheck Protection Program. The revitalization fund “provides hope of survival for small business restaurant owners from the smallest towns to the broadest urban streets,” the Association said.

But nobody knows when this aid is coming, or even if it’s coming.

Given these roadblocks and realities, we can look at the Great Recession not as a mirror event exactly, but as a recovery comparison point.

Rabobank recently released a report on the industry’s post-pandemic path back. It projects COVID-19 could reduce long-term foodservice growth trajectory by 50 to 100 basis points, “as the current dislocation is far worse and more pervasive than anything the industry has experienced in a long time—perhaps ever.”

“Though we are reluctant to make apocalyptic predictions about the ‘new normal’ or dramatic changes in long-held cultural/consumer behavior patterns, it’s clear that the U.S. foodservice industry will not go back to ‘business as usual,’ even as current restrictions are eased/lifted,” Rabobank said.

More probable: A lot of the current trends/strategies you see today will be cast aside or accelerated. Others will emerge. Here’s a look at what operators think those might be.

Rabobank expects a full recovery from the current disruption to take longer than the seven quarters restaurants needed to return to pre-recession levels (from Q3 2008 to Q2 2010). It sees pre-COVID-19 sales levels returning in the mid- to late-2022 range.

Restaurant business has improved sequentially alongside reopenings in recent weeks. In the period ending June 14, total major restaurant chain transactions declined 12 percent versus the same week in 2019, according to The NPD Group. That’s 1 percent below the previous week, but the ninth consecutive period of improvement, year-over-year. Quick-service restaurants bumped slightly to negative 11 percent (compared to last year) from negative 13 percent the previous week. Full-service chains upped 12 percentage points, week-over-week, to negative 26 percent.

However, it’s still early days in terms of understanding COVID-19’s lasting impact on things like social gathering norms, public/corporate policies and regulations, and consumer spending and behavior. And while data hasn’t shown a correlation between case spikes and fewer restaurant visits thus far, stocks tumbled Wednesday in fear of future fallout. Some brands might elect to re-close dining rooms, just to be on the front foot with employee and customer safety, as Kolache Factory did Wednesday.

There’s also the element of a second wave and when it might actually land. Beyond what that could do to consumer sentiment, restaurants in many markets across the country, particularly in the already battered Northeast, might lose their outdoor dining lifelines as winter approaches. If that coincides with a surge in cases, there’s no guarantee full dine-in service will be available to cushion the blow.

At least 4.5 million of the roughly six million jobs lost in the food and drink industry came from independent brands.