You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.

X

Welcome to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

Restaurant industry bouncing back, but not everywhere


The restaurant industry that employs an estimated one in 10 workers in the U.S. is enjoying a robust rebound nationally, but the outlook in the Miami Valley is more mixed in part because of the harsh winter’s hangover.

“I think we were hit harder than other areas of the country by both the bad weather and the poor economy,” said Shanon Morgan, executive director of the Miami Valley Restaurant Association. “I think it’s going to take a little longer for us to come back.”

The National Restaurant Association reported last week that its Restaurant Performance Index — a monthly barometer that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry — has reached its highest level in two years. Sales and customer traffic levels are stronger, and restaurant owners and operators are more optimistic, the Washington-based association said.

The restaurant association found additional good news in the national jobs numbers released last week.

“Restaurants continued to be among the leaders in job growth, with the industry adding a net 32,800 jobs in June and more than 173,000 jobs during the first six months of the year,” an association economist said in a news release.

Overall, restaurant employment is up 3.1 percent this year through June 2014, nearly double the 1.7 percent gain in overall U.S. employment, the association said.

About two-thirds of restaurant operators reported a same-store sales gain between May 2013 and May 2014, up from 51 percent in April and the highest proportion since March 2012. Only 19 percent of operators reported a same-store sales decline in May.

“In addition, restaurant operators are increasingly optimistic about continued sales gains in the months ahead,” said Hudson Riehle, a senior vice president of the restaurant association.

Improving in Ohio

Glimmers of that industry rebound have emerged in west-central and southwest Ohio.

“On average, we are seeing sales increases, although we’re not back to 2008 levels,” Morgan said of her local association’s member restaurants.

And several new restaurants are opening or on the way. The region’s casual restaurant sector — especially sub-or-sandwich shops and pizza places — has attracted regional chains such as Firehouse Subs, McAlister’s Deli and Jet’s Pizza, which have opened or are planning multiple locations in the area.

Meanwhile, new independently owned restaurants such as Basil’s on Market in Troy and Sea Jax Tavern in Kettering have opened in recent weeks, and other independent restaurants are in the works in Dayton’s Oregon District, in Clayton and in Bellbrook, among other locations. And just last week, the nation’s largest restaurant chain (Darden, which includes Olive Garden and Red Lobster) opened a 6,280-square-foot, 240-seat LongHorn Steakhouse — the steakhouse chain’s third in the area — on Miller Lane in Vandalia, generating 80 to 100 new jobs.

Jordan Frink, the managing partner of the new LongHorn Steakhouse, worked his way up from a dishwasher position during his nine years with the restaurant chain, and spent more than two years as a manager at the LongHorn on West Dorothy Lane in Moraine before moving to the new restaurant. He sees no shortage of enthusiasm for dining out among the Miami Valley’s residents.

“The Dayton area has a lot of great places to eat,” Frink said. “The competition is great, but I think the pie is big enough for everybody.”

Well, maybe not everybody: The Tumbleweed steakhouse chain abruptly closed all three of its area locations — in Springfield, Kettering and Englewood — earlier this year. And in May, the Patriot Steakhouse in West Carrollton shut down after only seven months.

“I can tell you that I’ve been in the industry now for over 30 years, and I’ve never seen it be more difficult to be in business,” said Greg Carter, co-owner of the West Carrollton Patriot Steakhouse that closed. Carter also owns the original Patriot Steakhouse in Lebanon that remains open and “is doing well” despite a challenging climate, he said.

Prior to opening the independent Lebanon restaurant in January 2011, Carter worked for the LongHorn Steakhouse and Shells Seafood restaurant chains. He said restaurant owners, especially independent operators, are being squeezed by high food costs, even as their diners are struggling with high fuel costs.

High costs

The prices of meats and seafood — especially certain cuts of beef and pork — have reached all-time highs in recent months, forcing restaurant owners to choose between dwindling profits on every meal they serve, or risking customer backlash by raising menu prices.

Morgan said high food cost “is the number one topic of conversation” among her members. Those high costs hit independent restaurant owners harder than chains, she said. Large restaurant chains have economies of scale and in some cases can lock in prices of some foods months in advance.

Many independent restaurants, Morgan said, “are stuck between rising costs and customers who might not be willing to pay a higher price for their meals.”

The restaurant industry has always been volatile, with plenty of turnover. The same National Restaurant Association report that painted a rosy picture of the overall market revealed some caution amid the optimism. Restaurant operators’ view of the economy “remains somewhat clouded,” according to an association news release, with 28 percent of restaurant operators responding that they expect economic conditions to improve in the next six months, 15 percent expecting the economy to worsen, and 57 percent expecting economic conditions in six months to be about the same as they are now.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Business

Speedway to hire 1,000 workers across 9 states
Speedway to hire 1,000 workers across 9 states

Speedway will hire 1,000 workers in nine Midwest states and will host open interviews at each of its stores in the region later this month. The convenience store chain, with a headquarters in Enon, will host open interviews from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 25 at every one of its stores in nine states, according to information from the company...
Holiday debt blues? Here’s help getting on track
Holiday debt blues? Here’s help getting on track

John North is president of the Dayton Better Business Bureau. With the holidays behind you, the new year is a great time to get your finances back on track if you’ve slipped a bit. By dedicating yourself to using credit responsibly and sticking to a sensible plan, then you can effectively pay down your debt. According to debt.org, total U.S....
New shopping center proposed at long-vacant Springfield site
New shopping center proposed at long-vacant Springfield site

A new retail development is likely coming to the east side of Springfield at a longtime vacant property, the first major commercial growth there in several years. The Springfield Board of Zoning Appeals approved Wednesday night a variance for the former Roberds site in the 3000 block of East Main Street. City documents filed by developer Springfield...
Gmail phishing scam may lead users to give up login info
Gmail phishing scam may lead users to give up login info

A new phishing scam is allowing hackers to gain access to unsuspecting Gmail users' accounts and target their login credentials, according to recent reports. Mark Maunder, CEO of security service Wordfence, described the scam in detail in a blog post, adding that it is also targeting other services beyond Gmail. Tech Times reported that the scam involves...
Millennials spend more on coffee, save less for retirement
Millennials spend more on coffee, save less for retirement

A large number of Millennials spent more on coffee in the past year than they invested in their retirement savings, according to a new study. » RELATED: What makes Millennials tick in the workplace? It may surprise you About 41 percent of the Millennials — ages 18 to 35 — admitted to spending more on coffee than they saved for retirement...
More Stories