Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Educating Peter

Here’s what I learned so far today about the business of restaurants:

Slash time?
While the rest of fast food was slashing prices like a crazed TV pitchman, Carl’s Jr. continued to tout the heft and quality of its specialties. It’s an admirable high-road strategy, but today’s financial update from the chain’s parent suggests it’s time to hone the blade and get a-cuttin’.

The regional burger chain posted comp-store declines of 8.7% for the quarter and 9 percent for the month ended Jan. 25. In contrast, Hardee’s, a more value-oriented sister brand, reported slips of 2.5 and 2.8%, respectively. Both are part of CKE Restaurants, which also owns the Red Burrito and Green Burrito concepts.

Recently, Carl’s has put more of a spotlight on the heft of its products, an apparent effort to suggest value without sacrificing check size. It remains to be seen if that approach will help in halting a slide in traffic.

But don’t expect the brand to switch directions and slash prices the way competitors have. “We will continue to focus on the excellent value-for-the money of our premium products,” CKE CEO Andy Puzder said in announcing the financial results.

Levy clan must have ketchup for blood
The Levy family, one of Chicago’s more renowned restaurant dynasties, is Pollo Campero’s franchisee for Illinois and Florida. The clan is also still hatching new concepts. For instance, its Levy Campero operation has partnered with the chicken chain’s franchisor to create a new health-oriented concept for Downtown Disney, the nighttime entertainment complex near Walt Disney World in Orlando.

The place will feature Campero’s Latin-style chicken, salads and wraps made with fresh ingredients.

Restaurateurs to get some on Valentine's Day
Lovers may be skimping on presents this Valentine’s Day, but the quest for amour won’t curb their dining out.

So report the incurable romantics at Crain’s New York Business. The typical gift giver will spend $63.34 cents on flowers, candy or whatever this Feb. 14, as compared with an average of $67.22 last year, according to National Retail Federation data cited by Crain’s in this week’s edition.

Yet restaurants will do better this year than they did on lover’s day of last year, according to other sources in the article. Because Feb. 14 falls on a Sunday this year, right in the middle of a three-day weekend, people will be dining out with less reserve, asserted IBIS World, a research firm.

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