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Jimm Swafford at Jimm's Steakhouse and Pub employs 75 in South Glenstone Avenue space that was vacant for 16 months after Steak & Ale abruptly closed in 2008.
Jimm Swafford at Jimm's Steakhouse and Pub employs 75 in South Glenstone Avenue space that was vacant for 16 months after Steak & Ale abruptly closed in 2008.

Food Service: Restaurants dish out deals to drive business

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With the economic downturn easing, the restaurant industry is expected to show gradual improvement in 2010, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2010 Restaurant Industry Forecast. Pent-up demand may turn into restaurant traffic as economic recovery continues, and Springfield businesses are getting ready.

“People just aren’t eating out like they were, but pocketbooks are starting to open up,” said John Owens, sales and marketing representative at Feller’s Fixtures, a food service equipment supplier. “From an operations standpoint, smaller places are really starting to feel it. Those who have operated with efficiency are the ones still standing.”

Restaurant industry sales are projected to reach $580 billion in the U.S. this year, a 2.5 percent increase compared to 2009 sales, according to the association. When adjusted for inflation, 2010 sales would be essentially flat, which is an improvement over the 1.2 percent and 2.9 percent declines in real sales that the industry experienced in 2008 and 2009, respectively, the organization found.

Smart menus
Consumers forced to cut back on spending indicate that they aren’t dining out as often as they would like, but when they do, they are seeking value, convenience and expanded menu options in 2010.

“Everyone’s been saying it’s supposed to bounce back (midyear), but I’m not so confident that it’s going to happen,” said Kevin Mackey, director of operations at the Springfield Brewing Co. “We were down a bit in 2009, but not down as much as the industry average.”

Mackey said the restaurant usually revamps its menu this time every year, but it is holding off for now.

“We don’t want to redo a menu in a down economy,” Mackey said. “We are offering late-night specials where people can get a pizza or appetizer with a pitcher at a discounted price.”

At Mille’s Café, $7 lunch and $10 dinner menu items are bringing in budget-conscious customers. “The owners have challenged managers to come up with new menu items that are inexpensive, manager Rick Fredrickson said.  

Jobs outlook
The restaurant industry remains one of the nation’s largest private-sector employers, with its 12.7 million employees comprising 9 percent of the U.S. work force, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Despite job losses in 2009, the industry still outperformed the national economy. Job growth is expected to resume in 2010, and the industry is projected to add 1.3 million career and employment opportunities by 2020.

It seems some of that growth already may be hitting the Ozarks. Jimm’s Steakhouse and Pub opened Dec. 13 at 1935 S. Glenstone Ave., in restaurant space that formerly housed Steak & Ale. General manager Jimm Swafford, who runs the restaurant for owner Errett Sechler of Plaza Towers LLC, told Springfield Business Journal that the eatery has about 75 employees. Other new eateries in the Ozarks include Toss-Across, a restaurant that specializes in fresh-cut salads, sandwich wraps and fruit smoothies. Toss-Across opened Dec. 16 at 431 S. Jefferson Ave., Ste. 104, under franchise owner Three Island Tours LLC.[[In-content Ad]]


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