Thursday, April 1, 2010

Grossest Restaurants in South Florida

Not really the grossest restaurants, rather the highest grossing in terms of revenue. The annual report by Restaurants & Institutions of the top 100 revenue-producing independent restaurants in the United States in 2009 is out, and there are a few South Florida names on the list. You can see the full list here.

Joe's Stone Crab is in the same #3 spot as it was in last year, and it would seem the recession really hasn't touched it: 2009 sales of $26,272,000 compare pretty favorably to last year's $28,827,328, and the number of meals served (roughly 320,000) and average check size ($65-68) have both held steady.

Also holding firm is Myles Chefetz's cash cow, Prime 112. P112 is on the list at #14 for 2009, with $18,889,430 in revenue and average ticket of $115, again almost exactly even with last year's figures.

Meanwhile, DeVito South Beach is still on the list, but barely. DeVito, which made its first appearance on the list last year at #19, with $17,800,000 in revenue, dropped to #98 this year with $10,000,000. Of course, many of these figures appear to be based on estimates by R&I rather than information reported by the restaurants, so who knows what they really mean.

In the aggregate, the top 100 restaurants on the list saw a roughly 10% drop in revenue, and even the restaurant in the top spot on the list the past couple years - Tao in Las Vegas - was off by about 13%. There are some other interesting insights at R&I, including some anecdotal takes on the "new normal" and the prospects of restaurant business picking up this year, and on the success stories of 2009.

What does it all mean for South Florida restaurants? I'm not so sure, but possibly not all that much. In large part, I think the mega-restaurants on this list operate in something of a parallel universe to the rest of the restaurant world (though it's interesting that P112 is one of the smallest restaurants on the list with only 120 seats), though I am somewhat surprised that places like Joe's and P112 didn't show at least some impact from the recessionary climate. I suspect smaller operations are much more susceptible to the ebbs and flows of the economy and the heft of the wallets of their customers, and it was easy to see that last year, pretty much all restaurants locally were feeling the slowdown.

It seems, though, that things are picking up. It's purely anecdotal based on my own observations, but restaurants feel busier, reservations (particularly on weekends) have been somewhat harder to come by, startups like Sugarcane have found traction quickly, and stalwarts like Talula seem to be bouncing back. I've been out lately on some Mondays and Tuesdays (typically slow restaurant nights) and was surprised to see places bustling.

So perhaps the time is ripe for the pretty lengthy list of restaurants that are just opening or getting ready soon: Mercadito, The Forge, Zuma, DB Bistro Moderne, Norman's 180, plus many others I'm sure I'm overlooking.

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