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Experts cautiously optimistic about the “restaurant industry’s fortune” in 2010

Morton’s – The Steakhouse forced to close three locations

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From Nation’s Resaurant News Breaking News:

Morton’s shutters three restaurants

By Dina  Berta

 

CHICAGO (July  14, 2009) Morton’s Restaurant Group, whose namesake steakhouse chain has suffered dramatic drops in sales this year, recently closed three of its 81 restaurants.

Morton’s spokesman Roger Drake on Tuesday cited “a strategic assessment of trends” for the closures of restaurants in Southfield, Mich.; Westchester, Ill.; and Minneapolis. The Michigan and Illinois stores closed June 26 and 27, respectively, and the Minneapolis location closed July 3.

For the closings in Minneapolis and Westchester, a reported company statement alluded to those restaurants not meeting “base financial targets needed to support continued operations.”

Upscale steakhouse chains like Morton’s have seen falling customer traffic as corporate expense accounts shrink and consumers cut back on spending. In May, Morton’s reported that same-store sales plummeted 24.1 percent for the April-ended first quarter and said it expected same-store sales to continue to drop for the rest of the year.

“The recession affects convention business,hotel occupancy and air travel, which all have a direct correlation on our business at Morton’s,” Thomas Baldwin, chairman and chief executive, said in a statement in May.

Read the rest of the article here:

http://www.nrn.com/breakingNews.aspx?id=369808

The high-end chain steakhouse segment hasn’t proved immune to the economic climate. Ruth’s Criss has reported large losses, Capital Grill has suffered crippling quarterly drops in profit, and even the Palm, which seems to be outperforming the rest of the segment, has had to close two under-performing restaurants itself in the past couple of years.

Steakhouses are trying to attract new guests and save regulars by offering such things as half-price wine on certain days, inexpensive bar menus, and prix fixe dinners at reduced prices.

This is not symptomatic just of the high end segment. Mass market casual chains have also been hit hard and are trimming their properties as well. They are also being aggressive with coupons, 2-for-1 entree specials and special promotions.

While restaurants are being far more accommodating to the dining public than before, it isn’t totally a case of the guest getting what they want at all costs. Restaurants are getting closer to what they should always be, i.e. welcoming and flexible toward the guests’ needs and appreciative of their patronage. But one unintended consequence that the guest might need to be aware of is that restaurants are occasionally trimming their service away from their posted hours, especially in high-end restaurants. If you are dining late, it’s more important than ever to make a prior reservation  because you might walk in at 10:15 to find that the restaurant that normally closes at 11pm has already closed their kitchen. If you make that late reservation, the management can plan accordingly. These days, if the last table is at 8pm and there are only one or two walk-ins before 9pm, many managers now have permission to close the kitchen early at their discretion.

So, while guests might rejoice that they seem to have the upper hand in their relationship with the restaurant, there’s another side to the coin.

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