Golden Corral Steamrolls Red Lobster in Total 2009

by Robert Bell  on Monday, Mar. 1, 2010 12:00 am  

It almost happened in 2008, but this time there seems to be no question: Golden Corral was the heavyweight champion among North Little Rock restaurants in 2009 with food sales that topped $6 million

(To see a list of the highest-grossing Little Rock restaurants in 2009, click here for a PDF or here for a spreadsheet version. To see a list of the highest-grossing North Little Rock restaurants, click here for the PDF or here for the spreadsheet. For revenue details from upscale Little Rock restaurants and various cities around the state, click here.)

Perennial champ Red Lobster on McCain Boulevard, despite a solid increase in sales, still lagged by $569,000, according to the hotel-motel-restaurant taxes the two restaurants paid the North Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau. Unlike sales taxes paid by individual retailers, HMR tax records are subject to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. The HMR tax is applied to food but not to alcoholic beverages.

Golden Corral, a steak and buffet franchise, topped its own 2008 revenue of $5.27 million by 16 percent, an increase which was attributable in large part to increased television ads, said James Staats, general manager.

"Golden Corral corporate bought TV time across the country, and it's the first time we've ever been on TV here on a regular basis," Staats said. "In years past, if we were on six weeks, it was a miracle and it was really expensive, because we were paying locally. Well, we went on a national campaign and instead of being on six weeks, we were on 22 weeks," he said.

"They're little 15- and 30-second ads that are pretty cute, and they've helped us tremendously," he said.

Competitors beware: This year, Golden Corral ads will run for 46 weeks.

The deluge of business has meant Golden Corral had to hire a lot more staff to keep the buffet stocked and everything else humming along. Normally, the restaurant averages about 80 employees, but at the peak last year, there were 110 workers, Staats said.

Including nontaxable sales, Golden Corral was up 19 percent year-over-year, with revenue of more than $6.5 million, he said.

"We're trying like heck to build another one on the other side of town," he said. "It would really ease the burden on some of those days when it's so slammed."

The recession was also likely a factor in increased business for a restaurant that offers unlimited food at a fixed price.

"People were watching what they were spending money on. Instead of going one time to a more expensive place, they could come a couple times to our place," Staats said.



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