Golden Corral Beats Red Lobster in Highest-Grossing Restaurant List

by Jamie Walden  on Monday, Feb. 2, 2009 12:00 am  

Montine McNulty says that controlling costs is important to consumers.

(UPDATE: Following this story's publication date, December 2008 figures were released, giving Red Lobster the edge in retaining its crown as North Little Rock's top-grossing restaurant. More on this development, plus other updates, can be found here.)

(Read the list of the top-grossing restaurants in central Arkansas by clicking here for the Little Rock list and here for North Little Rock's. Click here to see the top restaurants by other cities and by category.)

(Spreadsheet versions of the Little Rock and North Little Rock lists are also available.)

Among the regular year-over-year changes in the Little Rock and North Little Rock restaurant scenes, one major event occurred in 2008: The Red Lobster on McCain Boulevard was dethroned.

The North Little Rock store, the white whale of the restaurant industry, had never been caught in more than 15 years. And only a few times did the Little Rock Red Lobster concede to a Chili's or Outback Steakhouse.

In North Little Rock – in both cities, actually – this year's victor by a narrow margin is Golden Corral, the all-you-can-eat buffet at 5001 Warden Road, which paid the city's restaurant tax on $5.3 million in revenue during the 12-month period that ended in November.

December tax data was not yet available for North Little Rock restaurants. Little Rock restaurants pay tax on 2 percent of revenue from prepared food, excluding alcohol. North Little Rock restaurants pay 3 percent.

Golden Corral, a franchise owned by Sam Fiori's Golden Partners Inc. of Fort Smith, enjoyed a 10 percent increase in business last year compared with 2007, while Red Lobster's revenue increased only 1 percent to $5.2 million.

"I'm sure that [being an all-you-can-eat buffet] helps because people are looking for value with their dollars," said Montine McNulty, executive director of the Arkansas Hospitality Association. The new rankings, she said, also reflect the competitiveness of the restaurant industry and how quickly things can change in a teetering economy.

James Staats, general manager of Golden Corral, concurred.

"I think [the buffet has] been a big part of the success," Staats said. "People, with their spending dollars, are spending wiser. They're going to where they can get more for their dollar bill.

"When all this doom and gloom started, I'm thinking, gosh, we're going to have to pare down. And we did."



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