Upscale Eateries Generally Enjoy Higher Sales in '06

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Apr. 16, 2007 12:00 am  

Upscale restaurants in the Little Rock area generally enjoyed solid sales figures in 2006.

Eight of 13 fine-dining establishments selected by Arkansas Business reported increased food and nonalcoholic drink sales in 2006. Restaurant receipts are public information in cities — like Little Rock and North Little Rock — that levy a local-option sales tax on hotels and restaurants.

The biggest revenue growth was reported by Ristorante Capeo in downtown North Little Rock. Its sales jumped 20.9 percent in 2006, from $417,067 to $504,165.

The highest-grossing upscale restaurant in 2006 was Sonny Williams Steak Room in the River Market. It took in $1.97 million in 2006, which amounted to a 1.2 percent increase over 2005 and only about $2,500 short of moving it into the rankings of the 30 highest-grossing restaurants in Little Rock. (Click here to purchase a downloadable spreadsheet.)

Peter Brave, owner of Brave New Restaurant in Little Rock, said an improved economy in 2006 helped push people through the doors of more upscale restaurants. But that isn’t the whole picture.

“I think it’s more a lifestyle,” Brave said. “I think that people are just moving faster. And although they’ve got nice kitchens in most of their houses, people … just want to have a nice meal outside of their house.”

And it looks like there’ll be no shortage of reservations in 2007. The National Restaurant Association 2007 forecast predicts Arkansas restaurant sales rising 5.4 percent, from $2.87 billion in 2006 to $3.03 billion in 2007.

Other upscale restaurants in Little Rock are also planning on bigger checks in 2007.
Owner Donnie Ferneau, an American cuisine restaurant in Little Rock with 130 seats, has already seen strong gains since it opened in January 2005. Ferneau reported food sales of $733,323 in 2006, an 11.8 percent increase over 2005.

Ferneau, who will turn 32 this week, credits his staff for the restaurant’s popularity.
“We have the best service in town,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how great a chef is; it’s how great the team works together.”

He also tries to provide a high-quality dish every time.

“Once a chef loses that mentality, once they think it becomes easy, is when those restaurants start to fail,” he said.

Some See Sales Slip



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