Upscale Eateries Generally Enjoy Higher Sales in '06

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

But not every upscale restaurant saw its numbers increase last year. Of five that saw sales slip, the largest decrease was sustained by Nu Cuisine & Lounge in Little Rock’s River Market district.

Its sales fell more than 22 percent in 2006 to $796,816, compared with over $1.02 million in 2005. Nu, which opened in November 2004, had its best month right after it opened in December 2004 with sales of $127,168.

A spokeswoman for the restaurant did not return a call for comment.

Restaurant 1620 and Ciao Baci, both in Little Rock, were the only two restaurants on the list that have experienced two consecutive years of lower sales. Restaurant 1620, which sold over $1 million worth of food in 2004, saw its sales slide 12.8 percent in 2005 and another 3 percent in 2006. Its total last year was $912,000.

A spokesman for the restaurant couldn’t be reached for comment.

Similarly, Ciao Baci’s sales slumped 24.4 percent in 2005 and another 3.1 percent in 2006, during which its food sales totaled $316,817.

Ciao Baci’s owner, Suzanne Boscarolo, said she isn’t worried about the drop in food sales because the restaurant’s alcohol sales — taxed by the state and not subject to the Freedom of Information Act — have made up for the loss.

“We are not really a high-end fine-dining restaurant,” she said. “We wanted to be a wine bar … then started selling more main courses because people wanted a little bit more food.”

A 14th upscale restaurant, So Restaurant-Bar, opened in Hillcrest in January 2006 and racked up $1.2 million in sales in its first year. That was good enough to rank No. 5 among the upscale crowd last year, behind Sonny Williams, Trio’s, Brave New and Capers.

Even though his sales slipped 1.9 percent in 2006, Vermillion Water Grille owner Mike Selig isn’t worried.

Selig attributes the slight drop-off to the street construction work involved in extending the Central Arkansas Transit Authority’s River Rail trolley line to the Clinton Presidential Library. To install the tracks, a section of Commerce Street outside Vermillion was ripped apart for much of 2006. But now the trolley is rolling by the restaurant.

“With the trolley coming by … it can only help with visibility,” Selig said.
Selig said he plans on luring people to the restaurant in the summer by holding shrimp and crawfish boils on the patio.

“We’re defiantly going to get to their senses. That’s for sure,” he said.
Sonny Williams’ owner, Jimmy Young, said his plate is full with the customers he has, and he isn’t planning to expand.

“We’re just going to make this restaurant the best it can [be],” Young said.




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