List: 2011 A Better Year for Arkansas' Top-Selling Eateries

2011 was again a better year for eateries in Little Rock than in North Little Rock, as revealed in Arkansas Business’ annual list of top-selling restaurants.

(Click here to see a PDF listing of the top Little Rock restaurants or here for a spreadsheet version. The top North Little Rock restaurants list is available here in a PDF format or here as a spreadsheet.

For revenue details on upscale dining, click here for the PDF. The top restaurants in Conway, Hot Springs, Fayetteville and Bentonville are available as a PDF here.)

In Little Rock, 20 out of the top 30 restaurants saw revenue growth year over year, while fewer than half of North Little Rock restaurants had revenue increases from 2010 to 2011.

All of the Little Rock restaurants that had double-digit revenue growth were parts of chains, which routinely dominate the list. On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina, a franchise of OTB Acquisition LLC in Dallas, had food sales increase by about 14 percent. Cantina Laredo, another Mexican franchise operated by Consolidated Restaurants Operations Inc. of Dallas, increased its sales year over year by 11 percent.

Part of the worldwide burger chain headquartered in Oak Brook, Ill., the McDonald’s located at 7200 W. 12th St. saw its food sales grow by nearly 19 percent. Representatives from the three restaurants did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Other Little Rock chain restaurants, such as Bonefish Grill on Cantrell Road and Texas Roadhouse on Shackleford Road, experienced more modest growth. Bonefish Grill’s food sales increased by 6.4 percent from 2010 to 2011. The restaurant’s manager, Taylor Shepherd, said strong store leadership and consistently fresh food are among the reasons for Bonefish Grill’s success.

Chain restaurants succeed more easily because the company can “focus on consistency throughout the chain,” Shepherd said.

North Little Rock, on the other hand, had only one restaurant with double-digit growth in 2011, as seen in the revenue data reported to the city. That restaurant, Santo Coyote on McCain, reported revenue of $1.5 million, which was a whopping 29 percent increase in sales over 2010. The general manager of the store, which is not part of a chain, did not return phone calls.

Whole Hog Cafe appears on the North Little Rock list with a 9 percent drop in sales over 2010’s data. However, the 2011 information is incomplete because the restaurant had not paid its restaurant tax for the month of December.

Rich Cosgrove, Whole Hog North Little Rock owner and brand licensee, said December was a record month for the store and the location actually had an increase in sales over 2010. The Whole Hog company is headquartered in Little Rock.

The restaurant’s catering business grew from 10 percent of total business to about 30 percent, Cosgrove said.  

The trend locally, as well as nationally, Cosgrove said, is growth in fast-casual restaurants like Whole Hog as opposed to upscale eateries.

“I think our business is growing because high-end restaurants are shrinking,” Cosgrove said.

But that trend isn’t borne out by Arkansas Business’ research of upscale restaurants. Ten of 16 restaurants on our list experienced sales increases in 2011. Sonny Williams Steak Room remains at the top of the upscale list, but Brave New Restaurant gained ground.