In contrast to the nationwide downward trend (see below), HD client Santino's has doubled their revenue in the first year since launching the HD system. To see more detail Click here
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U.S. restaurants starved for business August 20, 2010|By Sharon Bernstein, Los Angeles Times
The number of restaurants operating nationwide dropped this year for the first time in more than a decade, a survey shows, with California accounting for almost a third of the losses. With consumers and businesses keeping a lid on expenses, more and more small and mid-size restaurants are throwing in their dish towels and closing up shop.
Southern California lost nearly a thousand more restaurants than it gained during the 12 months that ended in March, representing a net 2% drop that was twice the national average, according to the New York research firm NPD Group. Nearly all the closings were among independently owned restaurants: small, family businesses that just couldn't hold on as customers held back. Earlier in the year restaurants reported modest increases in business, but the jumps in sales were too little too late for many.
"We were going in reverse," said Ken Rausch, who last month made the wrenching decision to close his family's 65-year-old San Gabriel Valley restaurant, Edward's Steakhouse. The restaurant had weathered previous recessions, but this downturn drained the family's resources — and showed few signs of letting up, Rausch said.
Other well-known haunts have also succumbed: Orso on 3rd Street near Robertson Boulevard, a trattoria popular with the entertainment crowd, closed last winter after a nearby movie studio laid off a big chunk of its employees; across the nation, Koo Koo Roo, Bennigan's, Bakers Square, Tony Roma's and other chains have shut dozens of locations.
Even in good times, the restaurant business is a difficult one. Many close simply because they fall out of fashion or favor, and most run on slim margins. But this downturn seems especially brutal.
"It's been a miserable 2 1/2 years," said Chuck Keagle, who has closed six of the 10 restaurants in his family's Rancho Cucamonga-based Cask 'n Cleaver steakhouse chain since the downturn began.
Customers began spending less when the economic crisis hit in late 2007, he said. Business started to stabilize this year but diners are still spending about 25% less than they did during the economic boom, Keagle said.
Overall, customers spent about 7% less in 2009 than the previous year, and business is still slow, said Darren Tristano, analyst with the food industry research firm Technomic Inc. The company expects consumers to spend just 0.5 percentage point more on restaurant food this year than last year.
California, with its high unemployment, has been disproportionately affected.