2017 Looking Bright for Restaurant Seafood Sales

January 10, 2017

By Christine Blank, Contributing Editor
© 2016 Diversified Communications. All rights reserved.

Seafood restaurants – and those that serve seafood – are expected to perform well in both the United States and the United Kingdom in 2017.

“Right now, consumers should be in a pretty good place, with regard to the economy. All of the indicators, including unemployment, are trending positive,” Darren Tristano, president of foodservice research and consulting firm Technomic, told SeafoodSource.

As a result, spending at higher-end restaurants that serve seafood will rise, Tristano said. In addition to an increase in consumer spending, United States businesses will have increased expense accounts and take clients out to dinner more.

Restaurant chains like Ruth’s Chris, Fleming’s and other upscale chains are expected to perform well, according to Tristano.

“Steakhouses will continue to pick up, and seafood will do well in the steakhouse format,” he said.

In addition, “more polished casual restaurants” such as Bonefish Grill and Legal Sea Foods will also thrive, Tristano said.

In the U.K., eating seafood in restaurants is also expected to rise, as consumers dine out more and seek healthy, sustainable seafood. Over the last year, seafood servings in U.K. restaurants increased 2.3 percent to 979 million, as restaurant visits also grew 1.5 percent, according to NPD Group – Crest in the U.K.

The biggest trend affecting seafood served in restaurants is sustainability, Tristano said. The health, ethical and environmental attributes of meals are increasingly important to consumers, according to one of NPD Crest’s top five foodservice trends for 2017.

Sustainability is here to stay – and it will continue to increase [in importance to consumers],” Tristano said.

Consumers will continue to seek out seafood for its health benefits, according to Tristano.

However, because of the inherently higher price of seafood versus other proteins, restaurant operators need to offer a mix of seafood species at various price points to “raise the appeal of the protein.”

“For example, you can have Chilean sea bass at one end and tilapia at the other end. Or, in addition to Chilean sea bass, you can add in bluegill and other types of striped bass. You can get it down to an area that is more affordable and approachable for consumers,” Tristano said.

Seafood at restaurants is already becoming more approachable, thanks to fast-casual restaurants that are performing well, such as Luke’s Lobster and Rubio’s Coastal Grill. Even quick service seafood chains such as Captain D’s are performing well, according to Tristano.

The types of seafood dishes that will perform well in 2017 include sushi, sushi burritos, poke and calamari, “a product that is becoming more approachable,” Tristano said.

“Poke is taking off across the nation,” he added. “We are seeing a lot more poke bowls and concepts that are getting into raw ahi and salmon.”

Up-and-coming sushi burrito restaurants in the U.S. include Sushiritto in New York and San Francisco, Chicago-based Sushi Burrito and SeoulSpice in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, the other top NPD Crest trends for foodservice operators in 2017 are:

  • Restaurants must provide different delivery options (potentially use a delivery aggregator) to complement the traditional sit down format.
  • To maintain sales growth and consumer engagement, outlets must deliver a great experience, with a choice of quality meal options.
  • Consumers are interested in buying locally-sourced food. However, they will not accept lower quality.
  • Consumers like variety but they do enjoy their traditional favorites with a fresh twist.

Texan Buying Morton’s Steakhouse Chain

January 19, 2012

Texans Buying

Texan buying Morton's steakhouse chain

Executives have met at Morton's steakhouses for more than three decades, talking shop and making deals. Now the storied Chicago chain is making a deal of its own, selling itself to Texas restaurateur and Landry's Inc. Chief Executive Tilman Fertitta.

Fertitta's acquisition of Morton's Restaurant Group Inc., announced Friday, values the high-end steakhouse chain at about $116.6 million. Houston-based Fertitta is offering $6.90 per share in cash for Morton's, a 33.7 percent premium over the company's Thursday closing price of $5.16. The deal is expected to close in early February 2012.

Morton's had said in March it was considering a sale of the company and had the blessing of Castle Harlan Inc. and Laurel Crown Partners LLC, its largest shareholders. Fertitta already owns 5 percent of Morton's. The industry veteran, whose holdings at Landry's include Rainforest Cafe and Claim Jumper, described himself as a longtime admirer of the Chicago steakhouse.

"Morton's is the largest, most iconic high-end restaurant chain in America and I've always thought a lot of it," Fertitta told the Tribune in an interview. "They have excellent food and great service."

Morton's has 77 steakhouses in 64 cities worldwide; it also operates Trevi, an Italian restaurant at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. While the recession caused revenues to fall almost 15 percent to $281.1 million in 2009, the company rebounded last year with the help of an expanded bar menu offering lower-price items. When Morton's reported third-quarter earnings in October, it projected full-year 2011 revenues of $321 million to $323 million.

Fertitta said he plans to retain much of Morton's management, which he praised for having "grown the company in tough times over the last couple of years."

In a statement, Morton's Chief Executive Christopher Artinian said "Tilman has an outstanding portfolio of restaurants. He really understands the value of the Morton's brand and our people, and is well-positioned to further enhance our reputation as the world's best steakhouse."

Morton's declined to comment further.

Fertitta said he plans to add "a few lower price-point items" to the Morton's menu while keeping all of its core offerings. He will also freshen the chain's decor and "give it a more contemporary look" in line with the taste of modern diners. Fertitta said these tweaks would be "nice, subtle changes," emphasizing that Morton's will remain aimed at high-end clientele.

"We like the business traveler, the tourist, the local patron and we like the brand," he said.

As for adding locations, Fertitta said, "we can see Morton's definitely expanding."

The Morton's deal is Fertitta's second announced acquisition in as many months. He is in the process of buying seafood chain McCormick & Schmick's. He also is ramping up activity in hospitality and gaming, buying the Trump Marina Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., and turning it into a Golden Nugget. Landry's is the parent company of the Golden Nugget properties in Las Vegas and Laughlin, Nev.

Fertitta's companies are expected to generate about $2 billion in revenue this year, according to Landry's.

"When you look at Landry's or Tilman, the way they purchase brands is they don't tend to grow the brands," said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Chicago-based food industry consultant Technomic. "They look for strong brands they can modernize, contemporize — even remodel — and raise their operating margins. I haven't really seen very many of the brands add units after they've been acquired."

View the full article on The Chicago Tribune