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RESTAURANTS—Anthony’s Scales Down for Take-Out Restaurant

Hospitality: Mission Valley Express Eatery

First in Franchise Series

Anthony’s Seafood Group of La Mesa, Inc. is casting its line into the increasingly popular “express” market. The company known for its Star of the Sea and Anthony’s Fish Grotto restaurants recently announced plans to open a less formal restaurant with extensive take-out options. The first location will open in Mission Valley by mid-October, said marketing manager Andrew Hauser.

It’s the first of a more casual, quick-service brand Anthony’s hopes to develop, Hauser said. A lease for the first location, in the Rio Vista shopping center visible from Friars Road, was signed in July, Hauser said.

“The central location in Mission Valley and the proximity to the stadium make this an ideal location for the newest Anthony’s, said co-owner Rick Ghio. The eatery, named “Anthony’s Fish Grotto Express,” will feature many popular dishes from its namesake restaurant, Hauser said.

The restaurant will seat from 100-120 people, and the average check per customer will likely total $6 to $7, Hauser said. Anthony’s has also applied for a license to sell beer and wine, he said. Hauser did not discuss how much the new enterprise would cost the privately owned company.

Growing Trend

The new express stop marks Anthony’s attempt to break into the cheaper, less-formal dining and take-out market that is already enjoyed by several chains. Among them is Oscar’s Restaurants, which features chicken, pizzas and salads. Culver City-based Sizzler International, Inc. recently bought a majority interest in the San Diego company, paying the owners $16 million. Anthony’s new express location faces an Oscar’s, in fact. Anthony’s is focused on the first location, but expects to eventually scout more “Express” locations and develop the brand, Hauser said. The company plans to look for locations in North County, where they haven’t built other Anthony’s restaurants, Hauser said. Anthony’s new brand is coming to an already-primed market, said Steve Zolezzi, executive vice president of the Food & Beverage Association of San Diego County. According to Zolezzi, the express eatery , featuring cooked-to-order food and a streamlined menu , is becoming more popular among restaurateurs and customers. Follows Customer Needs

“I think you’re going to see more operations with that kind of option,” he said. It follows customer needs, he said. As society continues to work longer hours, people are losing time to prepare dinner, Zolezzi noted.

A quick, less-expensive eatery is a way for customers to eat healthier than a fast-food alternative, and yet not spend money on a more expensive restaurant, he said.

Many operators are looking at what’s happened with Oscar’s, and hoping to establish similar set-ups, Zolezzi said.

Oscar’s is the most notable example, with their recent deal with Sizzler, but other companies have already followed that route, he said.

Among them: Kearny Mesa dim sum and Chinese restaurant Jasmine, which has a side take-out operation, and Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza, which branched out into smaller caf & #233;s last year. Another similar restaurant is Rubio’s Baja Grill, which serves lobster burritos and more upscale “quick-service” items, Zolezzi noted. For restaurateurs, the express-style operations cost far less in overhead, such as stocking supplies for a full, often long, menu and the number of employees required to run it, Zolezzi said. The savings tend to spill over to the customers, he said. Even if restaurants aren’t building express versions of themselves, they often have created specific take-out menus or have their regular menu items available for pick-up, Zolezzi said.

“You’re already seeing a lot of restaurants that are offering those options in addition to table service to entice customers,” he said.


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