The Carlton Restaurant

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Restaurant Industry Outlook Brightens in 2011

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Check out the recent article from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review “Restaurant industry outlook brightens in 2011” where The Carlton Restaurant is mentioned:

Restaurant industry outlook brightens in 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011

“After three tough years, owners of eating and drinking establishments in the Pittsburgh region say customers are returning to their restaurants, but a full recovery is taking time.

News of improvement came from the National Restaurant Association, which said sales improved in the second half of 2010, hitting a record high of $40.2 billion in December.

“Industry sales are expected to rebound in 2011,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research at the association.

Annual sales are projected to top $600 billion for the first time, and restaurant job growth will continue to outpace the overall economy, he said. “Pent-up consumer demand for restaurant services that was built up when many consumers cut back on spending will translate into better times ahead.”

Kevin Joyce, owner of the Carlton Restaurant in BNY Mellon Center, Downtown, said a recovery is slow.

The Carlton’s month-to-month sales for 2010 improved slightly over 2009, but fuel and commodities costs have increased, and he can’t pass those on to customers.

“This has been one of the slowest recoveries in our history,” he said.

The Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts, Downtown, announced that it will close after graduating its Class of 2012, which means restaurants must look for another source of trained employees, Joyce said.

A bright spot at the end of last year was an increase in business bookings for the holiday season after two lackluster years, said John Graf, owner of the Priory and the Grand Hall in the North Shore. “Organizations with cash felt comfortable spending,” he said.

Another was the election of Gov. Tom Corbett, who promised to break the state’s monopoly on liquor sales. That could mean restaurants will pay less for wine and spirits, said Joyce. More than 50 percent of the price of a $100 bottle of wine in a state store — $55 — is accounted for by taxes.

“The taxes and fees in Pennsylvania are the highest in the country,” Joyce said. “Every bottle of wine and spirts goes through seven different markups. … We’re in an industry where we’ve got to buy that raw material and resell it.”

Economic pressures prompted Glenn and Lisa Hawley own the Monterey Bay Fish Grotto, with locations on Mt. Washington and in Monroeville, to closed a third location, in Tyson’s Corner, Va.

Located in Fairfax County, Tysons Corner is a major corporate and government hub. But despite a concentration of corporate money, Glenn Hawley said he couldn’t make the restaurant work. For him, it illustrates that corporate spending hasn’t rebounded since the credit crisis of 2008 — and may never do so. He said 60 percent of revenue came from corporate clients.

“I think a lot of the companies are realizing they don’t have to go back to the ways of the late 1990s, when it was a matter of who can spend more on dinner and taking clients out,” he said.”