This Week on The Street – August 10, 2011

by Harold Shumacher

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This Week on The Street
(A more-or-less regular compilation of news, factoids and observations.)
By Harold V. Shumacher

Around the Country with RBN…

The economy may still be struggling but the restaurant sector continues to expand. At least that’s the consensus of the 80 members of The Retail Brokers Network’s Restaurant Council. On the groups most recent monthly conference call, there were consistent reports of new activity and expansion in most major markets. While rent reductions are still under consideration many companies are expanding, trying to take advantage of the market. Among the most active-Darden, especially Olive Garden and Seasons 52-: Buffalo Wild Wing; Smashburger; an untold number of yogurt concepts and Texas Roadhouse.

Another trend being seen nationwide is a growing number of developers trying to emphasize local tenants over national ones. In Atlanta, that’s most evident in the marketing plans for Atlantic Station, Prospect Park, in Alpharetta, and the recently re-named Buckhead Atlanta project. All three developments are actively recruiting local shops and restaurants.

McDonald’s Corp. plans to build the largest restaurant in its system as part of its role as official restaurant of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The chain has been an Olympics sponsor since 1976.  Speaking in a global webcast on July 20, McDonald’s UK CEO Jill McDonald said the planned restaurant will span 32,290 sq.-ft. over two levels, and will have a kitchen four times standard size to accommodate the crowds. The chain says it expects to serve 1.75 million meals during the games, which run from July 27 to Aug. 12, 2012.

America’s Fast Food King

We looked at spending data for the largest 100 cities in the U.S. by population and determined which cities spent the most and ate the most often at the following national fast food chains: McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC, Taco Bell, Subway, Pizza Hut, Arby’s, and Burger King.  The results? In our fast food nation, Plano, Texas is America’s fast food capital. The northern Texas town, a suburb of Dallas,   spends 2.3 times more than the national average on fast food, and orders 2.1 times more at fast food joints than the average U.S. city. Other top fast food cities were also from the South or Midwest: Madison, Wis. ranked second on our list, and Wichita, Kansas ranked third. Cities that ranked at the bottom of the list tended to be coastal cities: San Francisco ranked 91st on our list, spending 47 percent less than the national average.

When we’re not eating fast food  where do  our food dollars go?  Just under 10% of total income is spent on food expenditures, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Of  that approximately 2/3’s (6-7%) is spent for at home consumption and the remainder for dining out. What’s interesting about this is how the numbers have changed.  In 1934 the average expenditure for food represented 24 % of income. By the early 1990’s that number had shrunk to 10% where it’s remained fairly consistent for the past 20years. Food purchased for consumption outside the home has steadily risen to where it’s now approximately 4% of total expenditures,  or 40% of dollars spent on eating . And during the past few years, a slight reduction as people cut out dining out of the house.

One place increasing number of Atlantans are spending their food dollars are local farmer’s market.  At last count there were at least a dozen in the Metro Atlanta area held virtually every day of the week.  The granddaddy of them all is still the Peachtree Road Farmer’s Market, presided over by restaurant honcho Linton Hopkins but other markets of interest include Sandy Springs, East Atlanta, Grant Park, the recently opened Brookhaven event-which features Bloody Mary’s from Haven’s friendly bar staff and Clarkston-which may be the most diverse in the metro area. The small Dekalb County enclave boasts residents from over 100 countries and the produce selection reflects the patron’s tastes.

Peaches, figs, tomatoes and corn figured prominently at the second  annual  Southern Chefs Potluck, a benefit for Wholesome Wave Georgia .held in late July at Serenbe Farms in Chattahoochee Hills. Featuring some of Atlanta’s best known chefs, who prepared a bevy of side dishes, the main attraction was fresh White Oak Farms organic chickens grilled by Jim & Nick’s on their traveling smoker. Over 200 patrons attended the event which is already gaining a reputation for its culinary excess.

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