- The Washington Times - Monday, April 29, 2002

Aaron Kennedy was using his noodle when he came up with the idea to open a global noodle and pasta restaurant. Now his concept is hitting Washington.
Noodles & Co., which was founded in 1995, offers signature noodle dishes from Japanese pan noodles and Pad Thai noodles to Roma tomato marinara and Wisconsin mac & cheese.
The restaurant is considered fast-casual dining, a concept that is more service-oriented than the ordinary fast-food joints. At Noodles & Co. customers place their order and pay for it at the counter. The food is prepared and then served in china bowls. The employees bring the food to the customers' tables.
Three locations are already in the works in Washington. A 3,500-square-foot restaurant will open in mid-June at Pentagon Row. Another location will open in early July in Fairfax and a third restaurant, located in College Park, is expected to open before the fall semester.
Washington is the first area the company is expanding into outside its current markets of Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois, says Mr. Kennedy, who serves as chairman and co-chief executive. Currently 43 restaurants exist with plans to have 17 more open by the end of the year. The majority of those new locations will be in the Boulder, Colo.-based company's existing markets this year, Mr. Kennedy says.
Closer to home, Mr. Kennedy is looking at possible locations in Bethesda, Tysons Corner, Sterling, Va., and Dupont Circle.
The Washington market can hold between 20 and 40 Noodles & Co. restaurants. However, Mr. Kennedy's main concentration is to get the first three Washington restaurants up and running successfully before growing further.
"We want to get our culture well established" before expanding, he says.

Cookin' in the kitchen
Kitchen Etc., a gigantic kitchen accessories chain, is heating up in the Washington market with plans to open at least a half dozen stores in the area.
The massive retailer, based in Exeter, N.H., entered the market in December 1999 with a store in Sterling, Va.
At that time money was tight so the company put off its expansion plans until now, says Robert Camp, chairman and chief executive of Kitchen Etc., which sells everything from small kitchen gadgets and bakeware and cookware to fine china, glassware and crystal.
Mr. Camp plans to open at least six stores in the Washington market in the next two years and has his sights on as many as 12 to 15 stores total in this area in the future.
The stores are between 23,000 square feet and 25,000 square feet and are typically located in big-box, power-strip centers.
Kitchen Etc. closed a deal last week on a site on Rockville Pike. That store is expected to open in the middle of the summer. The company is also interested in sites at Bailey's Crossroads, Tysons Corner, Fairfax and Germantown, Mr. Camp says.
In addition to its Sterling store, Kitchen Etc. has 12 other locations in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Mr. Camp says the company has plans to grow into a national chain over the next several years opening up as many as 300 stores.

Biz travel dropping
Business travel is expected to decline this year as more companies plan to spend less on U.S. air travel, according to a recent survey by the Business Travel Coalition.
Companies reduced the amount of money they spent on domestic air travel by 16.5 percent last year, compared to 2001, the survey says. About 60 percent of the survey participants say they plan to cut back on airline expenditures this year.
More than 180 companies representing about $2.9 billion in annual air travel purchases participated in the survey.

Donna De Marco can be reached at 202/636-4884. Retail & Hospitality runs every other week.

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