- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 18, 2005

Restaurants are hoping for a happy new year.Restaurant sales are expected to increase 5.4 percent in the District next year, according to the National Restaurant Association.

“The restaurant industry in metropolitan Washington continued to grow at quite a solid pace for this year, and that environment will continue in 2006,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research at the National Restaurant Association.

The group says Maryland restaurant sales will jump 5.6 percent, and Virginia restaurants will see a 5.9 percent jump.

The numbers are slightly higher than the trade group’s forecast of a 5.1 percent increase at restaurants nationwide. The restaurant industry is expected to generate $511 billion next year.

Mr. Riehle attributes the growth to rising demand for convenience and more disposable income.

He cites the Washington region’s low unemployment rate of 6.1 percent and corresponding high level of disposable income for the area’s strong forecast.

About 48 percent of food spending in the United States is allocated to the restaurant industry, Mr. Riehle said.

Some restaurant owners say the forecast is on target with their projections, too.

Sales at Clyde’s Restaurant Group rose about 4 percent to 5 percent in 2005 from the prior year, said Chief Financial Officer Jeff Owens.

June and July, when gas prices began their climb toward a record average of $3.38 in the District, were the only months that didn’t have an increase in sales, he said.

“That gave us a real scare. We didn’t know what to expect for the fall,” Mr. Owens said.

Since then, sales climbed back to result in a 4 percent to 5 percent increase from 2004 at Clyde’s, which opened a Gallery Place location last month, its 15th in the Washington area.

They expect the same in 2006.

“We have a bright outlook for 2006. It’s right on track with what the NRA is saying,” Mr. Owens said.

But Sallie Buben, co-owner of Bistro Bis and Vidalia in the District, said her stores are planning for flat sales in 2006.

“I hope it does [increase],” she said. “We don’t plan that way. We work hard to increase sales, but we don’t expect it.”

Bon appetit.

Retail rummage …

• The MCI Center turned on a video marquee above Seventh Street Northwest Tuesday. The 17-by-15-foot board will show sporting events and highlights, news and promotions for MCI Center events.

• Greenberg Gibbons Commercial, which recently changed its name from Greenberg Commercial, broke ground Friday on the Annapolis Towne Centre at Parole, Md. The $400 million mixed-use building is slated to house a Whole Foods, Target and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro.

• Louis Vuitton is expected to open its largest store in the Washington area today in the Collection at Chevy Chase, a 112,000-square-foot shopping center with luxury retailers such as Christian Dior, Ralph Lauren and Jimmy Choo. The store will carry men’s and women’s shoes, jewelry, watches and leather goods.

• The Centre at Laurel in Prince George’s County opened Monday. Shoppers Food Warehouse, California Tortilla and Coldstone Creamery are among the tenants already open there.

Retail & Hospitality runs Mondays. Call 202/636-4836 or e-mail [email protected]

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