Hometown Headlines - Rome
By Natalie Simms
It seems Rome is popping with new restaurants lately, especially with those featuring Mexican food. While it seems the market might be saturated with this particular genre, it’s a trend that is not only growing in Northwest Georgia but across the state and nation.
“According to our data, Mexican is the second most common new restaurant in Georgia within the last year,” says Kelly Hornbuckle, director of Marketing and Communications with the Georgia Restaurant Association. “Thirteen percent of Georgia's new restaurants feature Mexican as their predominant menu offering.”
Just in the three-mile stretch around Downtown Rome, there will soon be six Mexican restaurants with El Zarape, two Las Palmas locations, Mi Alazan in Central Plaza, the soon-to-open Buenavista Mexican Cantina (right) on Turner McCall Boulevard and the future La Parrilla due at Charles Hight Square with Publix.
According to the restaurant association, the Northwest Georgia market of Floyd, Bartow, Polk and Gordon counties currently is home to 40 Mexican restaurants. Of those, more than two-thirds (28) have been open more than five years; 10 have been open two to five years; and two less than two years.
“The number of those open more than five years shows the market supports it and there is a demand for it,” Hornbuckle says.
“Nationally, the best growth in the first half of 2012 occurred in the American/traditional category with 5 percent more units, followed by a 3.1 percent increase in Mexican restaurants,” Hornbuckle says.
The No. 1 new restaurant type over the last year in Georgia is pizzerias. This is locally reflected with the addition of Johnny’s New York-Style Pizza and Mellow Mushroom along Broad Street, two Little Caesars locations and the expansion of Papa John’s Pizza, all over the past couple of years.
The GRA says the top 10 new restaurants in Georgia include:
Pizzerias, Mexican, barbecue, American/traditional, bar and grills, sandwiches/soups/salads, seafood and fish, fried chicken, hamburgers, Italian (pizza and pasta).
We've seen some of that locally with newcomers such as:
-La Marie's at Magretta Hall (American/traditional).
-Curlee's Fish House & Oyster Bar (fish) on Broad Street (right: sweet chili seared bay scallops over oyster kimchi).
-The soon-to-open Brewhouse Music & Grill, (bar and grill) also on Broad.
-And at 239 Broad, Dandy Lyons is on the way, featuring soup, salads and sandwiches.
While the industry is experiencing positive growth, expectation indicators have softened this summer on the future economic outlook as restaurants continue to recover from the recession.
“As in much of the nation, Georgia's restaurants are continuing their tenuous recovery. In 2011, our state's restaurants registered $14.7 billion in sales. In 2012, Georgia's restaurants are projected to register $15.2 billion in sales,” she says. That's a 3.4 percent increase.
“Recent research by the National Restaurant Association indicates that although the overall current operating environment remains positive, operators have tempered their expectations for the future. Expectation indicators softened in June, including restaurant operators’ least positive economic outlook in eight months. Still, market conditions are substantially better than two and three years ago.”
So, what new trends can we expect to see in the restaurant industry? The National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot in 2012” survey of nearly 1,800 professional chefs reveals that children’s nutrition and local sourcing (for food) are the hottest trends on restaurant menus.
“The top 10 menu trends are: Locally sourced meats and seafood; locally grown produce; healthful kids’ meals; hyper-local items; sustainability as a culinary theme; children’s nutrition as a culinary theme; Gluten-free/food allergy-conscious items; locally produced wine and beer; sustainable seafood; and whole grain items in kids’ meals,” Hornbuckle says.
“We definitely see these trends reflected here in Georgia. Eating locally and sustainability have strong roots in southern cuisine and culture. In fact, this year we teamed with the Georgia Department of Agriculture on several projects highlighting Georgia Grown products in restaurants."
Adds Hornbuckle; "We've also partnered with many restaurants to focus on childhood nutrition and healthy kids menu options through Kids LiveWell.”