Broad Appetit success one sign of industry sizzle

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)–Over 70 Richmond restaurants turned out to treat customers to their favorite dishes at this year’s Broad Appetit.

Susan Doyle was one of them.  She opened Bonvenu in Carytown in January of 2010, during the middle of a recession.

With her business now thriving, she’s not surprised to hear that Virginia restaurants are expected to register $13.3 billion in sales in 2012, according to the National Restaurant Association.

“We’re seeing a lot of influx of new places coming in, so I think people are thinking that it’s a good industry to get into even though there’s a lot of trepidation in general, ” says Doyle.

The amount, $13.3 billion, is up nearly $500 million from the same projection in 2011.

But sales figures from this year have slowed in recent months.

The National Restaurant Association says that 30% of restaurant operators they surveyed reported less customer traffic in April 2012.

“You know I have a daily number that we try to hit, Tuesday through Sunday.  You can tell pretty much early on in the day if you’re going to hit that number or not,” said Lester Johnson, owner of Mama J’s in Jackson Ward.

Business for Johnson has been pretty consistent in the first few months of 2012.  He says to really make it in Richmond’s restaurant scene; the menu cannot be the sole focus.

“There’s two pieces to it,” said Johnson.”There’s the food, and then there’s the business side.”

 “And you got to be able to do both,” Johnson added.

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