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New Conference Series Pushes Networking

BY Michael Fickes

In the retail real estate landscape, there aren’t as many networking options as one might think. Even fewer if you narrow it down to those events that put landlords and tenants in the same room, along with entertainment, face-to-face meet and greets, and mutually beneficial educational sessions.

Meet Retail Live!. The brainchild of Stacey Gilham, senior VP leasing for Dallas/Austin-based Edge Realty Partners, Retail Live! regional trade shows appear annually in several locations around the country. This year, there are six events. Chicago and Los Angeles hosted shows in February and March. Still to come: New York, Austin, Denver and a newly announced show in Northern California.

Depending on the show, 70 to 100-plus retailers will exhibit. With the exception of a handful of sponsors, retailers are the only exhibitors. Property managers, owners, developers and other industry professionals work the floor telling retailers about their properties and project plans.

"There is no registration fee for retailers," said Gilham, founder and CEO, Retail Live!. "That’s one of the benefits to retailers. To get into the show, however, retailers must send a decision-maker — not a broker — but an employee authorized to make decisions. That said, we encourage retailers to bring representatives from the brokerages that handle their business in the region covered by the show."

Retailers attending the shows are typically planning to enter or expand their presence in the regional markets surrounding the city where the show is being held. They want to see shopping centers and shopping center projects that fit their brands.

To make that easier for owners and developers, attendees receive a Retail Live! Trade Book upon arriving and registering at the show. The Trade Book contains each participating retailer’s site specifications, areas of expansion and real estate contact information (including the broker’s name if applicable).

Retailers put their specs and contact information out to hundreds of owners and developers that want the information. For less than a day’s work, everyone gets what everyone wants.

No meetings except meetings of the mind: Retail Live! events aren’t long enough for formal meetings. They offer old-fashioned networking opportunities that can produce meetings of the mind.

"We think it was great; got to meet with a lot of people face to face — definitely got a lot of deals started," said Bob Douponce, a VP with Party City, about the show he attended in Chicago.

The show’s exhibition phase lasts three hours, from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Next comes the reception with food, entertainment and more networking — from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

This year’s Chicago show treated attendees to a risotto bar, fresh vegetables, shrimp cocktails and martinis. "We want sponsors, attendees and retailers to leave feeling their time and money were well spent," Gilham said.

Retail Live! entertainers are typically nationally known — like Austin, Texas-based musician and artist Bob Schneider, who provided the entertainment in Chicago.

Coming soon: New York, Austin and CCIM. Retail Live! recently announced that the CCIM Institute will provide a three-hour educational session, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at future shows. "The next Retail Live! in New York City this July will offer the first CCIM educational sessions," Gilham said. "The details are being worked out now and will be detailed on our website soon."

The New York City show will take place on July 25 at the Marriott at Glenpointe in Teaneck, N.J., just minutes from Manhattan.

Austin will follow on Aug. 28 at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center on the University of Texas campus, minutes from downtown.

Exhibition tables have been filling up early. Interested retailers should consider registering four to six months before the show dates, said Gilham.

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Chefs On Fire

BY Michael Fickes

In New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Denver — and other major cities across the country — creative young chefs are opening their own restaurants.

"In New York, the trend isn’t all that new. Think of Andre Soltner, Jean-Georges, David Chang and others," said Faith Hope Consolo, noted trend-watcher and chairman of Douglas Elliman’s Retail Group in New York City.

Indeed, we probably shouldn’t call it a trend any more. In a growing number of cities, chef-owned restaurants are a mainstay of rising urban neighborhoods.

"Urban dwellers love restaurants like Zahav, a casual Israeli restaurant in Philadelphia offering four-star quality for neighborhood prices," said Tim Duffy, VP of Michael Salove Co., a Philadelphia-based retail real estate advisory firm/brokerage and X Team International partner.

CookNSolo Restaurants, a company co-owned by chefs Steven Cook and Michael Solomonov, started Zahav in 2008. Its success led to two more CookNSolo restaurants: Federal Donuts, which serves up fried chicken and honey donuts, and Percy Street Barbecue is — you guessed it — a barbecue place. Both are fast casual, a rising alternative to mass-produced fast food.

Not Just Any Chef: Chefs opening their own urban restaurants boast excellent-to-impeccable credentials. Take the co-owners of The Mildred in South Philly — executive chef Michael Santoro and his partner general manager Michael Dorris, culinary arts classmates at Johnson & Wales University. After graduating in 2004, both signed on with a succession of internationally acclaimed chefs in Europe, Asia and here at home.

In 2006, Dorris founded Michael Dorris Catering just outside of Philadelphia. Six years later, he and Santoro opened The Mildred.

"Our concept is American cuisine with heavy British influence and cooking styles reflective of England, France, Spain, Korea and other countries," Dorris said.

Top Chefs D.C.: Washington, D.C., may have more contestants on Bravo TV network’s "Top Chef" program than any other city. Three you may have seen:

  • Spike Mendelsohn who created D.C.’s Good Stuff Eatery and We, The Pizza.
  • Mike Isabella created Graffiato and Bandolero and has two more concepts cooking.
  • Bart Vandaele, the owner of the popular Belga Café, recently opened a second D.C. concept: B Too.

"Washington, D.C., has created a unique environment that attracts young people who prefer conversation and food to materialistic spending on things like clothes," said Jeff Pollak, managing partner of Bethesda, Md.-based Streetsense, a real estate consultant and brokerage and X Team International partner. "Our chefs are taking advantage of that with new restaurants."

On to Denver: Chef-owned restaurants arose in the large cities of the East and West Coasts (plus Chicago), and they have spread to the interior. Just look at Denver.

"In Denver, a lot of talented chefs are creating hip concepts on the less expensive edges of our city neighborhoods," said Kelly Green, president of Urban Legend, a division of the Legend Retail Group in Denver and another X Team partner.

It’s going on across the country.

The Money Recipe?: Chefs acquire seed capital from family, friends or private investors, said RJ Cilley, corporate development at Toronto-based Hudson’s Bay Co., with personal investment interest in restaurants.

"Restaurant start-up costs run $150,000 to $250,000 for 2,000 to 3,000 sq. ft. in an existing building," Cilley said. "This includes second-hand kitchen equipment.

"A chef might earn 20% to 25% in sweat equity," he continued. "A chef who contributes capital may also get around 20% in sweat equity."

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Le Duff America Ignores the Slow Recovery

BY CSA STAFF

Chain Store Age asked Paul Carolan, chief development officer for Dallas-based Le Duff America, about the bakery-café company’s aggressive growth plan in the United States.

The North American subsidiary of Paris-based Groupe Le Duff SA, Le Duff America now manages four brands in the United States: Bruegger’s Bagels, la Madeleine Country French Café, Brioche Dorée and Mimi’s Café, which was acquired in March.

This year, the 300-unit Bruegger’s will add eight to 10 franchises and seven corporate units. With just over 60 units, la Madeleine will open seven corporate restaurants, one franchise and three licensed units. Brioche Dorée is adding two units to its existing U.S. roster of 33 units. Mimi’s is getting prepped for growth.

Seems brave in this economy.

How can you have confidence in such aggressive expansion plans in this economy?

Many restaurants are battling economic headwinds. We don’t feel those headwinds. We really don’t discuss the economy. We talk about food, customers and site selection. As a privately held company, we can take a long-term view of development. Public brands must focus on shorter-term development strategies. Of course, we have headwinds of our own.

What headwinds?

We face two major challenges: finding franchisees and sites. Franchisees must be great restaurateurs and capitalized well enough to build at least five units. For instance, a la Madeleine costs $1.2 million to build out, an investment that typically produces an annual unit volume of $2.1 million.

Our biggest challenge is site selection. All of our brands have specific siting needs. Bruegger’s Bagels, for instance, needs a 2,000-sq.-ft. to 2,400-sq.-ft. endcap space, great co-tenancy and visibility. We look for these sites in areas with dense retail. Of course, it has to be in a center that is close to Bruegger’s customers.

Describe your customers.

All of our brands focus on customers with similar demographics and psychographics. Our customers are 25 to 44 years old, well educated and highly compensated. The bakery café segment has a strong lunch business. So we need sites in communities with high daytime populations. That’s another site selection challenge.

Doesn’t la Madeleine have strong breakfasts and dinners, as well as lunch?

Yes, our breakfasts and dinners are strong. Our menu is deeper than most bakery-cafés. We bake breads and make sandwiches, but we also offer plated French specialties, such as Chicken la Madeleine.

What are you doing that’s new?

Brioche Dorée has developed a prototype for street-front units in North America. Traditionally, Brioche has gone into non-traditional locations in hospitals, airports and hotels. Now, we’re taking to the streets.

What about Mimi’s strategy?

Strategy development goes to Le Duff’s core and applies to all of our brands. We’re all about the food. We invite you into our home, talk with you about the food and your choices, and take pleasure in serving you. And we want you to come back. We’re working through these ideas from Mimi’s point of view.

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