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'Zombies' in the Restaurant Biz May Falter, Panelists Say


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A slew of restaurant closings are coming, predicted panelists at a Minnesota Shopping Center Association event this week, as soon as patrons use up their holiday gift cards.

“There’s a lot of zombies out there who are dead and they just don’t know it,” said Stephanie March, senior editor at Mpls.St. Paul Magazine. “February will be the reckoning.”

She cited labor as “by far” the biggest factor at restaurants today, along with the demise of fine-dining, white-tablecloth restaurants. She cited three prominent Minneapolis restaurants that closed last year—La Belle Vie, Vincent and Masa—and added the trends hold true around the country.

“People who were coming up and wanted to start a fine-dining restaurant, couldn’t” get backing, she said about chef/owners in the last decade or so, "so instead they started food trucks, or they took the burger and made a kick-ass burger,” starting restaurants that are “more casual and accessible.”

That’s true on the franchise side, as well, noted panelist Tom Kaiser of Franchise Times. Fast-casual brands are “putting a lot of pressure on the legacy chains,” from Famous Dave’s to Subway and more. “I agree there are a lot of brands out there that may not make it to 2017.”

The stakes are high, noted March, who believes increased government mandates for raised wages, scheduling certainty and more fail to recognize the impact that restaurants have on the economy. “The restaurant industry is the second largest employer in the United States, after the government,” she said. “The regulations the government has started to put on the industry, it’s all at once, as well. We’ve had growth, especially locally, but I think it will be slowing.”

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is associate editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
 
Beth EwenBeth Ewen is editor-in-chief of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3212, or send story ideas to bewen@franchisetimes.com.
 
Nicholas UptonNicholas Upton is staff writer at Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3226, or send story ideas to nupton@franchisetimes.com.
 
Mary Jo LarsonLaura Michaels is managing editor of Franchise Times. She can be reached at 612.767.3210, or send story ideas to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com.
 
Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
 twitter.com/mlarson1011.
 
Nancy WeingartnerNancy Weingartner is editor-at-large of Franchise Times magazine and the editor of the Food On Demand media project. You can reach her at 612-767-3200 or at nancyw@franchisetimes.com.
Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nanweingartner.
 

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