News Article | 3/4/2007

Victory filling up on dining options

Sure, dinner for two at most of the restaurants now open at Victory Park would eat up much of the rent money.

But more wallet-friendly options are on the way.

“There is no question that the restaurants we’ve got now … they’re an $80, $90 kind of experience,” said Jonas Woods, who joined last week with House of Blues Dallas executives to herald the May opening of the music hall and restaurant.

“The mix of restaurants that have committed is going to provide a pretty diversified mix of dining options, from a $6 sandwich to a $60 steak,” said Mr. Woods, whose Hillwood Capital is developing the $3 billion Victory retail and residential complex near downtown Dallas.

Already open in the mega-complex next to American Airlines Center are Tom Colicchio’s Craft steakhouse, where a Kobe ribeye will set you back $98, and N9NE Steakhouse (pronounced nine), where Siberian Osetra caviar can be had for $95.

“We recognize that the … options today are expensive,” Mr. Woods said of the new dining entries. “But that’s not what the neighborhood will ultimately provide in terms of options.”

At Nove Italiano, which opened Friday, most entrees are in the $30 to $50 neighborhood.

And Mr. Woods noted that Luna de Noche Gourmet Grill, part of a “gourmet Tex-Mex” chain, is set to open in a few weeks.

Broad menu of choices

“I think it’ll be a pretty balanced mix once everything is open,” he said, adding that 22 restaurants will be open by late 2009. “It’ll be very diversified both in terms of price and cuisine.”

For developers hoping to attract a broad cross-section of diners, diversity makes sense, said Joe Pawlak, vice president of Technomic Inc., a Chicago-based restaurant market research firm.

“If you’re looking to appeal to a number of groups with different dining occasions, then you need to branch out and have lower price points,” Mr. Pawlak said.

Fine dining, which carries an average check of $50 or more per person, accounts for only about 4 percent of the estimated $167 billion in 2006 sales at sit-down restaurants, according to Technomic.

By comparison, high-end casual, with an average check of up to $50 per person, brings in about $12 billion. Traditional casual claims the bulk of the business – $100 billion and 60 percent of sit-down sales.

With a range of developments, “you are appealing to multiple demographic groups, and you become more of a destination,” Mr. Pawlak said.

House of Blues

Helping Victory achieve its balance will be Texas’ first House of Blues, owned by Los Angeles-based House of Blues Entertainment Inc.

Serving Southern-inspired dishes along with blues-infused sounds, the Dallas outlet – the 11th in the chain – plans to serve lunch and dinner nearly every day, concert or no concert, said John Tate, Dallas general manager.

The House of Blues Dallas, which officially opens with a May 8 concert by Dallas native Erykah Badu, hosted a ceremonial pouring Tuesday of “Mississippi mud,” a nod to its blues roots.

Clearly most of the space in the 60,000-square-foot venue is devoted to the concert hall – 15,000 square feet that will hold 1,600 music lovers at capacity.

Backers promise at least 280 shows a year. That includes a May 12 Blues Brothers revue featuring actor and comedian Dan Aykroyd, an original investor in the concept who helped shovel mud Tuesday.

The restaurant, at about 8,500 square feet, will hold more than 300 people at capacity, with some seating on a patio.

Food accounts for about 30 percent of revenue at the House of Blues, said Heidi Hoff, national director of marketing for the parent company. Special events and concerts make up the balance.

“People come here just for the food,” said Ms. Hoff, as executives sampled chicken jambalaya and biscuits and gravy.

She said food is also served in the music hall.

Although the company is still tweaking the menu and pricing, lunch entrees would range from about $9 to $18, Mr. Tate said. He estimated that the average check at dinner would be about $28.

“We’re a dining destination,” said Brian Lowe, marketing manager for Dallas, “even for those folks that aren’t coming here for a concert.”