Augusta Economy

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Restaurants coping with what economy’s serving

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Increases in food and fuel prices have dished out some difficult times for local restaurant owners.

Teo Estrada, a co-owner of nine Mi Rancho Mexican restaurants, said the stagnant economy is dealing his businesses a tough blow.

"It doesn't seem like it's going to get any better quickly. We're struggling," Estrada said. "We're catching hell with the bills. We're not making money like the way we used to, just basically paying the bills. Everything has gone up, and we can't really go up (in prices) because of the people ... no jobs. It's bad."

Prices of meat, vegetables and other items have increased, along with fuel costs. Estrada checks prices carefully to get the best deal. "We choose to not raise the prices, but eventually we're going to have to," he said.

Estrada said he plans to keep all his restaurants open, but he has reduced his staff by two to three workers per restaurant in response to the decrease in sales.

The economy has affected business at 1102 Bar & Grill, Blue Sky Kitchen and Soy Noodle House on Broad Street, but the restaurants are surviving, owner Sae Shin said.

"Overall, sales have dropped a little bit," Shin said. "I had to tighten up everything as far as labor costs. My crew understands, but we had to cut back a little bit here and there. We have loyal customers that keep coming, and I haven't raised the price on the menu even though food costs have gone up.

"Consumers realize when something jumps up a dollar per menu price. We're trying to hang in there for this year. My staff works extra hard for the time that they're here. That helps out a lot."

Shin has cut back on entertainment acts. He has adjusted his staffing numbers to match the number of restaurant patrons.

In spite of tough times, Shin has doubled the size of Soy Noodle House by expanding into the space next door and adding a full bar and more tables. Also, he took over Blue Sky Kitchen from another owner in June and extended hours to add dinner.

Some restaurant owners are finding success in the tough economy, though. Business is up by 15 percent over last year at French Market Grille in Surrey Center, owner Chuck Baldwin said.

"In general, we've had a surprisingly strong summer," Baldwin said. "The best we've had in four or five years. I've heard a lot of people just anecdotally say that it's been kind of grim for them. I kind of pinch myself every day and just hope that it keeps going."

He attributes success to promotions and Internet marketing. He also believes good service and hospitality have played a role.

"I've got a really, really competent staff person focused on IT (information technology). She just seems to do the right thing at the right time when it comes to the Web site," Baldwin said.

It's not easy to watch the bottom line constantly. At the beginning of the year, food prices escalated so quickly that he "could barely keep track of it"

"Since the crash of 2007, when the economy went in the tank, until now, it's taken us over three years to shift gears and be more frugal," Baldwin said. "That means taking every little factor of doing business, like insurance and linen service ... Rather than trying to cut corners and cut quality, it's just making sure you're not wasting money. Getting the best deal possible.

"It's a lot easier to gear up and get ready for Masters than to watch your pennies every day, like this economy dictates."

TakoSushi, which has five restaurants in Augusta, Aiken, Columbia and Greenville, S.C., is also faring well, owner Kevin Goldsmith said. Business has been up since Goldsmith opened the first restaurant seven years ago, and each one does better each year, he said.

"We have awesome business in all the stores every year. We've been very blessed," Goldsmith said. "We're very consistent. In this economy, I think the pricing is very good. I think a lot of the higher-end restaurants with the $40- to $70-a-head tabs have been struggling just because people aren't spending quite as much.

"People are always going to go out to eat. They're just going to go out maybe a little less and go to places that cost a little less."

Comments (14) Add comment
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shrimp for breakfast
5641
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shrimp for breakfast 08/25/11 - 05:13 am
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I wish I could afford more

I wish I could afford more than the dollar menu at McDonalds.

charliemanson
1
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charliemanson 08/25/11 - 07:01 am
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Food prices going up is bad

Food prices going up is bad enough. What ticks me off is how bad customer service has gotten, lately.

cityman
-6
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cityman 08/25/11 - 07:04 am
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Surrey Center has done well
Unpublished

Surrey Center has done well because people are afraid to go to downtown Broad St or the Mall. Security means more to them than the extra money.

seenitB4
97737
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seenitB4 08/25/11 - 08:07 am
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TakoSushi & The French

TakoSushi & The French Market have great food-service & fantatstic drinks...my daughters love them & so do I.....:)

Riverman1
93839
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Riverman1 08/25/11 - 08:10 am
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SeenItB4, you need to eat

SeenItB4, you need to eat breakfast before you start posting. You are entirely too much into restaurants today. :)

seenitB4
97737
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seenitB4 08/25/11 - 08:36 am
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You are right river....coffee

You are right river....coffee doesn't fill the tummy....BUT the news is sooo uggh this am......give me "sumthin" good & I'll post like a crazy woman..... geeez......Louise....
I want to hear that the acave folks went to the downtown area & made a "stink" at the meetings.......caused an uproar with their signs & clothing....heh hehe heh....had the tv cameras & news folks in a tizzy. :)

seenitB4
97737
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seenitB4 08/25/11 - 08:38 am
0
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Also riverman & Brad walked

Also riverman & Brad walked down Broad in THEIR speedos.......showing you-know-who he wasn't the only one who could strut down Broad!!!

countyman
21638
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countyman 08/25/11 - 11:40 am
0
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Several more businessses have

Several more businessses have opened or underway on Broad street and the Augusta mall compared to the Surrey Center.... The Soy Noodle House expansion mentioned in the article happened along Broad street.. The Augusta mall has the largest trade market by far.. The Augusta Exchange and Carmax area aka the future Wheeler Town Park can't compete, and definitely not the smaller Surrey Center. The main competition of the Augusta mall is the 115 acre Village at Riverwatch.

Augusta mall: Forever 21, The Limited, Bare Escentuals, Brow Bar, Crazy 8, Flip Flip Shops, Pandora, CCS, Handpicked, Moe's Southwest, Icing, Toys R US Express, Downtown Locker Room, and Great Wraps....

Broad street: Sundrees Urban Market, Sit A Spell, Gaardensity art gallery, Tantra Lounge, Just Essentials, Killer B Disc Golf, Lovable Huggables, Curvitude, Knuckles Sandwhiches, Augusta Executive Suites and Sprint Food & Metro Market..

unbiased_propaganda
165
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unbiased_propaganda 08/25/11 - 01:16 pm
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seenitB4 - TakoSushi has

seenitB4 - TakoSushi has expensive food (unfresh sushi + average mexican) and overpriced drinks. Their servers are good, but that is thanks to the employees - not the restaurant or its owner.

I can't believe you brought up a place like that in an article about the economy. Takosushi is the most over-priced, over-rated place in Augusta. The only reason it survives is because the uppity people think it's a place that will make them 'cool' if they are seen there.

seenitB4
97737
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seenitB4 08/25/11 - 01:25 pm
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unbiased....I'd say ya kinda

unbiased....I'd say ya kinda biased...haha
The name is in the article---read it & see----I love tako----I don't like sushi...my daughters like it......I need more than a restaurant to make me look cool.....a few drinks almost make me look cool but not completely cool....:)
anyway....cajun martinis at French Market make me smile & "think" I'm cool!!....about the economy...the more we stay at home & don't patronize the restaurants the worst the economy will be...so just say I'm trying to do my part to stir it!!!

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 08/25/11 - 02:27 pm
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Is it just me or is there FAR

Is it just me or is there FAR too many Mexican restaurants in the Augusta area? And the thing is, not a one of them is a stand-out. We have just a lot of very mediocre tex-mex restaurants here. What I would like to see is more thai restaurants. A Russian place would be great.. Russian food is hearty and would go over well here. What about a gastropub? More German restaurants would be nice. Anything other than more mediocre mexican restaurants.

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 08/25/11 - 04:24 pm
0
0
and seriously Augusta, enough

and seriously Augusta, enough with the buffets already!

Iwannakno
1533
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Iwannakno 08/25/11 - 05:26 pm
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This isn't a one area thing
Unpublished

This isn't a one area thing this is an everywhere thing. I knew someone in the supply business. The average life of a dining establishment is only like 3 to 4 years unless it's a chain. This economy makes it even tougher. Small business owners suffer the most! I don't think the mall is going out of business anytime soon. They do need to get a handle on the teenagers though. Broad street is safer than a lot of places in South Augusta. I have no problem eating or spending time on Broad. I just make sure I'm gone before 11ish. I have seen some shady characters on the riverwalk after dark but I have a CCP so i wasn't worried but I could see how someone could be scared. It does have a lot of blind spots and dark areas.

Animallvr
3
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Animallvr 08/25/11 - 09:09 pm
0
0
What are some of the best

What are some of the best things to eat at French Market Grill?

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 08/25/11 - 11:56 pm
0
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peanut butter pie

peanut butter pie

seenitB4
97737
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seenitB4 08/26/11 - 07:16 am
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Best things to eat... Shrimp

Best things to eat...
Shrimp anyway they fix it
bread pudding
salads
try it & tell us how you like it..

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