Restaurants Unlimited plans growth

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Henry’s 12th Street Tavern brand expands

Restaurants Unlimited Inc., or RUI, is ramping up growth with the expansion of its Henry’s 12th Street Tavern brand.

Two new locations of the gastropub are scheduled to open this fall.

Chris Harter, president and chief executive of the Seattle-based multi-concept operator, said Henry’s is one of several brands the company is now expanding after completing turnaround efforts over the past few years.

Harter, who joined the company in June 2011, is the fourth chief executive RUI has had in four years. But after refreshing some brands, reworking menus and bringing in a new management team, all locations are profitable again and the company is growing, with 10 to 20 new locations planned over the next several years, he said.

RUI operates 48 restaurants across 21 brands, including the two new Henry’s under construction. The company is known for its multi-unit casual-dining concepts Palomino, Kincaid’s and Stanford’s, as well as one-offs — which Harter called “jewels” — that have recently been remodeled, such as Cutter’s Crabhouse and Palisade, both in Seattle, and Skates on the Bay in Berkeley, Calif.

Henry’s is one of six brands the company sees as growth vehicles, Harter said. The other are the new Portland Seafood Company, Pizzeria Fondi, Palomino, Kincaid’s and Stanford’s.

The original Henry’s opened in Portland, Ore., eight years ago, and the 500-seat concept has been a hit with its menu variety, price point and beverage-friendly environment, he said.

Henry’s menu features “globally inspired” pizzas, burgers, salads and entrees, and local beers. Gorgonzola Fries, waffle-cut fries with a Gorgonzola cream sauce, is a signature menu item. The average check is about $16 at lunch and $22 at dinner.

A new Henry’s location is opening in September in Seattle, where it will be called Henry’s First Avenue Tavern. That opening will be followed by another one in October in Plano, Texas, where it will be called Henry’s Tavern, according to Harter.

“We don’t want to look too far in the future, but Henry’s is a primary growth vehicle and we hope to do six more in the next two years,” Harter said.

Portland Seafood Company is RUI’s newest concept, which opened last year in Portland.

The company now has two locations of that brand in the Portland area, both of which are conversions of the Newport Seafood Grill brand. Six remaining locations of Newport Seafood Grill are also likely to be converted, Harter said.

RUI has also signed a deal to open a Palomino in Ft. Worth, Texas, which is expected to open in early 2013. The company is also looking to bring the Pizzeria Fondi brand to Indianapolis.

Harter said RUI is a “problem solver” for landlords looking for new restaurants but struggling with non-compete limitations set by existing tenants.

“We can go in and work with the landlord on the brand he needs,” Harter said. “It’s nice to have an arsenal of 20 brands.”

RUI is owned by private-equity firm Sun Capital Partners Inc.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout