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Restaurant turnover expected in booming Kansas City market, experts say

Posted at 6:17 PM, Nov 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-14 19:17:52-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two companies with well-known restaurants in the Kansas City metro filed for bankruptcy this week.

Bread & Butter Concepts, which runs eateries such as Gram & Dun and Stock Hill, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a way to reorganize. However, the company says its restaurants aren't going anywhere — for the time being.

On Thursday, Houlihan's Restaurant, Inc., which oversees Houlihan's, Bristol Seafood Grill and J. Gilbert's, said it is also filing for bankruptcy. The company entered into an agreement with Landry's Restaurant Group, which will buy out HRI for $40 million. HRI also says its restaurants will stay open.

Restaurant consultant Jay Runnfeldt said filing for bankruptcy can be good for a business and shouldn't scare guests away. However, turnover is expected in this market.

"Really, to keep up with today's times, the time of being mediocre in the restaurant world in Kansas City is over," Runnfeldt said. "You really have to be top of your game."

Jeff Fisk, who has worked in the industry for 25 years, serving tables and bartending on the Country Club Plaza, agrees.

"Kansas City is saturated," said Fisk, who now works at Parkway Social Kitchen on the Plaza. "Also, the development of Johnson County moving south, Lee’s Summit coming of age. There’s a truckload of restaurants around downtown so it’s more competitive."

The competition is due to the market booming, Runnfeldt said. He said the "fast casual" concept is becoming more popular, along with the demand for unique food and atmosphere.

Runnfeldt said a restaurateur can't open a 4,000-plus-square-foot restaurant and expect people are going to stumble in and eat there. Building smaller spaces and creating more outlets to generate more revenue, allowing people to enjoy the food in multiple ways, is key.

"The full-service, higher-end restaurants are having to look at different outlets for generating revenue, which is third-party delivery, carry-out, curbside," Runnfeldt said.

Runnfeldt's business, JCB Projects, helps restaurateurs in the creation, development and build-out phases. He also works with A.R.C. Contracting, where 40% of its commercial building is restaurants. He also teaches courses through the Mid-Continent Public Library, showing business owners how to have a successful restaurant.

"Percentage is everything, so if you don’t have good food cost, good labor cost, good rent and you’re not generating revenue or if you’re even generating revenue when you’ve got bad percentages, you’re not going to make it," Runnfeldt said.