Multi-concept operator Specialty Restaurants Corp. said it has shifted into growth mode with plans for new restaurants as well as extensions into event and contract foodservices, following a $9 million renovation of its 40-year-old Rusty Pelican restaurant in Miami.
Anaheim, Calif.-based Specialty Restaurants, or SRC, is known for operating landmark high-end restaurants in iconic locations — typically on a waterfront, on a hill with panoramic views, or on airport properties — and often on city-owned property in metropolitan areas across the country.
Founded in 1958, SRC operates 22 restaurants among 18 brands, including Orange Hill in Orange, Calif.; Whiskey Joe’s in Tampa, Fla.; the Castaway in Burbank and San Bernardino, Calif.; and the 94th Aero Squadron in Van Nuys, Calif., and Miami.
SRC president and chief executive John Tallichet said the company is redefining itself after a few tough years during the recession, and the retirement of some brands, which he said was based on leases ending and airports shifting dining services almost exclusively into terminals.
After sales dropped about 12 percent during 2008 and 2009, SRC ended 2010 with sales rising about 1 percent. In 2011, sales climbed 3 percent.
During those tough years, SRC began to rethink its business.
“We started reinventing ourselves,” said Jim McKennon, who was hired in 2010 as a consultant and is now chief operating officer. “It gave us an opportunity to re-evaluate all of our operations.”
Because SRC restaurants have long been known as special event venues, the company created a separate company called SRC Events to build offsite business, McKennon said. SRC Events recently won a bid to become a caterer for the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, Calif., a city-owned event space.
The next step is a planned move into contract foodservices, which SRC hopes to provide in convention centers, museums or performing arts facilities, McKennon said.
The Rusty Pelican makeover, however, marks a new era for SRC’s restaurants, McKennon said.
Once known as a white tablecloth, special occasion venue, the new Rusty Pelican aims to be more accessible, and as comfortable for a lunchtime burger as for an elaborate wedding, said Jessica Van Voorst, director of marketing.
The late David Tallichet, John Tallichet’s father and founder of SRC in 1958, built the Rusty Pelican in 1972. The restaurant sits on a city-owned point on Key Biscayne overlooking downtown Miami with views of the city skyline.
After winning a 25-year lease extension, Tallichet said the company decided to “match the location with a whole new build-out.”
Continued from page 1
The 30,000-square-foot restaurant was closed and transformed into a venue with multiple components: a bar with a revamped beverage program and VIP rooms with bottle service; a restaurant with a menu featuring small dishes ranging from $5 to $16, as well as entrees from $17 to $35; a patio with fire pits and cabanas; and an event space for banquets and weddings.
SRC hired executiveMichael Gilligan, previously of the W South Beach Hotel, who has managed to keep loyal customers while attracting new guests.
McKennon predicted sales at the Rusty Pelican, which reopened in December, will grow to between $15 million and $17 million. Prior to the revamp, the restaurant’s annual sales totaled between $9 million and $10 million.
SRC’s Rusty Pelican is not related to the Rusty Pelican restaurant operated by Landry’s Restaurants Inc. in Newport Beach, Calif., the only remaining location of what was once a chain.
Tallichet said SRC was sued over rights to the name by the California chain years ago and, as a result of a settlement, SRC is allowed to use the Rusty Pelican name in Florida only. If the company grows the concept outside that state, it will have another name, he said.
Now SRC is looking to grow another concept it operates in Florida called Whiskey Joe’s, a casual “tropical bar” that has national potential, McKennon said. The company is currently negotiating a lease to bring Whiskey Joe’s to Miami.
SRC is also looking to grow Orange Hill restaurant, which has also been revamped in recent years.
“There’s so much equity in the name,” Van Voorst said.
The goal is to create concepts that best fit unique locations, McKennon said, and SRC will continue to focus on restaurants with a big footprint, good banquet potential and bar opportunities.
“We really want to bring to bear what’s best for the location and the property specifically,” he said.