Casual dining expands beyond U.S.

Published on
July 1, 2009

Ruby Tuesday and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro are among the U.S.-based chains expanding internationally this year, providing new markets for casual dining seafood sales.

Many chains are experiencing faster growth in other countries and are focusing less on the domestic market, due to the U.S. recession.

“The expansion has been greater internationally than domestically. Even Chipotle is moving into London,” said Darren Tristano, executive VP of Chicago-based foodservice consulting and research firm Technomic.

And there’s opportunity for seafood-focused restaurants in Canada and Europe, added Tristano. While some chains open their own locations, others buy existing chains, such as McCormick & Schmick’s acquisition of six Boathouse restaurants in Canada last year.

Meanwhile, Ruby Tuesday of Maryville, Tenn., said in early June that it would add six restaurants through a franchise partnership in Abu Dhabi, the capital of United Arab Emirates. No, a total of 18 Ruby Tuesday locations are slated for development in the UAE by franchisee Bin Hendi Hospitality LLC.

The Middle East is one of the fastest growth markets for casual dining, noted Mark Ingram, a consultant in charge of franchise development for Ruby Tuesday. And, in general, there are “more opportunities outside the U.S. than inside the U.S. in this economy,” he said.

Ruby Tuesday has consistently focused on its seafood offerings and recently added a Chesapeake Catch tilapia and crab cake entrée and a crab cake dinner to its menu.

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