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Off The Menu: Restaurants beginning to see rebound

As restrictions have been lifted and pandemic-related states of emergency come to an end, those who follow the restaurant industry continue to see mixed news in the numbers describing the performance of the industry overall.

Sales compared to 2019 were up in May 2021, continuing a positive trend that began in March of this year. Fast food sales, which had rebounded sharply in early 2021, have slowed their rate of growth somewhat, but revenue gains in fine dining sector have gotten stronger as indoor dining restrictions have mostly gone away.

The statistics, however, are not all rosy. Guest counts continue to decline, reflecting fewer consumer dining occasions and higher average checks per restaurant visit.

The latter is typically a good thing, and some analysts suggest that higher average purchase amounts reflect a change in consumer behavior — take out family meals and special occasion get togethers rather than a return to pre-pandemic restaurant usage patterns.

Part of those higher check average metrics are also menu price-related, as more and more operators find themselves needing to cover higher wage. Food, and supplies costs.

The future of the restaurant industry will be measured by factors not as easy to quantify as customer counts and average check. If workers continue to return to the workplace rather than work from home, for instance, fast food and casual dining operations are likely to benefit.

Should consumers tire of takeout and delivery food, with its cost and quality issues, average check amounts might decline, but customer counts will improve as customers return to the dining room.

And finally, the over impact of inflation and the end of government stimulus payments could also lead to a reset in the month ahead when it comes to the numbers – and dining out habits that drive them.

Storrowton Tavern in West Springfield is promoting their outdoor dining experience this summer, offering service on their patio as well as on the Storrowton Village green, a cool and secluded oasis from summer season heat.

The restaurant is also offering live music on Saturday evenings. The Storytellers, a West Springfield-based group that performs an eclectic mix of country, folk, pop, and rock, will be featured through September.

Menu information is available at the operation’s web site, storrowton.com. The restaurant answers at (413) 732-4188.

With the Independence Day holiday approaching, some restaurant owners may be planning to take a few days off over the long holiday weekend.

The Salem Cross Inn in West Brookfield is an example; the Salem Family and their staff will be taking the period of July 1 through 4 as well-deserved vacation.

Over the next week or so a quick phone call to your favorite dining destination might be a wise precaution before setting out. The management and staff might just be taking an early summer break.

On Sunday, July 4, Champney’s Restaurant at the Deerfield Inn and Historic Deerfield, Inc. will be co-sponsoring a Sunday Summer Stroll. An early evening on-foot foray through Deerfield, the walk, which begins at 4 p.m., includes entertainment such as music and poetry readings. The theme of the July 4 tour will be Deerfield’s role in the American Revolution.

At 5 p.m. the stroll moves to the Deerfield Inn, where participants order dinner from Champney’s menu, enjoying a 20{5057b528e2ec7fd6c3736aa134727341eae4fdf6dd188ded3c2a814c0866380c} discount on their entree selections. After dinner a tour-based trivia competition takes place.

Tickets for the Summer Stroll are $10. Contact the Deerfield Inn at (413) 774-5587 for more details.

Eat Bistro on Page Boulevard in Springfield introduced a new menu earlier this month.

The establishment’s breakfast agenda features more than a dozen breakfast sandwiches as well as breakfast wraps such as a “Western”; a corned beef hash, cheese, and egg wrap; and a “Chicken Fajita” wrap.

Chicken and waffles is available, as is French toast served with either syrup or fresh fruit.

For lunch, Eat offers an array of specialty sandwiches, wraps, six-ounce hand-pressed burgers, and entree-sized salads.

Eat Bistro is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., with breakfast available until 10:30 a.m. The restaurant answer at (413) 276-0040.

Now open in Enfield at 54 Hazard Avenue, Saki Sushi + Ramen House offers an extensive assortment of sushi, sashimi, and hand rolls as well as ramen and rice bowl options. Monthly specials supplement the regular menu, and outdoor seating is available for those who prefer it.

Online ordering from Saki Sushi + Ramen is available at toasttab.com/saki-sushi-ramen/; the restaurant’s telephone number is (860) 335-3781.

Participating Friendly’s Restaurants have rolled out what the brand is referring to as “classic New England summer menu.” Available until September 19, the lineup is designed to reflect the food experiences that go along with a day at the shore.

Featured items on the summer menu include a grilled lobster roll served with fries and coleslaw and a Cape Cod Supermelt sandwich made with fried cod.

Newly created menu specialties are also part of this warm weather assortment, with options like a lobster and shrimp quesadilla and a wonton shrimp wrap filed with grilled shrimp bacon, crunchy wonton strips, and a sesame-ginger dressing.

Flavorful experiences in the form of an A.1. Steak Sauce burger and a Buffalo shrimp quesadilla can be enjoyed at Friendly’s locations over the next three months.

Two new ice cream constructs – a Superman Sundae made with red, yellow, and blue punch ice cream and a Summer Breeze Sundae that features lemon ice cream and strawberry sauce.

The summer menu is available at participating locations and can be enjoyed on a dine-in basis or ordered for takeout and delivery using the Friendly’s app.

Nevada lawmakers have created a new sort of food and beverage business – a licensed “cannabis consumption lounge.”

Legislation recently signed into law by Nevada Governor Steve Sisolake authorizes up to 20 licenses for facilities designed for the on-premises consumption and use of cannabis edibles. The lounges can additionally offer other refreshments; on-premises entertainment is permitted as well. Access to these consumption facilities is limited to adult patrons.

The creation of cannabis consumption lounges is designed to help the state’s tourism industry, since cannabis use in Nevada, though permitted in private homes, is still prohibited in public. The new lounges are seen as an option for those visitors who want to legally indulge while visiting the state.

The Collegian Court Restaurant in Chicopee this month introduced a new menu.

EntrÇe selections include traditional favorites like the restaurant’s Polish plate as well as the likes of blond orange salmon, mango pork chop, and zuppa de pesce for two.

A selection of flatbreads is now being created for appetizer or light meal enjoyment, with topping variations including “Polish” (mashed potato, kielbasa, and horseradish cream), steak & cheese, and pulled pork.

The dessert selection makes room for pumpkin bread, a long-time Collegian Court signature item, presenting it “a la mode” with candied walnuts, ice cream, and caramel sauce.

Every Friday and Saturday from 3 p.m. on the restaurant features a complete slow-roasted prime rib dinner that includes baked potato, fresh vegetable, popover, clam chowder, and a wedge of cheesecake for dessert. Available on dine in or take out basis, the prime rib special has limited availability.

Call the Collegian Court at (413) 331-4444 to make reservations or get more information.

As part of its announcements regarding the 2021 Big E, the management of the Eastern States Exposition recently publicized the Big E’s BIG Summer, a program of entertainment and food options that will serve as a prelude to the Big E’s run in September.

The Big E Bakery will be open Saturdays and Sundays, and the Sam Adams Beer Garden will offer outdoor dining from 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

The Big E will also be hosting an online “Virtual Farmers Market” at farmersmaket.thebige.com/p/farmers-market.

In order to help offset the cost of raising its starting wage rate to $15 an hour, Chipotle Mexican Grill is raising its menu prices from between 3.5{5057b528e2ec7fd6c3736aa134727341eae4fdf6dd188ded3c2a814c0866380c} and 4{5057b528e2ec7fd6c3736aa134727341eae4fdf6dd188ded3c2a814c0866380c} in most markets. Price increases in specific areas are varying substantially, with amounts ranging from in excess of 6{5057b528e2ec7fd6c3736aa134727341eae4fdf6dd188ded3c2a814c0866380c} to as little as 1.3{5057b528e2ec7fd6c3736aa134727341eae4fdf6dd188ded3c2a814c0866380c}.

Press materials announcing the increase pointed out that the entire restaurant industry is facing inflationary pressures in the areas of both labor and food costs.

Hugh Robert is a faculty member in Holyoke Community College’s hospitality and culinary arts program and has nearly 45 years of restaurant and educational experience. Robert can be reached on-line at [email protected].