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Recession not chewing up restaurants

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By Scotty McDaniel

People still seem to be making their way to restaurants to eat, just maybe not with the same appetites.

“They [the restaurants] all seem to be doing well,” Shelby Development Corporation Director Eileen Collins said. “I think everybody has been hit by the recession, but I think everyone is holding their own.”

Many Shelbyville restaurants say they are hanging on the same way their customers are -- with careful money management.

“I think we’re like everyone: industry, other restaurants and even residential. We’re controlling our costs and purchases,” Claudia Sanders General Manager Louise Riley said.

She said there have been fewer walk-in customers at Claudia Sanders in recent months, and those who do come in are buying noticeably fewer soft-drink and beverage orders.

“People are more inclined to just order water now,” she said.

As customers cut back on spending, so must restaurants.

“We haven’t laid anyone off, but we have cut hours,” she said. “We’re happy to say everyone still has a job.”

And to counter the losses in quantity, restaurants are giving an extra helping of quality.

“They’re predicting that this is a cycle that’s going to take a few years to come out of,” Riley said. “We’re just trying to work on customer service to make sure we do 100 percent to get them back there. We’re trying to keep the customer happy.”

Over in downtown Shelbyville at Sam’s Place, business is also slower than normal, but Manager James Reynolds said they’re hanging on however they can.

To offset losses Reynolds said he is looking at restructuring, trying new advertisement, and thinking about shutting down one more day a week.

“We’ve had some live music. We’ve put out a coupon book. We have giveaways, and they always seem to bring a crowd,” he said. “And we have a room in the basement people can use for parties and events. That’s brought us in some new business.”

Like Claudia Sanders, Sam’s Place has a steady client base – “We just need to grow a little bit,” Reynolds said.

And quality product and service is the main way of doing that, he said. He boasts that at Sam’s Place customers will get quality homemade dough and good service from the good people who work there.

That “bang for your buck” is how Cattleman’s Roadhouse, located in Breighton Circle, is doing so well, owner Bill Hisle said.

Toward the end of last year business was noticeably slower, he said.

“We controlled our expenses, managed our business. We watched our labor and costs of goods,” he said.

But ever since December, business has climbed back to normal, and he said it’s because he believes customers get their money’s worth at Cattleman’s.

“People are still going out to eat, they’re just watching their money more,” he said. “Business is great. And we feel like the reason we’re doing well is because we’re priced affordably and have a good product.”

“It’s been picking up the last week or so. We’re hoping that’s a trend.”