Economy

Recession leaves eateries hungry for more business

FORT WORTH — "It's a hamburger economy," declares Ron Gentry, whose family operates Kincaid’s burger restaurants around Tarrant County, which remain profitable even in grueling times for the dining industry.

"I am not saying we're recession-proof, but we're holding our own," said Gentry, who opened a fifth Kincaid’s outlet two months ago at Alliance Town Center in north Fort Worth.

That said, Gentry acknowledged that plans to open restaurants in Mansfield and Denton have been shelved indefinitely because of the uncertain outlook.

Restaurants in North Texas, like in much of the country, have been buffeted by rising unemployment and ever-more-careful spending by those still holding jobs.

In April and May, 187 independent restaurants in Dallas-Fort Worth closed, putting the region behind only New York and Miami-Fort Lauderdale, said Bonnie Riggs, an analyst with NPD Group, which tracks industry trends.

Major restaurant chains, which include fast-food concepts, actually increased store count &mdash by 73 — in the Metroplex, reflecting a better ability to weather the worst dining-out market in 28 years, Riggs said. Nationally, the quick-service sector is most resilient, "but it's negative too," down 2 percent in the spring quarter, she said.

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