The owners of the MarketPlace Grill chain have closed two locations in the past year, pointing to factors they say are prompting restaurants to streamline their businesses.
Restaurant Management Group of Springdale, co-owned by Dave Godwin and Dave Strong, closed the Little Rock MarketPlace location this month, after being in business for only two years.
“The store was very well received, but it just never met the financial and business goals we had set for it,” said Godwin, managing partner.
Increased regulations regarding personnel and the logistical complications of operating multiple restaurants also played into the decision, he said.
“I’ve been in business for close to 30 years, and there is no question that in the last five, six, seven years for a small business, it is better not to grow,” Godwin said. “Bigger is not always better these days.”
The Little Rock store had about 30 staff, and the company now employs about 100.
In January, Strong and Goodwin closed MarketPlace Express in the Northwest Arkansas Mall food court, where it had a presence since 1997.
Godwin said the company’s lease for the space was up, and the owners made the decision to close based on what he said was a marked decrease in the level of business.
“We were making money, but it wasn’t generating enough to make it worth the time and effort,” he said. “It was a good run for us, but we decided it was time to shutter the doors and move forward.”
Godwin said the company would “focus on the core business,” which he says is in the Conway location and the flagship Springdale restaurant, opened in 1999 and 1995, respectively. Marketplace also has a thriving catering business, he said.
A fire at the Springdale restaurant in March put it out of commission for several days this summer while repairs were made. However, the owners grasped the opportunity to remodel, adding a private dining room.
Godwin said, “We were handed lemons and made lemonade.”
Overall, the company is performing above the national trend for casual dining, he said.
Casual dining traffic has been on the decline the past couple of years, decreasing 3% during the quarter that ended in May, according to the NPD Group.
Some national chains have had trouble.
The latest financial results show sales are down for Missouri-based Applebee’s, in addition to Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba’s Italian Grill, both owned by Bloomin’ Brands of Tampa, Florida.
The Fayetteville and Bentonville Ruby Tuesday locations were among 95 closings the Tennessee-based restaurant chain made in August, after the business reported declining revenue.
Logan’s Roadhouse, also based in Tennessee, filed bankruptcy that month.