The Buzz never passes up a chance to dish with the Big Enchilada of any company. So when the chief executive of Chuy ’s (pronounced “Chewey’s”) called, we took the call.
Steve Hislop, the guy who runs the quirky Austin-based Tex-Mex restaurant chain, which has 50-some restaurants across the United States and a passionate following, was in town to open his second store here.
The first Washington-area Chuy’s opened earlier this year in Fairfax, and the second opened in Springfield Town Center in November.
All of Chuy’s stores are corporate-owned.
The two local stores are on track to gross $4.9 million each for their first year, with a profit margin before taxes and interest of around 20 percent. It costs a little more than $2 million to open a restaurant, including some fit-out help from the landlord.
Hislop said his homemade sauces, fresh-squeezed limes and fresh produce is a differentiator in an already crowded market.
“We are exceeding our expectations in that market,” said Hislop, adding that the Springfield store is averaging around 7,000 customers a week. “That’s very high for casual dining.”
Hislop, 54, said he is looking to open a bunch more Washington-area Chuy’s in the next several years. Try Arlington, Woodbridge, Bethesda and Tysons Corner for starters. He expects to open two to three more restaurants in 2015, three in 2016 and another three in 2017.
“I see 12 to 14 more stores,” said Hislop, who joined Chuy’s in 2007 from O’Charley’s. “We will look at the whole market.”
He said the company’s affordable price point ($14.25 average check) and house-made approach (no walk-in freezers on premises) sells in the Washington/Baltimore area.
The region already is crowded with similar chains, including homegrown California Tortilla, Uncle Julio’s and Chipotle.
So what does he — and other restaurant chains — like about Washington and Baltimore?
“Its sophistication,” he said. Chuy’s needs customers who know the food, like to explore new cuisines and try its 10 homemade sauces. “It’s really, really important for us to have a highly educated population.”
-6.2%That’s the percentage that same-store retail sales in the Washington metro dropped over the four-day Black Friday weekend compared with last year, according to Applied Predictive Technologies, the Ballston big data company. That is more than the national average of -3.5 percent, according to APT. APT’s software helps large companies such as Wal-Mart, Staples and Hilton Worldwide crunch masses of data to measure the impact of pricing, marketing, menu, operations, and capital initiatives
Glenmede, the Philadelphia-based investment company, hosted 200 people at the tony Metropolitan Club last Wednesday night to celebrate the holidays and the opening of its new Washington office. In attendance were several former senators and members of Congress, prominent members of the Washington endowment and foundation community, as well as members of the younger, philanthropic and socially responsible-minded Washington set.
Vox Media, a Washington media company that owns SB Nation, last week said it received a $46.5 million investment led by General Atlantic, an investment firm based in New York City and Greenwich, Conn.
At current multiples, the investors must estimate Vox’s worth at around $380 million, a sign of increasing values among Web publishers. Most equity firms tend to stay away from content-driven start-ups.
So the Buzz exchanged e-mails with Zachary Kaplan, the General Atlantic vice president who sits on Vox’s board of directors. Here are some of his thoughts:
On how Vox works with advertisers to generate revenue:
Vox leverages its strong technology to allow advertisers and brand partners to tell compelling stories, increasingly in video format, to Vox’s audience. This kind of storytelling is increasingly resembling the look and feel — and impact — of traditional television commercials.
So how does Vox’s approach differs from traditional media companies?
Vox is a technology-driven and digital-first media organization. This has allowed Vox to reach and engage with a significant audience around the world that is increasingly consuming news and entertainment content via mobile phones and social networks — and not physical newspapers.
On how General Atlantic will work with Vox as an investor:
To help Vox accelerate its growth, especially for global audiences and advertisers where we believe we can bring our infrastructure and relationships to bear.