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Eating out is $85M business in Manteca
Ernies Food & Spirits - complete with arguably the best stocked bar and wine list in the Northern San Joaquin Valley - has brought a new twist on California modern cuisine to Manteca. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Manteca residents like to eat out.

Taxable sales data indicates almost $85 million is spent annually in the city’s 151 businesses categorized as food service. That ranges from sit-down restaurants to Starbucks.

That translates in a yearly per capita expenditure of $1,214 for each of Manteca’s 70,000 residents.

And - if developers have their way - the improving economy will see the number of restaurants and gross receipts swell even more in the next few years.

Eating out is a big deal as far as the city is concerned. It brings in $850,000 annually in sales tax to the Manteca general fund that underwrites day-to-day municipal services. That is in addition to $425,000 collected from restaurant tabs to pay for police and firefighters through the half cent Measure M public safety tax.

That’s why Manteca in 2008 commissioned Economic Research Associates to research community demographics and survey 300 residents to determine the restaurants most likely to do well in Manteca. That study helped Poag & McEwen snag Red Robin which was poplar with those surveyed but not considered a runaway winner based on demographics. Four restaurants flagged as potentially meshing well with Manteca’s demographics were Outback Steakhouse, Olive Garden, Mimi’s Café, and Red Lobster. Those also appeared on the list of the 10 most popular restaurants identified by the 300 Manteca residents who were surveyed. The others on the survey’s top 10 were Sizzler, TGI Friday’s, Texas Roadhouse, Elephant Bar, Hometown Café, and the Cheesecake Factory.

Various food service establishments snag 14 cents of every taxable dollar spent in Manteca. As taxable transaction categories it is eclipsed only by general merchandise stores such as Target, Kmart, and Wal-mart; gasoline sellers, and motor vehicle and parts dealers.

Olive Garden was the overwhelming preferred restaurant that those responding to the survey as to what they would like to see in Manteca with 82 responses or 40- plus percent more favorable nods than the next closest favorite — Outhouse Steakhouse.

Those 35 to 54 years of age represented 46 percent of all responses in the survey while Manteca residents 55 and over accounted for 36 of the responses. That is significant as those are the two largest groups that dine out at sit-down restaurants.

Sixty-four percent of the responding households had incomes between $50,000 and $149,999 a year making them a prime target for restaurants.

Thirteen percent of the respondents — 40 — said they dined out three or more times a week while another 117 or 39 percent indicated they ate out once or twice a week.

Forty-five percent of the surveyed households dine out in Manteca, 22 percent in Modesto, 9 percent in Stockton, 7 percent in Tracy, and 10 percent elsewhere.

ERA used five factors to determine the restaurant best suited for Manteca. It includes the restaurant chain’s required population density, whether Manteca has the target customer base and income, whether they are seeking expansion in California, whether there is a preferred co-tenant existing in Manteca, and if Manteca is a reasonable distance from their nearest existing location.

A lack of local jobs and therefore daytime population is a challenge to attract full service restaurants due to the scarcity of the lunch trade. It also means commuters with little time for “fine dining” on weekday evenings.

The ERA study also listed the best seven restaurants for Manteca to pursue between 2011 and 2018. They are Chevy’s Fresh Mex, Home Town Buffet, Elephant Bar, Marie Callender’s, Roman’s Marconi Grill, Fresh Choice, and Texas Roadhouse.