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Red Robin: A sign of recovery?
Restaurant breaks ground at Orchard Valley
Workers from CCI Contractors work on the foundation for the new 6,000 square-foot Red Robin Restaurant being built at the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Is a Red Robin the first sign of the start of an economic recovery in Manteca?

Ground broke Thursday on the popular hamburger restaurant chain that is building at The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley in front of Bass Pro Shops and the Kerasotes Showplace Theatre.

Red Robin is targeting a February opening.

Craig Realty is also moving forward with three more buildings at Orchard Valley. The additional 250,000 square feet of retail space coupled with existing empty buildings will form the nucleus of the Lifestyle Outlets at Manteca.

Both projects – the restaurant and lifestyle outlets - are fairly rare in today’s retail economy where virtually all commercial funding has dried up. Commercial real estate experts have indicated it speaks volumes about the drawing power of Bass Pro Shops that logged a million customers through their doors in the first three months of their Manteca story operations.

Red Robin was hoping to start construction over a year ago but banks drastically upped the requirement on loans including in some cases where they wanted 50 percent down for the loans. Restaurants are considered riskier than general retail ventures as they are more vulnerable to economic downturns as people usually reduce eating out first when they start cutting back on expenses.

Another restaurant - Cool Hand Luke’s Steakhouse & Saloon – had also announced they were coming to Orchard Valley over two years ago but then the economy went south.

The chain has restaurants in Redding, Yuba City, Citrus Heights, Riverbank, Turlock, Merced, Madera, Clovis, Tulare, Paso Robles, and Santa Maria.
Orchard Valley principals have indicated they expect to announce the signing of several other restaurants in the coming months.

Interest has been re-sparked since Craig Realty announced they will open upscale lifestyle outlets in Manteca in conjunction with Orchard Valley. Craig Realty has said the first outlet stores will open in February or March.

The outlet project is one of the few retail projects moving forward with the help of commercial loans.

Red Robin was one of the restaurants that the largest number of Manteca residents indentified in a survey done less than two years ago that they wanted to see open in Manteca. Others were Outback Steakhouse, Sizzler, Oliver Garden, Mimi’s Café, TGI Friday’s, and Red Lobster.

Economic Research Associates — experts hired by the City of Manteca — compiled data that showed those were the seven sit-down restaurants most likely to prosper should they opt to locate in Manteca before 2011.

Four of the restaurants identified as being best suited for Manteca by the study are also on the top seven list picked by residents in a survey that garnered 300 responses. Those four were Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Red Lobster and Mimi’s Café. Also in the top six spots on the ‘want’ list but not one of the top six as the best suited for the market were Black Angus as well as Romano’s Marconi Grill. Rounding out the top 10 preferred restaurant list from the survey were Texas Roadhouse, Elephant Bar, Home Town Buffet and the Cheesecake Factory.

Olive Garden has
big following among
Manteca residents

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 included 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.

Outhouse Steakhouse and Red Robin were the two highest in the ranking pulling down a 40 out of a possible 50 points. Chevy Fresh Mex, Mimi’s Café, TGI Friday’s, Oliver Garden, and Red Lobster rounded out the top eight. There was no reason listed as to why Chevy’s Fresh Mex was excluded but it could do with the fact almost a quarter of all of Manteca’s existing 100 plus restaurants serve Mexican-style food.

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. Growth and the opening of the lifestyle center along with Big League Dreams are considered big pluses to draw restaurants.

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.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail