DALLAS -- The operators of Eatzi's, the hybrid restaurant-food store, will open Eatzi's No. 2 in Houston this summer, across the street from a Rice Epicurean Market.
"It is in an upscale part of town with a demographic mix that's much the same as the Dallas location. And with a concept like this, location is critical," said Tim Doke, vice president of public affairs for Brinker International, the company that launched Eatzi's here last spring.
"There's good traffic going by the site and we'll have more space than we do here. Actually, nearly all aspects of the Dallas site are ideal with the exception of parking. That [the lack of adequate space] has been an inhibitor here. We'll be able to do a lot of the things that we couldn't do here," Doke added.
In addition to more parking space and better access, the building itself will be "substantially larger, and more seating is planned," he said. He declined to offer more details .
Industry observers told SN that Eatzi's will be coming into an area that will give it more competition than it has in Dallas.
"It's going to be more difficult for them to pull customers away from Rice Epicurean than if they opened in a vacuum. I think Epicurean does a fantastic job with its prepared foods. By contrast, there's nothing like Eatzi's around in Dallas," said Howard Solganik, president of Solganik & Associates, a Dayton, Ohio, consulting firm that works with supermarkets.
"But I think they're smart though to stay in their own region for the second Eatzi's because it's very difficult to manage multi-units that are spread out geographically," Solganik added.
Rice Epicurean itself "will just keep on doing business as it has been doing business," said Scott Silverman, vice president of specialty foods and wines for Rice Markets. He added that Rice has had a store at that location for 35 years.
"Actually, it might be good for us to have them here. It could help draw attention to the area. Did you ever think about why car dealers locate next to each other? Restaurants do, too," Silverman said.
He also pointed out that Eatzi's operators could find it a minus that so much good publicity about the Dallas site has preceded them.
"Expectations in Houston are high. If they [Eatzi's] fall short in any way, people will be saying it's not as good as the original," Silverman said. He added that the concept also will be up against stiff competition.
"Supermarkets here in Houston are better with prepared foods than supermarkets in Dallas, and restaurants are better, too," he said.
Silverman, like others, said this will be a crucial test for Eatzi's because the concept must establish credibility at a second site in order to roll out further across the country with success.
"We're continuing to look at other markets for more Eatzi's locations," Doke said, adding that several additional sites are under serious consideration.
"We've been candid about where we're looking. The cities we're considering include Chicago, Denver and Washington," Doke said.
At least one other source said he wished Eatzi's No. 2 had been located in another part of the United States.
"Just as a student of the food business, I wish they had located it somewhere up North, like in the Buckhead section of Atlanta or Shaker Heights [in Ohio]. I'd like to see how it works in a very dissimilar [from Dallas] market," said Ira Blumenthal, president of Co-Opportunities, an Atlanta-based consulting and marketing firm.
"They've raised the bar in the industry and have given retailers of all shapes and sizes a lot to learn. Just about every retailer I know has been to Eatzi's and has taken away ideas. It's a real laboratory.