Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Franchise buyer goes for noodles

Chain of pasta eateries coming

By Justin Fenton
Enquirer staff writer

The man who brought the Subway franchise to Cincinnati two decades ago plans to bring 15 pasta restaurants to town over the next several years.

Neill Bairstow's Cafe Concepts Unlimited has secured the rights to franchise Nothing But Noodles in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area, with the first location scheduled to open in Deerfield Town Center in Mason by early September.

Though the menu, heavy on carbohydrate-rich noodles, would seem to run counter to the popular Atkins diet, Bairstow said Monday that customers can find plenty of options on Nothing But Noodles' menu.

"The key ingredient to the whole concept is freshly prepared daily and freshly sauteed," said Bairstow. "We have an awesome low-carb menu of salads that goes along with the regular noodles menu that is really outstanding."

Among Nothing But Noodles' dishes, which are prepared in open kitchens in high-temperature woks, are pasta dishes and salads with influences from Asia, Europe the Mediterranean and the United States.

The company was started three years ago in Scottsdale, Ariz., and now has 14 locations around the country, with 19 more under construction and national franchise deals such as Bairstow's in the works. The restaurants fall into the fast-casual restaurant segment - eateries that are quick like fast food but use higher-quality ingredients and more stylish decors, with entree prices usually ranging between $8 and $10.

Fast-casual restaurant sales represent just $5 billion of the $128 billion fast-food industry, according to a 2003 study by the Chicago-based research firm Technomic. But its growth far exceeds that of other fast-food chains, with 20 percent increases in sales every year since 1999.

"A lot of concepts are headed toward the fast-casual arena, basically born from customers getting tired of fast food," said Bairstow. "Panera Bread Co. is a perfect example of taking the sandwich that's been around for years, using good quality bread and ingredients and charging a bit more. And people will pay for it because they enjoy the atmosphere and the quality."

Bairstow brought Subway to the area in the mid-1980s and also owns Japp's Cigar and Martini Bar in the Main Street Entertainment District.

Bairstow said he expects to open locations in Northern Kentucky, Hyde Park and Springboro, among others, within seven years.


E-mail jfenton@enquirer.com

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