NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 10, 2006 (PRIMEZONE) -- How many restaurants can boast a flow through profit of 57 cents for every dollar in additional sales? How many average 10% annual unit sales growth?
Such phenomenal success has been the trademark of three guys who call themselves, appropriately, the Taste Buds. Taste Buds, Inc. is a culinary concept corporation founded by Greg Reggio, Gary Darling and Hans Limburg, who became friends working in the restaurants of New Orleans.
Taste Buds, Inc. is a clever play on words, but the fun doesn't stop there. These guys love to play with food. It shows in both of their restaurant concepts. Semolina, founded in 1991, and Zea, originating in 1997, have menus that offer a distinct twist to the standard American fare found in most casual dining chains. Both restaurants are influenced by the cultures of the world.
Semolina offers Pad Thai Pasta along with Pasta Bolgnese and Southwest Chicken Pasta. At the aptly named Zea, (see-ahh means "to live") their legendary Thai ribs share menu space with hummus and an award-winning salad made with a Louisiana ingredient for the dressing - pepper jelly. Duck empanadas fuse Cajun with the Southwest, and American style rotisserie meats are a signature.
The culinary creativity of the Buds is matched by the business expertise of Chief Operating Officer Chris Rodrigue, who joined the company in 2004 after serving as V.P. of Operations and New Store Development for Fransmart, a Washington D.C. based company. Prior to that, he was the Director of Operations for Copeland's of New Orleans.
Mr. Rodrigue came aboard to grow the company and has been key to guiding the rejuvenation of Semolina. The concept was sold in 1996, but the Buds have returned to revitalize the ten unit chain. The improvements implemented by the Taste Buds team have resulted in a six percent improvement in profit after cost of sales and labor. And at Zea, EBITDA increased by 36.6 percent this year.
Of the many accomplishments for 2005, Taste Buds, Inc. is most proud of resurrecting damaged units after Hurricane Katrina. Crippled by devastated telecommunications, the Buds, managers, and loyal employees scrubbed restaurants, drove any trucks they could find to any suppliers still operating, picked up products usually delivered, located staff and adjusted menus. The first Semolina opened two weeks later, long before any of the bigger national chains.
Currently, all Zea locations in New Orleans are operating, and two Semolinas still closed will soon reopen. Due to the tenacity of this winning team, both concepts are exceeding budget for the year, and sales and profit levels are higher than pre-Katrina.
Much is still unsettled in New Orleans, but the Taste Buds see a bright future and are focused on their goals for 2006.
Zea WoodFire Grill, the third Zea franchise, opens in Dallas in January with former Ruth's Chris Steak house CEO Bill Hyde as partner. There are two other franchise locations of Zea, in Pensacola, Florida, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. There are six corporate locations of Zea: four in metro New Orleans, one in Lafayette and one in Mobile with immediate plans for two others. Semolina has seven locations in metro New Orleans, two franchise locations in Baton Rouge, and one in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Taste Buds, Inc. Nancy Jeansonne, Director of Marketing (504) 486-4570 x 311 (504) 722-8809