Skip to main content
Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Aug. 24, 2007 14 years ago

Coffee Talk

Share
The Barby just got hotter: It's still king of the hill in number of locations, but it got a little hotter in the kitchen, or near the barby this month for Tampa-based OSI Restaurant Partners, parent company of Outback Steakhouse.Sunshine state employees are smiling: Given the plethora of negative economic news lurking around Florida and beyond, Coffee Talk was mildly, and pleasantly, surprised to see the results of a statewide survey on employment confidence.Hurricane season: high-risk shell game: As Gulf Coast residents watched Hurricane Dean with trepidation, one insurance expert says public opinion is beginning to shift in the industry's favor as the benefits from a state-run insurer are not being delivered as advertised.Commercial real estate broker goes cross-country: Sarasota-based commercial real estate broker Andrew Greenwell knew the market was slowing. But he had no idea his best opportunity would take him 2,500 miles away, to downtown Seattle.Marco bank sees jump in problem loans: Marco Community Bancorp, the Marco Island bank that's being acquired by an investment group led by the prominent Barron Collier and Lutgert families, recently reported a jump in non-accrual loans, according to securities filings.SeaFair takes art to the high seas:SeaFair, the traveling art gallery on a ship, will be making its inaugural sailing from Greenwich, Conn., next month.

Coffee Talk

+ The Barby

just got hotter

It's still king of the hill in number of locations, but it got a little hotter in the kitchen, or near the barby this month for Tampa-based OSI Restaurant Partners, parent company of Outback Steakhouse.

Orlando-based Darden Restaurants, the largest U.S. restaurant company in terms of revenues, said it was buying RARE Hospitality International, the Atlanta company that owns LongHorn Steakhouse and The Capital Grille, for $38.15 a share, or $1.4 billion.

Darden's other chains, Red Lobster and Olive Garden already compete with OSI's Bonefish Grill and Carrabba's Italian Grill. The Capital Grill attracts the upscale crowd, similar to Outback's Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar chain.

In fact, there's a yuppie-jammed Capital Grill in Tampa at International Plaza, only a few hundred yards behind the gleaming stone and glass OSI-flagged corporate headquarters beside Tampa International Airport. G'day mates!

Outback still holds the edge in locations, but sales at LongHorn units open at least 18 months have been for the most part stronger than at the flagship Outback Steakhouse chain in the past six years.

But stay tuned for the boomerang. Look for a new offensive by Outback with new menu items, price promotions and hip advertising. It's done it before. It didn't bound to No. 1 and sponsor a national bowl game by lying down like a sleeping koala who downed too many Foster's. And there's also the healthy growth in the other parts of the company for it to build on.

To be sure, the steakhouse war is a crowded one, with Ruth Chris', Outback, LongHorn, Fleming's, Capital Grill, Steak and Ale, Logan's, Roadhouse Grill and a host of good independent steakhouses like Charley's and Bern's carving their share of the multi-tiered market.

However, Outback will use its financial leverage, market coverage and brand identity (See: John Madden's Outback Bus, the Outback Bowl, Walkabout Air, Down Under Catering, etc.) to distance itself from Darden and the rest of the pack. It's not a real estate coincidence that Mom and Dad visiting you in Florida have an Outback back home, too, and drive past them going back and forth on I-75.

+ Sunshine state

employees are smiling

Given the plethora of negative economic news lurking around Florida and beyond, Coffee Talk was mildly, and pleasantly, surprised to see the results of a statewide survey on employment confidence. The gist? Things are actually pretty good - and they're getting better.

So says the Spherion Florida Employment Report, released earlier this month by Fort Lauderdale-based Spherion, an international recruiting and staffing firm. The survey, which polled employees in each part of the state, compares results from June to July.

Overall, the report shows that a higher percentage of workers are more optimistic about the economy, job market and number of available jobs in July then they were the previous month. The survey's Employee Confidence Index increased 6.4 points from June to July.

Some other survey nuggets:

• Thirty percent of workers believe more jobs are available, compared to 17% in June;

• Twenty-six percent of workers believe the economy is getting stronger, up four points from June;

• Sixty percent of workers are confident in their ability to find a new job, a 15-point increase from the previous month;

• More than three-fourths (77%) of workers believe it is unlikely they will lose their jobs in the next 12 months, up from 69% who felt that way in June.

+ Hurricane season:

high-risk shell game

As Gulf Coast residents watched Hurricane Dean with trepidation, one insurance expert says public opinion is beginning to shift in the industry's favor as the benefits from a state-run insurer are not being delivered as advertised.

"It's a high-risk shell game," says John Laurie of BB&T Insurance.

The state's insurance company, Citizens Property Insurance, has just $3.5 billion in cash and $28 billion in bonding capacity to pay for hurricane claims. But its exposure to one major storm ranges from $40 billion to $60 billion.

The state's role gets bigger every day since the Legislature earlier this year permitted it to compete with private insurers. Citizens now has 1.3 million policies in Florida.

"All we want are competitive products for our clients," Laurie says.

Coffee Talk thinks all it might take is one big storm.

+ Commercial real estate

broker goes cross-country

Sarasota-based commercial real estate broker Andrew Greenwell knew the market was slowing. But he had no idea his best opportunity would take him 2,500 miles away, to downtown Seattle.

That's exactly where Greenwell has gone though, hired away from his hometown by national real estate firm Keller Williams to open the company's new downtown Seattle office. His first job will be to hire a sales force of residential sales agents; he hopes to open the office by Dec. 1 and have as many as 100 agents on staff by next year.

It was only four months ago that Greenwell, then 23, was named as one of the top 30 Realtors Under 30 in the country by the National Association of Realtors. The association cited Greenwell's role in co-founding a six-employee, $20 million firm in 2004 while simultaneously attending Florida State University.

And it was just two months ago that Greenwell went out completely on his own, forming the commercial brokerage Andrew Greenwell & Co., in downtown Sarasota.

Greenwell says the national exposure from the 30 under 30 designation led to several job offers, the best of which was from Keller Williams. "I absolutely love this company," Greenwell tells Coffee Talk. "It's everything I would want to do with my company."

+ Marco bank sees

jump in problem loans

Marco Community Bancorp, the Marco Island bank that's being acquired by an investment group led by the prominent Barron Collier and Lutgert families, recently reported a jump in non-accrual loans, according to securities filings.

Loans placed on non-accrual status generally means collections are unlikely. As of June 30, the bank-holding company reported $14.8 million in non-accrual loans. Its balance sheet shows $128 million in loans, net of allowance for loan losses.

Naples bankers have been following news of the Marco bank closely because of its new deep-pocketed backers. The Barron Collier family is developing Ave Maria, a new town in eastern Collier County, in partnership with Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan. The Lutgerts have developed residential and commercial buildings in Collier, including tony Park Shore.

Richard Storm Jr., who recently joined the bank as chief executive officer, says the non-accrual loans are a package of residential loans for homes in the Jacksonville area acquired by the bank's previous administration. "We wrote those down to be prudent," Storm says. "It's very likely they're going to be paid off."

The loans won't impact the acquisition, which Storm says should close in the next few months. However, the terms of the deal likely will have to be adjusted before a special shareholders meeting can be held to approve it.

+ SeaFair takes art to

the high seas

SeaFair, the traveling art gallery on a ship, will be making its inaugural sailing from Greenwich, Conn., next month.

The ship, owned by Bonita Springs-based Expoships, is the idea of David and Lee Ann Lester, two entrepreneurs who sold their art fair business several years ago for $22 million. It's essentially a yacht where art dealers lease space to display their works. The ship travels from one location to another and guests in each city are invited to dine and purchase the art.

The company, featured in the Review in May 2006, had scheduled a January 2007 launch in St. Petersburg. But boat-production delays pushed the date back to September.

After a short stint in the northeast, the ship will come down to Florida for stops in Naples, Sarasota, Tampa and St. Petersburg throughout the month of January.

+ Forum seeks companies

that seek funds

Attention Florida entrepreneurs: Applications are now being accepted for the 17th annual Florida Venture Capital Conference, scheduled for Jan. 29 and Jan 30 at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club in St. Petersburg.

The hosts, the Florida Venture Forum, plan to use the conference to showcase 20-25 later stage, high growth private companies. Principals of the businesses will get to pitch their companies before an international audience of venture capitalists, private equity investors and investment bankers.

The conference also serves as a networking and marketing opportunity. The Forum encourages companies not currently seeking money to apply to present at the conference, too, simply for public relations purposes.

But the core of the conference is still about funding. Companies presenting at the last 16 conferences have raised a combined $1.4 billion, the Forum says. And more than 1,200 people attended the 2007 conference, including 185 venture capital firms from the U.S, Europe and South America.

In general, the Forum is seeking entrepreneurial companies with talented management teams, proprietary technology and high growth potential. The companies that are selected are traditionally looking for later stage funding.

Applications can only be submitted online, at http://apply.flvencap.org. For more information, contact Robin Kovaleski, executive director, at [email protected] or (813) 335-8116.

+ It's all about

(improving) your image

Coffee Talk readers know image really isn't everything, despite the current me-first craze of Youtube and blogs. Still, image and how an executive presents himself counts for something in business.

Executives looking to improve their image have several shots over the next few months, as national author, speaker and image consultant Jamie Yasko-Mangum makes the rounds across Florida. Yasko-Mangum's past clients include Convergys, the American Management Association, Pfizer and Darden Restaurants.

The seminars focus on what Yasko-Mangum calls the four-step self-trait system for professional success, which combines the traits of self-esteem, appearance, communication and behavior. The seminars are scheduled for Fort Lauderdale on Sept. 10; Jacksonville on Sept. 24; Orlando on Oct. 15; and Tampa on Nov. 5.

Call (407) 478-6800 or 1-866-971-7152 for more information.

+ Briefs, briefcases

and diaper bags

Holland & Knight, the Tampa-based law firm, has earned a national kudo this year from Working Mother magazine.

The publication named the law firm one of the nation's 50 best for women based on things like retention of women and policies on parental leave and child care. Ten percent of Holland & Knight's equity partners and 24% of its non-equity partners are women.

It turns out there are working dads out there that take care of children, too. If companies want to attract and retain good employees, family friendly policies may make good economic sense. Think opportunity, not cost.

The gambler's

in office now

Coffee Talk didn't know that Gov. Charlie Crist was a gambler. It seems that St. Pete Slim has sidled up to the legal table to throw more chips in the pot for the state and for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which operates a popular gaming facility and hotel in east Tampa.

With the U.S. Interior Department monitoring the situation, Gov. Crist is working with the tribe on a deal that would bring Las Vegas-style slot machines as well as more lucrative table games such as black jack, craps and roulette to its gaming sites.

The governor's reasoning: The tribe is legally entitled to the more profitable slot machines - it has the electronic bingo-style slots now - and that the state can receive some of the revenues, too. The tribe reaps more than $1 billion a year in Florida, including revenue from its Hard Rock Hotel & Casinos in Tampa and Hollywood, Fla. The tribe does not share any of its slots revenues with the state.

The state's share could range from $50 million a year to start to up to $500 million in a few years, according to a state senate committee that oversees gambling.

By the way, don't expect campaign contributions from dog or horse tracks or gambling ships now. They are not fond of this.

And one more thing: Don't count our money at the table.

Related Stories

Advertisement