Tag Archives: steven micheletti

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Restaurants serve super-sized economic impact

Think about the celebration that occurred after Arizona was awarded  the 2015 Super Bowl.

Much of that excitement came because of the economic impact the Super Bowl will have on the state. But the restaurant industry in Arizona generates revenue equivalent to hosting two Super Bowls a month.

“Restaurants are critical to Arizona’s visitor industry – and vice versa,” said Debbie Johnson, president and CEO of the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association. “Arizona attracts more than 37 million visitors annually and dining is the No. 1 activity for those visitors. So the success of the two industries are definitely intertwined.”

Arizona’s restaurant industry, which included 8,885 eating and drinking places of business in 2011, is expected to rake in $10.5 billion in sales this year, according to the National Restaurant Association. Arizona’s restaurants also employ 262,200 people, roughly 10 percent of the state’s workforce. That number is projected to grow 15.9 percent by 2023 to 303,800 – translating into 41,600 new jobs in the industry.

“While the Recession claimed 500 Arizona restaurants, the industry that was born out of the recession was stronger and more resilient,” said Steve Chucri, president and CEO of the Arizona Restaurant Association. “From 2007 on, Arizona’s industry sales have grown from $7.9 billion to $10.1 billion (in 2012) with extremely modest growth in the hungrier years of 2008-2010.”

Chucri said Arizona’s rate of restaurant sales growth, while once the top in the nation at 6.2 percent, is starting to fight its way back, growing at a little more than 3 percent each year, boosting this industry’s sales by an estimated $400 million annually.

“I think the restaurant community has stabilized and I sense an increasing confidence in the community,” said Steven Micheletti, CEO of Z’Tejas Southwestern Grill, which has five locations in Arizona and plans to add two more in the next year. “New restaurants are being built and being opened in interesting parts of the city. There is ongoing collaboration between great entrepreneurs happening, creating some great restaurant experiences. Operators are building restaurants in all types of buildings, creating really fun dining environments.”
A lot of the growth in Arizona’s restaurant industry is coming from entrepreneurs and chefs who are giving consumers different and unique dining experiences.
“Some of the strengths in Arizona’s restaurant industry include population growth, strong tourism, unmatched lifestyle and weather, and access to good produce,” said Russell Owens, president and COO of Fox Restaurant Concepts. “With all of these factors working together, there is more appeal for great chefs to come to Arizona to offer innovative new restaurants and fresh ideas. I think we are seeing more creativity today than over the last 20 years and this will positively shape the industry in Arizona for years to come.”

That influx of great chefs and innovative ideas has become an economic engine for the tourism industry.

“Scottsdale has seen a growth in chef-driven, independent restaurants, which are fueling our culinary scene,” said Rachel Pearson, vice president of community and government affairs for the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Not only do our resorts boast award-winning chefs and restaurants, but now you can drive to every corner of Scottsdale and find unique culinary experiences from well-known chefs.”

Not only are many of the new restaurants that are popping up utilizing fresh ideas and concepts, they are also beginning to increasingly rely on local produce and products to help serve their customers.

“Arizona visitors are really looking for a unique and distinct dining experience that they can’t get back home,” Johnson said. “So trends that we’re seeing in both hotel/resort restaurants as well as off-site restaurants include utilizing local ingredients and offering menu items and experiences that provide a taste of the local community.”

Micheletti has seen an increasing shift to supporting local farmers and growers, but the “Local First” trend doesn’t stop there.
“There’s also a growing influence of local crafted beers and wines,” he said. “Guests really are reading menus and asking questions about ingredients and sourcing. It’s not just about calories anymore.”

In addition to Arizona-grown ingredients, Chucri said one of the most transcendent trends he sees in the industry is the desire for healthy foods.

“The tendency towards more healthful items for the entire family illustrates that consumers are looking to restaurants for more than an indulgent special occasion meal,” he said. “Restaurants are becoming a part of consumers’ daily lives, an extension of their family. Whether it be a compliment dish for Easter dinner, a post-Little League party, or a got-home-too-late-to-cook family dinner, restaurants have infused themselves into the fabric of families everyday lives … a trend that is certain to stick around.”

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First Job: Steven Micheletti, CEO, Z’Tejas

What was your first job?
Delivering bread on my uncle’s bread delivery route at the age of 11. I worked every Saturday from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. for two years.  When I became a teenager, it just didn’t seem like a cool job to be talking to your friends about, so I moved on to work in a fast-food restaurant called Spaghetti Bowl. Instead of serving buckets of chicken and fries, we served buckets of spaghetti and meatballs. My job was to make 500 pounds of meatballs every Saturday. It took me several months to stop longing for delivering bread.

Do you remember how much you earned at that first job?
I think my uncle paid me $5 a day and I also got tips from his customers. He had over 100 stops, so I made about $25 dollars in tips, which was a lot of money as an 11 year old.

What did you learn from your first job that still impacts you today?
Consistency. Folks expected to have their delivery occur at the same time every day and they would get quite upset if their delivery was late. Oddly enough, the consistency of time mattered almost as much as the quality of bread that was being delivered. You have to deliver on the promises you make to your guests and your team consistently or they start looking elsewhere.

You started your career as an attorney. What made you decide to evolve into the restaurant industry?
I have always worked in restaurants. My first bartending job was down the street from The Palm restaurant in Washington, D.C.  I had the worst shift, but I learned to love it because all the staff from The Palm would come in and eventually they took an interest in my classes. Eventually, if I told them I had an upcoming test, I would give them my notes and they would quiz me. It was pretty funny to see a bunch of waiters asking me question about constitutional law. When I finally graduated from law school and started practicing, I had this ache every so often and I eventually figured it out that my true vocation was being in the restaurant business.

What was your first job in restaurant management?
While studying for the bar exam, I become a weekend manager for a great little bar in D.C. called PW’s Saloon on 19th Street. The PW stood for the nicknames of the two owners, the Prince and the Walrus. I’ll leave the explanation of the nicknames to your imagination.

What is the biggest difference between the legal and restaurant industries?
This is an easy answer. Practicing law is an adversarial process; someone wins, someone loses. Someone is happy, someone is not. Restaurants exist to satisfy and please. When you do it right, it’s a win-win for just about every stakeholder.

What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge was admitting that the restaurant I opened in Portland, Maine was failing and needed to close. It wasn’t just about the money that I had lost, but the passion that went into creating it. It took me years to get over. For me, it was worse than being dumped by your first true love. Time heals all wounds and you analyze what went wrong and you learn to start over again.

If you weren’t doing what you are doing now, what would you like to be doing?
I originally thought when I finished law school I would go and work for a movie studio in L.A. because I have always loved spending time in movie theaters. So I guess that would be an acceptable alternative even today. I truly believe that you are where you are because that’s where you’re supposed to be. I love the restaurant business and wouldn’t change anything.

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Z’Tejas Opens Fifth Location in Central Phoenix

On the heels of celebrating its 20th anniversary in Arizona, Scottsdale-based Z’Tejas Southwestern Grill is announcing the opening of their fifth Valley location in central Phoenix located at 16th Street and Bethany Home Road, opening to the public April 22, 2013. This Z’Tejas location was one of the first “ground-up” construction projects in the neighborhood, with the restaurant modeled after famed architect, Ralph Haver, to blend in with the surrounding homes.

“This location is a sign of perseverance and support from the neighborhood,” says Z’Tejas CEO Steven Micheletti. “We are excited to open our doors in the heart of central Phoenix.”

The new location features five uniquely designed dining rooms each with a different feel, side panels that open to the outside, a greenhouse room with a retractable roof and “living wall” inset with live plants and greenery. The restaurant will seat roughly 290 guests and conveys a light, airy design.

The first Arizona Z’Tejas restaurant opened December 1991 in Scottsdale Fashion Square and continues to thrive in the community. The concept then continued to grow with three other locations at Shea & Tatum in Phoenix (1996) Tempe (2000) and Chandler in (2001).

Z’Tejas is at the forefront of unique Southwestern fare with seasonal menu items and specialty cocktails, including their award-winning Chambord margarita. Visit www.ztejas.com for more information and follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ztejassouthwesterngrill and Twitter @ZTejas.

z'tejas - opening a new location

Z’Tejas Announces Fifth Location In Central Phoenix

On the heels of celebrating their 20th anniversary in Arizona, Scottsdale-based Z’Tejas Southwestern Grill is announcing the addition of their fifth location in central Phoenix located at 16th street and Bethany Home Road. Construction will begin on July 2. The expansion marks their belief in Phoenix as a viable market for growth. This Z’Tejas location will be one of the first “ground-up” construction projects in that neighborhood in a long time, according to Steven Micheletti, CEO & President of Z’Tejas.

“We are thrilled to move forward with our fifth location,” says Micheletti. “After over a year of planning, Z’Tejas is finally able to move ahead with our building plans which will make for a great addition to this Phoenix neighborhood.”

The new location will feature small dining rooms for an intimate feel and a greenhouse with a retractable roof. The restaurant will seat roughly 290 guests, including an outdoor patio.

The first Arizona Z’Tejas restaurant opened in December 1991 at Scottsdale Fashion Square and continues to thrive in the community. The concept then continued to grow with three other locations in Shea & Tatum in Phoenix (1996) Tempe (2000) and Chandler in (2001).

Z’Tejas is at the forefront of unique Southwestern fare with seasonal menu items and specialty cocktails, including their award-winning Chambord margarita. Visit www.ztejas.com for more information and follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ztejassouthwesterngrill and Twitter @ZTejas.