Kona Grill's parent finds customers are ready to dine out again

Comparable sales for the polished brand and its steakhouse sister jumped 24% above pre-pandemic levels.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Sales at the high-end Kona Grill and STK restaurant chains shot past 2019 levels by 24% during the first two weeks of March, an unmistakable sign that consumers are eager to dine on-premise again, parent One Group Hospitality said Tuesday.

Still, the polished-casual operator isn’t ceding off-premise business as it prepares for a surge in table service, a function of capacity restrictions being eased in key markets such as Las Vegas and New York. One Group recently revamped the to-go menus of its big-ticket concepts to provide more options that can weather the trip from restaurants to customers’ homes, said One Group CEO Manny Hilario.

The work was especially intensive for STK, a pricy steakhouse brand that relies on business travelers and other expense-account users.

Takeout and delivery generated 15% of One Group’s restaurant sales during the fourth quarter of 2020, or 2.7 times the volume recorded in the first three months of last year.

Still, “there is no denying that guests are increasingly eager to return to normal life to the extent possible and for many that includes visiting full-service restaurants for a great night out,” said Hilario. “As we look ahead, our key focus is operational readiness for what we expect will be high volumes as COVID cases continue to decline.”

He noted that only 55% of One Group’s dining-room seating was permitted for use under local restrictions as of March 14.

The company is also upshifting its development. One Group plans to add 13 locations this year, among them an STK that opened in Scottsdale, Ariz., in January.  That location is now averaging $180,000 per week in sales or $9.4 million on an annualized basis.

Overall, revenues for Q4 declined year-over-year by 13.8%, to $45 million. One Group did not reveal net income figures in the business update.

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