Texas de Ka-ching

"We want to be the P.F. Chang's of steak houses," Texas de Brazil founder and chief operating officer Salim Asrawi said when the first Texas de Brazil churrascaria opened in Addison in 1998. Churrascarias are those Brazilian grills where skewered meats are roasted over open pits, continuously cycled through the dining room and carved tableside by ersatz gauchos, or South American cowboys. Over the last eight years, Asrawi has bulked up his Dallas restaurant company with seven more Texas de Brazils in Dallas, Fort Worth, Miami, Orlando, Memphis, Aruba and the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg. But that's nothing compared with the corporate swelling he's staging over the next 18 to 24 months, when Asrawi will more than double his company by adding three units this fall in Denver and Richmond and Fairfax, Virginia, followed by four more in Palm Beach, Florida; Baton Rouge; Las Vegas and downtown Chicago in 2007. That will be followed by new locations in Scottsdale, Arizona; Gulf Stream, Florida; St. Louis and New York City in 2008, bringing the total number of restaurants to 19. And Texas de Brazil is a closely held family company. So how does Asrawi plan to bankroll this bulge? Through restaurant revenue streams, strategic partnerships with large commercial mall developers via tenant allowances and bank financing. "There's a lot of big mall developers that come after us," he boasts. And he has no intention of ever tapping into licensing and franchising agreements or partnerships. He projects Texas de Brazil revenues will top $50 million this year. Plus, he's wrapping up an extensive renovation of the original Addison location and has just launched a line of Texas de Brazil private-label varietal wines from Portuguese juice--to keep the cultural synergy (is that still a word?) throbbing.

Mike Hoque, Go Fish kingpin and president of American Limos & Transportation as well as the construction firm Tuscany Choice Development LLC, says he's enlisting former Gershwin's chef Jesse Moreno-Valle to develop menus for Fish Express, his new fast seafood depot he plans to deploy in Dallas, Allen, Rowlett, Irving and Southlake before the close of 2006. Moreno-Valle is executive chef at the Sheraton South Padre Island Beach Hotel. Hoque has also enlisted Romero Lule (Crescent Court Hotel, Aurora, Seventeen Seventeen and most recently Popolo's) as Go Fish's kitchen manager...Gianni Santin, executive pastry chef of Hotel Crescent Court, has been named Texas' Pastry Chef of the Year by the Texas Chefs Association. Santin picked up the award August 5 in Fort Worth during the association's 48th annual convention.

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Mark Stuertz
Contact: Mark Stuertz