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SAN FRANCISCO-Officials of the McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants Inc. chain outlined the company’s operating approach and its growth plans Tuesday at the third annual growth conference of ThinkEquity Partners LLC. The company expects to open new locations both in its existing markets and in new markets over the next five years, sticking with a single general approach that is tailored somewhat for each individual market and restaurant.

Portland, OR-based McCormick & Schmick’s, which operates 57 restaurants in 24 states, began 33 years ago with a single location, Jake’s Famous Crawfish, in what it calls the “affordable upscale dining segment.” Its stores typically range from 6,000 sf to 14,000 sf and the company is flexible in its choice of locations, operating in formats that include freestanding as well as in-line locations.

The company considers its flexibility in site location as one of its strengths, calling the flexibility of its real estate model “a competitive advantage” that enables it to operate more cost-effectively and “without being constrained by a standard prototype or other limiting real estate factors.” Like its menu, which features similarities across the US but also varies according to local tastes, the company says, its real estate strategy helps it to maintain “quality and consistency on a national basis in a manner that is not formulaic and that enables us to celebrate the uniqueness of each of our markets.”

Another facet of the real estate model is that the company’s restaurants are designed to have broad consumer appeal. It customizes its restaurant design and appearance to appeal to local consumer tastes and preferences, and operates “many restaurants located in buildings that have local significance,” according to McCormic & Schmnick’s descriptions of its business.

McCormic & Schmnick’s growth plans call for four new restaurants in new markets in 2005. It expects to continue to focus on downtown and affluent suburban areas that have large middle to upper-middle income populations along with high customer traffic from businesses or retail markets, and that are convenient for and appealing to business and leisure travelers.In addition to its menu, McCormick & Schmick’s focuses on the bar portion of its operations, declaring that they are “an integral part of the “McCormick & Schmick’s brand” and pointing out that the success of the company’s first restaurant derived in large part from the success of its bar operation. The bar operation “enhances the dining room business by creating a social forum and building clientele,” the company says.”

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