Shopping Centers Today International

JAN 2016

Shopping Centers Today is the news magazine of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)

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J a n u a r y 2 0 1 6 / S C T 25 The handful of small Cuban restau- rant chains currently in the U.S. operate mainly among or near the expat com- munities of South Florida and northern New Jersey. Only two — Philadelphia- based Cuba Libre Restaurant & Bar and New York City–based Sophie's Cuban Cuisine — are present across multiple states. None has a footprint of more a v a N a C e N T R a L , a New York City–based restaurant chain with an opulent setting remi- niscent of Cuba's pre-Castro heyday, is eager to tap into the deep- ening U.S.-Cuba détente — which could well help reawaken inter- est in Cuban cuisine here. at present Havana Central operates four restaurants, all of them in the New York metro area, including its latest, which opened in November in edison, N.J. But the headlines about Cuba could represent op- portunity for expansion on a national scale, the chain's execu- tives say. "The more that [Cuba] is in the front of the press, the more visibility I think we're go- ing to have," said Jeremy Merrin, founder and president. than 10 restaurants, however, so the field seems to be wide open. "The Cuban seg- ment is up for grabs, because there are no really dominating players," said Lauren Hallow, associate editor for concept analysis at Technomic, a Chicago-based restaurant consulting firm. H a l l o w s u g g e s t s t h a t H a v a n a Central, with its expansive menu and fashionable ambience, has a clear advantage over some of the more typi- cally Cuban competitors. "The food is a bit more mainstream than authentic Cuban restaurants," she said of Ha- vana Central. "It attracts a wider variety of customers." Indeed, Havana Cen- tral appears intent on competing with the likes of Rocco's Tacos or Tequila Bar, which operates six restaurants in Florida and one in Brooklyn, N.Y. Detente dining havana central hopes restored ties with cuba will spur an appetite for its cuisine By Jesse Serwer r e T a i l i n g T o d a y A t o u c h o f c u B A A t S i m o n ' S R o o S e v e l t f i e l d , G A R d e n c i t y , n . y . H

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