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RESTAURANT ROUNDUP: What does it take?

Two close, one reopens: Mother Butters on Fifth Avenue East and Mrs. G & Me on Main Street closed. Renzo's Italian restaurant is opening on the corner. Two close, one reopens: Mother Butters on Fifth Avenue East and Mrs. G & Me on Main Street closed. Renzo's Italian restaurant is opening on the corner.

In Hendersonville, you can blink your eyes and miss a restaurant closing. Not to worry. Blink again and a new dining spot pops up to replace the old.

Mother Butters had a niche on Fifth Avenue East before it closed last month. Its proprietor is teaming up with Just Vino in Flat Rock for catering and special wine dinners.
The dining crowd waits — and waits and waits — for the opening of a rooftop restaurant on Main Street at Second Avenue and the opening in the old Flight space of Postero.
Mrs. G & Me in the 500 block closed. In its place will be Renzo's Ristorante — offering fine dining, ambience and service, the proprietor vows, of classic Italian conviviality.
Sol y Luna is opening up the first Mexican restaurant on Main, in the old Cypress Cellar space.
Stalwarts on the main drag and on side streets have survived the recession to serve another day — Mezzaluna, West First, Two Guys, Never Blue and others — while newcomers like Moe's Original Bar B Que, the Green Room, Square Root, the Third Avenue Bistro have gained a foothold. Day to day, week to week, month to month, no one can say for sure what the consumer will like and what it will reject.
"I think we're in a very difficult time," said Scott Adams, chairman of the Hospitality Management program at Asheville-Buncombe Technical College and the past owner of the highly regarded Blackwater Grille in Laurel Park. "I think we see a lot of stories in the media that things are better, things are positive. I still think for the average small restaurant owner, things are really tough.
"Anybody who's gone to the grocery store in last six months will be able to understand that the cost of items is going up," he said. "Particularly proteins. Pork prices are up because of disease nationally. The beef herd nationally is at its lowest point I believe since the mid fifties."
Even as their food costs rise, restaurant owners generally are reluctant to raise menu prices.
"Everybody's taking a little bit of potential profit out of the market," he said. "Restaurants have always been a low profit margin — you're talking nickels on the dollars. At the same time there's a lot of exciting things going on in the industry."
Hendersonville has plenty of restaurants that are actively engaged in the "farm to table" movement, assuring fresh ingredients for diners and helping local farmers, he said. The new fine-dining restaurants could both prosper, Adams said, if they complement one another and raise the quality.
"Is there room for a couple high-end places? The answer is yes there is," he said. "Everything I said about cost is doubled down on anything fine dining. I can tell you that the barbecue joint has a lot better opportunity of making money than anything fine dining in today's market. The barbecue place might have three food items on the plate where the fine dining plate may have 15 items on it."
"They don't need to fight," he added. "It was a lot better for me to have four or five healthy restaurants at my level. They have a chance to play off each other and really draw some of that money that might go to Asheville."

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