While the well-documented New Orleans restaurant boom has reverberated loudly in some parts of the city, in others it has amounted to barely a murmur. New Orleans East has been especially quiet, but on Wednesday a fast-growing local restaurant group announced it has selected the East for its next expansion precisely because of unmet demand there.
NOHSC Restaurant Group plans to open one of its New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood Co. restaurants at Bullard Avenue and Interstate 10 early in 2016, with the debut slated for early February in time for the seasonal uptick in seafood consumption at the start of Lent.
The address was formerly a Shoney’s restaurant, then spent a few years as an Asian buffet. It has been vacant for about a year and a half.
“It was never a question of if we would go to New Orleans East. It was a question of when, and the pieces have finally come together,” said Paul McGoey, CEO and managing partner of NOHSC Restaurant Group.
McGoey said his company plans to invest about $1 million to refurbish the restaurant and that it will employ 65 people. The full-service restaurant will have a drive-thru window. It may also incorporate a coffee shop and beignet parlor, though those plans are not yet finalized, McGoey said.
Known for its thin catfish and its burgers, the New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood Co. brand dates back to 1984, when the first location opened in Elmwood. Now it has 11 restaurants around the metro area and in Houma, and its parent company also operates two Legacy Kitchen restaurants and three New Orleans Coffee & Beignet Co. locations.
The company worked with the New Orleans Business Alliance on the plan for the New Orleans East expansion.
Brenda Canada, the business group’s director of retail attraction and development, said in a release that the area east of the Industrial Canal “has needed this kind of offering for quite some time.”
“Residents in the East have been vocal about the need for additional family restaurants, and it’s great to see a locally owned business be the first to fill the void,” Canada said.
A shortage of restaurants has long been lamented in New Orleans East. In 2001, when Pat Swilling ran for a state House seat representing the district, the former New Orleans Saints linebacker pledged to bring an Applebee’s restaurant to the area as a key plank of his campaign. It never materialized.
McGoey said the new location fits well with a broader expansion plan for his company, which is eyeing additional locations in other parts of the state and will soon start franchising.
“We’re called New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood, we’re growing in New Orleans, and New Orleans East is New Orleans,” he said.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.