P.F. Chang’s, the East Valley company that grew a small Scottsdale Fashion Square restaurant into a 168-eatery empire in 12 years, is working on another restaurant concept.
The brand, expected to launch sometime in 2006, will be more upscale than P.F. Chang’s China Bistro in price and atmosphere, said Laura Cherry, company spokeswoman.
"We’re still very early in the development process, but we know it will be Asian in nature with a price point slightly higher than the Bistro," Cherry said. "Atmosphere and type of service will play a very important role."
Cherry said the company set aside $750,000 in this year’s budget to finalize the concept and design.
The company hasn’t settled on a spot to debut the new eatery yet, Cherry said, although it is eyeing several locations. She would not say whether they are in the Valley.
When P.F. Chang’s cooked up its second concept, Pei Wei Asian Diner, in 2000, it built the first one in Chandler, close enough to the company’s Kierland Commons headquarters to keep an eye on the prototype and tinker with the concept before launching it nationwide. The fast-causal Pei Wei chain has since grown to 53 locations in eight states, with 26 more slated to open this year.
P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, meanwhile, has grown to 115 locations in 32 states, with 18 new units expected to open this year.
Among the planned locations is the first Mesa version, scheduled to start serving up lettuce wraps and lemon chicken at 6610 E. Superstition Springs Blvd. in June.
With the 2005 additions, the China Bistros are nearing the 150 to 200 store-limit company officials said a few years ago would be the U.S. saturation level for the brand.
Opening new stores rather than increased sales in existing stores has been fueling the company’s consistent doubledigit growth.
Pei Wei, which is smaller, cheaper and has a much higher saturation point than the China Bistros, and a new chain could keep the company cooking up new stores and remarkable growth for a long time into the future.
As long as the new brand doesn’t steal existing customers, that is.
While P.F. Chang’s China Bistro is considered a relatively upscale restaurant, Cherry said the chain’s average per person tab is $18 — still cheap for gourmet grub.
That still leaves room at the top for a pricier concept, she said.
"We feel there is a niche in the market we can fill," Cherry said.