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Panel shares plans with Shopping Center Council

Synergy is the name of the game, as retail business owners with concepts ranging from full-service movie theaters to the craft beer trade strive to make their mark.

Executives from the Stone Brewery Co., The Lux Group (formerly Cinepolis), Rimels and Zenbu restaurants, and Westfield addressed a meeting of the International Council of Shopping Centers in the Del Mar Marriott Tuesday, where the focus of the program was retail markets and what ICSC calls "Eater'tainment."

Thad Benshoof, principal of the Cardiff-based Rimels and Zenbu restaurants, said his secret is obtaining meat from a local butcher, seafood from a local fisherman, and fresh produce from a community garden at Cardiff Elementary School.

He also says his Rimels in Del Mar Heights is helped by other businesses in the Del Mar Highlands Town Center, including the Cinepolis (now Lux) upscale movie theaters.

These aren’t the typical movie theaters. Here, waiters abound -- waiters who are as likely to bring a tequila sunrise or some sushi, as well as deliver a bucket of popcorn to one's seat.

“I am going broke taking my family to that theater,” Benshoof quipped, adding that one of the things he likes best about Del Mar Highlands is that with the theaters and other venues, the center has a real nightlife.

The ICSC session was moderated by Kelley Maher, a vice president with Madison Marquette, Del Mar Highlands’ landlord.

Adolpho Fastlicht, Lux Group principal, whose Cinepolis firm spread across Latin America and beyond, said he has noticed that people have been spending more time both before and after the movies to explore Del Mar Highlands Town Center.

Fastlicht said if he has learned anything it is that unlike a chain restaurant where everything is virtually identical, the offerings in the cineplexes must be tailored to the community.

“The people you see from Newport Beach are not the same you see from Laguna Niguel,” Fastlicht said

Fastlicht said the experience his movie theaters provide need to be thought of in terms of a destination rather than just going to a movie.

“Especially since food and beverage can represent 50 percent of the business. The margins there are a lot better than ticket sales,” Fastlicht said.

Fastlicht said while he does intend to grow throughout California, “I have no intent to become a national chain.”

“I think California is big enough and all the markets in California are interesting to us,” Fastlicht said.

While movies may not be on his menu, Stone Brewing Co. CEO Gregg Koch said his beer garden/restaurant is also very much a destination.

“We are the third most-visited attraction behind Legoland and the Wild Animal Park (now known as San Diego Safari Park)” in the North County, Koch said.

Koch said a small, 48-room Stone Brewery hotel could be built near where the company’s Stone World Bistro & Gardens is located in Escondido, but has no timetable.

Koch, who said he will have about 550 people working for his company come April, said he plans to employ an additional 200 people per year as his business expands.

“And we’re not going to change our business plan one iota,” Koch said.

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