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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rosinter Cuts Food Portions and Prices

For MTRostislav Ordovsky-Tanayevsky Blanco says 2009 will be his fifth crisis.
Rosinter Restaurant Holding is starting to serve smaller, lower-priced portions in its restaurants and offer its customers a choice between imported foods and locally produced menu items in an effort to fight off declining sales at its leading restaurant chains, company founder Rostislav Ordovsky-Tanayevsky Blanco said in an interview Wednesday.

Transactions at Rosinter's casual dining restaurants dropped 6.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, mainly because of the influence of regions. The sagging sales were a sour end note for the year as a whole, which saw a jump of 28 percent and a 45.3 percent increase in the size of its network. Transactions at the firm's flagship tandem, Il Patio and Planeta Sushi, are also down, Blanco said, declining to give specifics.

"Smaller portions present the possibility for smaller prices," Blanco said, adding that the company also plans to use more local food items to hold on to restaurants' customer base.

"We will keep the menu items that are hits but also make sure we have a local supply alternative," he said. "If people want to eat Australian beef, we'll offer it, but they'll pay more money than for dishes with Russian beef, which will be good but maybe not as tender as Australian beef."

Blanco is the founder and president of Rostik Group, which controls Rosinter Restaurant Holding and co-manages ROSTIK'S KFC with its Louisville, Kentucky, based partner YUM! Brands.

Born in 1950s Venezuela to a family of Russian descent, Blanco has survived the 1984 and 1989 crashes in Venezuela and the 1990 and 1998 Russian collapses.

Counting calamities, he says 2009 is his fifth, but he is still able to maintain his calm in part by meditating regularly and wearing a sandalwood Japanese bead bracelet, which he said "soothes my mind."

"I always say I have a Ph.D. in crisis management. Four crises in which I was hit and one where I took the opportunity," Blanco said referring to 1990, when Rosinter opened up its first restaurant, El Rincon Espanol, near Red Square.

Since then, Rosinter has grown by leaps and bounds and is now operating 337 restaurants in nine countries. And despite declining transactions, Blanco estimates that the company will open five to 10 new corporate restaurants and 20 to 30 franchises in Russia this year.

None of those, however, will be under new brands. The "name of the game" right now is brand loyalty, he said, and the company's current goal is to improve restaurant efficiency.

The Russian restaurant industry is notoriously inefficient, Blanco said, citing as an example a Moscow T.G.I. Friday's that employed 120 people four years ago while a Prague restaurant of the same size was only employing 47.

Previously, the industry has gotten away with such inefficiencies because of a lack of competition. During the crisis, however, restaurants will no longer have this luxury.

"You have two choices: You correct your efficiency or you die. There's no middle opportunity," Blanco said.

Though the nation's purchasing power is falling, Blanco insisted that Russians would continue to indulge and eat out this year. "In times of crisis, people have a need to socialize. They need to feel that they are together with somebody," he said.

"Staying at home is depressing."