What goes better together than pizza and beer … and data?

Tom Goodale, left, and Tim Cole have launched the only beer, wine and liquor-selling pizza joint in Dallas' 75238 zip code.
Tom Goodale, left, and Tim Cole have launched the only beer, wine and liquor-selling pizza joint in Dallas’ 75238 zip code.

American history and folklore are filled with heroes who triumphed against the odds with nothing but  blunt or shiny objects (see “John Henry,” “The 1980 U.S. Men’s Olympic Hockey Team,” and ” ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan”).

But this is the U.S. service economy in the 21st century, where computers play the role of pile drivers, and this is a non-fiction blog about alcohol sales in Texas.

The blunt object in this story is a pizza paddle, and our protagonist is Tim Cole, a relatively obscure restaurateur who has shunned computer analysis in launching a $100,000 renovation and obtaining a beer/wine/liquor license for East Dallas-based Atomic Pie.

This is not the norm. Hence, the blog item.

James Phillip Willis, director of training and products management at the Texas Restaurant Association, recommends that entrepreneurs review demographic and liquor sales data before leaping into opening a restaurant, bar or cafe.

“Most of our members take a scientific approach,” he says, adding that many pay consultants to analyze prospective sites (using alcohol sales data, Census data, etc.) before they take the leap.

Doing so reduces the risk, Willis  adds. He is a ClubCorp (NYSE: MYCC) veteran; publicly traded companies like that don’t act on gut feelings (because they have no torso) or jump into things without dissecting the numbers.

“Then again, there are people who don’t do it, and hit a home run,” Willis concedes.

As mentioned before, at bat is the Mighty Tim Cole and his quest to break into the beer-and-pizza business with a liquor license and $200,000 for renovations and a considerable amount of grit.

Atomic Pie has done OK  over the past five years. Cole has built a loyal following in his Lake Highlands neighborhood, allowing patrons to BYOB, palling around with characters and even pouring them complimentary glasses of wine. Before Atomic Pie, Tim worked for more than two decades at Campisi’s, which claims to be one of the first restaurants to serve New York-style pizzas in Dallas. Patrons he knew from Campisi’s now come to Atomic Pie.

Cole’s non-computerized reasoning for adding beer/wine/liquor sales to his operation (besides making more money) followed two paths:

— The older folks who had never heard of the Food Channel were moving out. Dual-income couples with or without kids were moving in.

— What goes better together than pizza and beer?

OK, it’s more complicated than that.

East Dallas had already started to percolate with Resident TaqueriaOne90 Smoked Meats,  Goodfriend Beer Garden & Burger House, and Torchy’s Tacos since Dallas went totally wet. It’s the explosion of Casa Linda Plaza area — where Torchy’s is located, a few miles south of Atomic Pie — that caught Cole’s attention.

Casa Linda languished for years before East Dallas went wet, and Torchy’s has been a prime beneficiary. Could the same thing happen a few miles north?

Willis tells LastCallTexas that while locations are still important factors in siting restaurants, some areas are becoming dining destinations of their own. One Dallas example he sites is Trinity Groves. Could the next destination be Lake Highlands?

Cole found some investors and the hammers have been flying at his restaurant (now open for takeout) for months.

2015 sales in East Dallas

Gross sales of beer, wine and liquor in East Dallas, in 2015
Gross sales of beer, wine and liquor in East Dallas, in 2015

The LastCallTexas analysis (which generated the map above) shows the nearest  alcohol-selling pizza joint is Picasso’s, one mile west of Atomic Pie. Picasso’s grossed about $238,000 in sales last year. More importantly, Mi Cocina, nearby, grossed nearly $1 million in alcohol sales in the same period. The big players in East Dallas are symbolized above by the red icons, many of which are concentrated along Northwest Highway and North Central Expressway. The white icon indicates Atomic Pie.

Analysis or not, Atomic Pie and his investors are taking the plunge, expanding to allow alcohol sales and a dining area. Building permits show the work will nearly triple the space of the restaurant, to more than 3,700 square feet. Atomic Pie will likely expand into appetizers, and will serve locally produced ice cream as well (because what goes better with beer and pizza than ice cream?). Cole was heartened when he saw the LastCallTexas analysis that showed the Lake House grossing nearly a million in alcohol sales last year alone.

Cole and his investors are investing a lot of sweat and cash into the pizza-and-beer adage.

If it works out, maybe one day songs will be written about Tim Cole and his pizza paddle.

Beer me at AT&T Stadium: Raising the roof for science and Miller Lite

Ever since the 'Boys have moved into their new digs, fans have been drinking it up. Literally.
Ever since the ‘Boys have moved into their new digs, fans have been drinking it up. Literally.

You might think of AT&T Stadium as a modern-day Coliseum, where the greatest athletes of our age display their manhoods.

LastCallTexas, however, looks at it as if it were a $1.2 billion Petri dish, where we can study consumers like rhesus monkeys on heroin pipes.

Experiment 1: Do the Blue Boys need to win to make Jerry Jones an even richer Texan?

As the graphic above shows, NO.

Hence, when life form Kellen Moore leads the team to a 16-19 loss to the New York Jets, team owner/multi-cell organism Jerry Jones is selling just as much (if not more) Miller Lite and Cowboyritas, as when Tony Romo is in full Jedi mode.

Well, that concludes our … . What? You, in the back, with your hand up. You had a question?

No, the increase in per-fan sales in 2009 has little to do with the team’s performance. Weren’t you listening? Put your hand down. You raised a good question for our second experiment.

Experiment 2: Why are monkeys spending more money on booze at Jerry World?

In 2009, we introduced the same test group to a facility that was three (3) times more spacious and cost $1.2 billion to build. We added two (2) BIG screens and ladies who wear little black dresses while walking in the fancy seats. They looked very nice, smiled, and asked people if they would care for a cocktail. Also introduced was a place where subjects couldn’t sit down or see much of the game, but they could drink. And they did. Mostly Miller Lite.

Shortly after these new variables were added, subject Jones saw a 20 percent bump in per-fan beer, wine and liquor sales revenue, per home season. Next thing, the place sells more hooch than anywhere else in Texas.

Some professors at the University of Minnesota, including marketing professor Joan Meyers-Levy, looked into the bigger-space phenomenon and drew an interesting conclusion: Wider-open spaces encourage consumers to spend more. (Of course there are other factors, such as a wider selection of beverages, more places to buy them, but let’s look at the “bigger” phenomenon in this case.)

“Ceiling height can prime thoughts that relate to the concept of freedom,” says the study, published in 2007. That sense of freedom, the study showed, liberated test subjects’ wallets right out of their pants to spend more on goods than they would have otherwise.

The thought that higher ceiling height and more open space create a sense of well-being, liberty and clearer thinking goes all the way back to an observation made by Jonas Salk, who was trying to cure polio in a basement lab in Pittsburgh in the 1950s (not kidding). It wasn’t until he traveled to Assisi, Italy, and spent time in an expansive monastery when he came up with how to cure polio.

Only we’re not trying to cure polio, here. Just trying to unload more Miller Lite in aluminum bottles.

Back to Meyer-Levy’s study, which showed that raising the roof also convinced experiment subjects that even crude things looked sleeker.

An even closer look at those findings and the chart shows that Jerry Jones and his architects are marketing geniuses, and that the Dallas Cowboys will win the Super Bowl next season (see nonexistent footnote below).

New Deck Park Slated Near Dallas Zoo in 2021

Photo of Klyde Warren Park/Savor Gastropub by LastCallTexas
If the Klyde Warren Park is any predictor, a proposed deck park near the Dallas Zoo will become an entertainment hotspot. A project completion date has been tentatively set for 2021.

A second deck park is in the works near the Dallas Zoo, in South Dallas.

Engineering News-Record — a trade publication that follows major construction projects in the United States — has reported that the Regional Transportation Council has agreed to fund 80 percent of an estimated $50 million deck park project at that location, leaving the City of Dallas to pick up the rest of the tab. Though far from a done deal, the proposed deck park has a tentative project’s completion date of 2021.

State transportation officials have confirmed the report with LastCallTexas.

The story indicated that a deck park at that locale received the commission’s support because it would beautify the neighborhood and boost economic development at the city’s Southern Gateway.

If Dallas’ only deck park — Klyde Warren Park — is any predictor, a second project will draw wallet-toting crowds as well.

Those who have seen the crowds gathering at Savor Gastropub, Relish, Lark on the Park, or other businesses that have popped up in or near the Klyde Warren Park already know the engineering wonder has become a magnet for the restaurant crowd.

In 2011, before the park’s opening, that neighborhood saw about $80 million in beer/wine/liquor sales, according to Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission data. Last year, that part of town saw nearly $113 million in sales, according to a LastCallTexas analysis.

While the entire jump in spending in the 75201 zip code can’t be attributed solely to the park (that area even covers the Dallas Farmers Market, about 1.5 miles southeast of the park), there’s no denying that the park — which connects Downtown Dallas and Uptown Dallas — effectively created commerce out of thin air. The park is so popular, foot traffic has worn wide swaths of grass in the park to stubble.

Deck park restaurant Savor reported more than $2 million in beer/wine/liquor sales last year (mostly in liquor and wine sales).

Stay tuned for updates.

Has ‘Cinderella’ visited Tallywackers?

Tips are appreciated at TallywackersDallas-based Tallywackers caused an international stir last year when it announced it would be a Hooters-like establishment featuring the physiques of svelt lads in clingy boxers, instead of busty lassies in shorty shorts.

Media outlets from the Washington Post to the New York Times to the Kidd Kraddick morning show jumped at the chance to interview founder/owner Rodney Duke.

It was the perfect storm for Tallywackers.

“We had lines out the door,” Duke remembered earlier this year. But could local start-up Tallywackers ever hope to match sales of an international Goliath like Hooters?

As the pointy graphic above shows, Tallywackers’ bar receipts outpaced the Hooters near Victory Park in Dallas in June 2015. Tallywackers beat Hooters!

But alas, as the chart also shows, the reality of operating a bar and grill has apparently smacked Tallywackers hard.

This is far from an isolated case, we’ve found. More than half of all Texas bar/restaurants that saw promising starts, experienced revenue drops six months later, according to a LastCallTexas analysis of state mixed-beverage sales data.

Perhaps the poster child of such a drop is the late-great Ghost Bar, which exploded on the scene on top of Dallas’ W Hotel in the summer of 2006, with nearly a million dollars in beer, wine and liquor sales one month after it was issued its license. Six months in, sales dropped by half. By summer 2012, Ghost Bar’s revenue had mostly vaporized, and not long after, so did the bar.

Longtime restaurateur and Midland, Texas, Mayor Jerry Morales refers to it as the “Cinderella opening.”

“If you’re a newby in the restaurant industry, you think you’ve hit the lottery,” says Morales, who bought Gerardo’s Casita in Midland, Texas, from relatives in the late 1990s. Morales is also past-president of the Texas Restaurant Association.  “When you’ve been in the industry, you’ll know you’ve got to keep them (customers) engaged. You might have a menu that can be easily changed. Maybe six months later, you can introduce a new menu, to keep people coming back.”

During one visit to Tallywackers, LastCallTexas observed a lunch crowd with plenty of additional seating available; a few blushing birthday girls received complimentary lap dances. There was a respectable amount of day-drinking going on.

“Our receipts in January were even better than they were in December,” Duke told me during a lunch rush earlier this year. “So, we’re definitely pursuing plans to franchise Tallywackers.”

Granted, the establishment saw an uptick in alcohol (and presumably food) sales this year, according to the Texas State Comptroller’s office. But nothing approaching its opening months. Would that be enough to keep Duke’s plans for franchising alive?

When LastCallTexas revisited Duke on the question later, he declined to speak.

The previous occupant of 4218 Lemmon Ave. was Lolita’s Mexican Cuisine, which sold less than $40,000 in beer, wine and liquor at the pinnacle of its alcohol sales, according to state sales data.