Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2003 | 11:07 a.m.
One of the biggest names in fast food is opening its first two stores on the Las Vegas Strip -- joining an increasing number of low-rent dining options that stand in marked contrast to Las Vegas' burgeoning gourmet scene.
Wendy's has grabbed a spot in each of two new food courts expected to open by Oct. 1 at the Showcase and Fashion Show malls. Both Wendy's are expected to open a few weeks after the opening of each food court.
Those food courts join two Strip-centered fast-food centers that are new in recent months, including one at the Hawaiian Marketplace retail center near Harmon Avenue at Las Vegas Boulevard and a smaller food court in front of Harrah's. All told, the food courts will bring nearly 40 fast-food eateries to the Strip.
"I don't know if I'd call it a trend or a deluge," said George Connor, a retail broker at Colliers International in Las Vegas.
The food court locations presented the best, most economical way for the chain to enter the Strip market given the relative lack of space and land costs, said Wendy's divisional vice president in Las Vegas, Wayne Walker.
Other "quick-service" eateries on the Strip tend to do well because "it's a lot more economical for people," he said.
Walker anticipates both restaurants will become the chain's highest-volume stores in Las Vegas.
Ted Buban, managing partner of the company that owns the Showcase Mall food court and other fast-food centers in town, has bigger goals.
Buban anticipates the Showcase Mall food court -- with a glass-walled view of the Strip from the second floor -- will become one of the nation's highest-grossing food courts.
The Strip lacked many fast-food chains until about a decade ago, when major resorts realized the pull of such brands, Buban said. Lack of available land means the Strip probably won't ever have enough fast food to meet demand, he said.
"Contrary to what some people might thing, the biggest market in Vegas is Middle America -- tank tops and flip flops," Buban said. "That's what's walking into the Bellagio, by and large. That's what's walking into The Venetian, by and large."
Fast-food outlets are recognized by millions of people of every economic standing worldwide, he said. Quick service also appeals to visitors whose time is limited, he added.
"(Tourists) don't want to wait 20 minutes to get a seat," he said. "They're usually here to see a lot of things in Las Vegas. If people wait a year to come back there's usually a lot of things they haven't seen before."
Fast food offers tourists more options in a sea of gourmet restaurants that have become major profit centers and even buffets, which have become more expensive in recent years, Connor said.
"We've come full circle," he said.
Wendy's joins other burger outlets such as McDonald's, Fatburger and Burger King that have either stand-alone stores or casino food court locations on the Strip.