From the March 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

Catch that bossa nova beat. If the recent wave of Brazilian-themed restaurants, recordings and assorted other products is any indication, South America's biggest country is hotter than ever here in the United States. Brazilian cuisine, in particular, is gaining in both profile and popularity.

Which isn't news to Ivan Utrera, co-founder and president of Rodizio Restaurants International Inc., a Littleton, Colorado-based chain of Brazilian eateries. "For many years, there was a total lack of knowledge of what Brazilian cuisine is," explains the 37-year-old entrepreneur, who launched the first of six Rodizio Grills in 1996. "Brazil has never done a good job of marketing its cuisine."

Enter restaurants such as Rodizio Grill, which specializes in cooking a wide variety of meats over wood fires. "The way the meat is prepared in Brazil, the spices are very light, so they highlight different flavors of the [meat itself]," says Utrera, who projects 1999 sales in excess of $10 million. "It's a familiar--but refined--flavor to the American palate."

As for America's cultural palate, it's embracing the strains of the bossa nova, as well as movies like "Central Station." For soft-drink aficionados, there's Bawls Guarana--a beverage produced from a popular Brazilian berry. Perhaps the most unique item in our America-goes-to-Rio files, however, is a new Brazilian restaurant in Atlanta whose waiters dress in drag. We just thought you'd like to know.

Silver Tongues

Seniors inspire the latest food trend.

Had your fill of home-meal-replacement news? Weary of all the talk about the growing number of seniors? Well, how about prepared meals for the elderly?

For inspiration in how it's being done, look at companies like Atlanta's Morrison Health Care Inc. or the Omaha, Nebraska-based Home Instead Senior Care franchise, both of which have added meal preparation to their lists of services.

Expect more competition as baby boomers begin to care for their aging parents--and, ultimately, their aging selves. For those seeking the next big thing in home-meal replacement, it's certainly food for thought.

What A Racquet!

New sport serves up opportunity.

Paddle, anyone? Although lesser known than its cousins, tennis and racquetball, the sport of paddle is nonetheless turning heads--and we don't just mean literally. "It's extremely fun," raves Edward H. Thompson, 53, founder of the Paddle Recreation Center in Houston. "This is a sport that's proven itself a winner in many countries."

Putting his enthusiasm into concrete form, Thompson recently opened the first of what he plans to be a chain of Paddle Recreation Centers. "We're a country that's constantly looking for new things," says Thompson, citing the success of extreme sports as an indicator of paddle's potential. "You find something radical every year."

What's radical about paddle is that it incorporates many of the elements associated with tennis--a net to hit over, service boxes and the like--and combines them with the wall rebounds common in racquetball. "The ball stays in play much longer than it does in tennis," explains Thompson. "So you're in motion for a longer period of time."

Not that the motionless are excluded. Spectator-friendly, paddle also serves up a market for tie-in apparel and equipment. Sums up the former tennis-pro-turned-paddle-enthusiast, "We're selling fun."

Flash!

  • Move over, Lincoln logs: Expect renewed interest in Legos with this year's new Legoland theme park in Carlsbad, California.
  • Channel hopping:Look out for Nickelodeon's upcoming "SpongeBob SquarePants." As far as we know, it's the first TV series ever to star an animated sea sponge . . .
  • Licensing alert:Stuart Little feature film (Sony Signatures): Call (310) 244-7788 for more information.

Contact Source

Rodizio Restaurants International Inc., 2275 E. Arapahoe Rd., #225, Littleton, CO 80122, (303) 738-8108