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* Headquarters: Charlotte, N.C.
* No. of restaurants: 24
* Menu: Steak, chicken and fish
* Headquarters: Baton Rouge, La.
* No. of restaurants: 20
* Menu: Steak, ribs and fajitas
Two eateries new to the Chattanooga area are cooking up openings as restaurant sales nationally are higher so far this year over 2012.
Firebirds Wood Fired Grill is to open next spring near Hamilton Place mall, according to shopping center owner Chattanooga-based CBL & Associates Properties Inc.
Also, Santa Fe Cattle Co. plans to unveil its newest roadhouse-style restaurant in Bradley Square Mall in Cleveland, Tenn., in August.
Firebirds, which offers a variety of wood-fired specialty entrees such as steak, chicken and fish, is to go into the Hamilton Corner center near AAA off Gunbarrel Road.
CBL spokeswoman Catharine Wells said Firebirds will take up 6,800-square-feet in what had been a Petco store.
Wells said CBL needs to do a lot of work inside the space before turning it over to Firebirds, which will occupy about a third of the 18,000-square-foot site.
"Hopefully, we'll announce a few more names pretty soon," she said about filling the remaining space.
Firebirds will open not only for dinner but lunch as well, which isn't the case with some of the eateries in the Hamilton Place area, Wells said.
"It's a great fit," she said. "It's a nice lunch spot as well as for dinner."
Work on the future Firebirds location is slated to begin in August. Petco relocated to a site near Best Buy on Gunbarrel Road closer to Shallowford Road.
Meanwhile, Sante Fe Cattle Co. will occupy nearly 5,000 square feet inside the Bradley Square Mall near JC Penney. The eatery also will feature outdoor seating, or what the company calls "the cattle pen."
Its menu includes steaks, ribs, and fajitas. Work on the restaurant is underway.
Stacia Shahan, the mall's manager, said that with the mall's recent renovation, the new eatery is "perfect for us." In concert with the center's redevelopment, a relocated food court is slated to open this summer.
Restaurant sales are a key indicator of discretionary spending by consumers. The new openings locally come as restaurant sales nationally have risen 4 percent year-to-date through May compared to 2012, according to USA Today.
However, the federal government reported last week that May restaurant and bar figures were off slightly, 0.4 percent, even as overall retail sales rose 0.6 percent in the month from April.
Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, told The Associated Press that the May increase in retail spending was stronger than anticipated. Lower gas prices may have helped, he noted.
Even with the gain, he believes consumer spending is slowing from the first quarter's 3.4 percent annual pace, down to around 2.5 percent or less in the current quarter.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.