Billionaire restaurateur and casino operator Tilman Fertitta told CNBC on Tuesday he expects strong consumer spending to fuel the U.S. economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
“The consumer is coming back. I’m telling you, where we can do business, we are doing business,” the Landry’s chairman and chief executive said on “Power Lunch.”
“This is going to be the ‘Roaring Twenties.’ You can just see it,” added Fertitta, referring to the period of economic expansion that occurred in the 1920s in the wake of World War I and the 1918 flu pandemic.
Consumer spending now accounts for more than two-thirds of the country’s economic activity. The U.S. economy has been battered by the Covid crisis, particularly industries such as hospitality and travel, with millions of Americans losing their jobs and business closures piling up.
Fertitta, whose Houston-based restaurant empire includes more than 600 locations worldwide, said he would welcome additional coronavirus stimulus from Washington. President Joe Biden has unveiled a $1.9 trillion relief plan that, among other provisions, would include additional direct payments to most Americans on top of the $600 checks included in December legislation.
“We’re putting all this new stimulus money out there, and who does that help? Believe it or not, it helps my casinos and me,” said Fertitta, who also owns the Golden Nugget Casino and Hotel brand and the NBA’s Houston Rockets. “I live off the consumer. If Joe Biden wants to give all this stimulus, y’all go right ahead. We’ll take it.”
Checkers & Rally’s CEO Frances Allen told CNBC on Monday the fast-food chain sees a sales bump tied to stimulus checks, although she cautioned it’s not long-lasting. “It’s just for a week, maximum three,” she said on “The Exchange.”
For the restaurant industry overall, Fertitta has said businesses that manage to survive will have learned valuable lessons to become more profitable. On Tuesday, he espoused a bittersweet outlook for the hard-hit sector.
“It’s really sad because there’s going to be huge opportunities, and companies like mine who knew how to maneuver in these times are going to survive and be well-capitalized to take advantage of these opportunities,” said Fertitta, who is considering taking some of his restaurant and gaming business public.
“It’s a shame that it’s happening because I don’t think it had to happen. I think we should have done a better job as Americans to make sure that no business went out of business because of this pandemic. We didn’t do that as a country.”