Build It And They Will Eat

The Coast now has further proof the area growing quickly. In a county by county breakdown of the states food and beverage sales, in a five-year period Harrison County has gone from second on that list in 1995 to first according to last year's sales.

Misty Velasquez is with Harrison County Tourism and says, "I think the growth of the people who live here and who are visiting here has created demand for more restaurants and more food venues."

Last year, Harrison County food and beverage sales pulled in $683 million, almost $200 million more than in 1995. The increase has brought with it more chain restaurants, as Chili's and T.G.I.Friday's. They join Landry's, the Olive Garden and Red Lobster, which have been in Harrison County for years.

"We did a lot of studies in the area, with the per capita and the demographics and this just seemed like the prime spot in Gulfport with the traffic flow coming right off the interstate," Shawn Ventura, the general manager at Chili's Restaurant in Gulfport, said.

Casinos have also reaped the benefits with the myriad of dining spots they offer inside. And since this area is famous for its seafood, restaurants like Chappy's, McElroy's and Mary Mahoney's are the dining spots that have held down the fort while help was on the way.

Jackson County also helped put the Coast on the top of the list for food revenue. The county is third on the list with almost $300 million in food and beverage sales last year, up almost $150 million since 1995.

"The more that people learn about the Mississippi Gulf Coast, they're going to see that this is a wonderful place to invest in because we are wonderful and we're just going to keep getting better," Velasquez said.