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Upscale restaurants expect Mother's Day boost

Thank heavens for Mom.

Mother's Day, it turns out, is to some restaurants what the day after Thanksgiving is to retailers: the saving grace for an otherwise lackluster year.

The annual celebration is the restaurant industry's busiest day of the year. And this Sunday, chefs and owners see a sprinkling of hopeful indicators, which could mean the industry is setting the table for a comeback.

Biba's, the celebrated midtown Sacramento staple, has a waiting list for Sunday's dinner.

"I'm very, very happy," said Biba Caggiano, the grande dame of Sacramento restaurateurs. "I would love it if we were this busy all the time."

White-tablecloth restaurants like Biba's, which suffered most during the recession, will get a shot-in-the-arm Sunday, said Jot Condie, president and CEO of the California Restaurant Association.

Overall restaurant industry sales for February posted a 4.3 increase in year-over-year figures. But the fast-food segment represented most of those gains, restaurant analysts say.

Caggiano figures her business is down 30 percent this year. For her, the solid Mother's Day bookings fuels her will to ride it out to better days ahead.

"I'll tell you one thing: I survived World War II in Italy. I know I can get through this," she said.

The California Restaurant Association figures disposable income will rise 1 percent by fall. That directly influences eating out.

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