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Readers sound off on a befuddling restaurant business plan

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In the July issue, editor Michael Sanson wrote about restaurant operators who opened a terrific restaurant in one part of town and then later opened a second unit that paled in comparison. But the interesting part of the story, he wrote, is that the second restaurant is constantly packed with customers. He questioned why the owner would let quality slip so low and whether it would eventually catch up to them. Here are excerpts from letters we received on the subject.

Of course it will catch up to them! “Sales hide sins” is the old restaurant mantra. The question is not will it catch up to them, but rather will ownership react quickly enough and does it care?

I have managed and operated very busy restaurants, very slow ones and those in between. It’s much easier to implement and react when business is slow. When you’re busy and successful, ownership doesn’t want the headache of change with the money rolling in. Poor quality and bad service will eventually catch up to them.

Loren Abraham
Whisk Gourmet Food & Catering

I found your description of the bartenders comical. I never understood how some of these restaurants live with bad servers. As with the second location, that happened where I live. A place opened a second location and the food and servers were so terrible I didn’t give it a second chance. This place is always packed and I believe it’s for two reasons: location, which is huge, and specialty—seafood, which is scarce even though we are on the shore. I usually go to a hole-in-the-wall BYOB fish market-turned restaurant and it’s always a two-hour wait that is worth it. But not everyone wants to wait so they go eat crappy seafood on the water in a busy bar with privileged servers.

Adam Callahan
Hewlett Station Yogurt
Hewlett, NY

I have a couple of questions regarding the taqueria, but regardless of the answer, I will still proffer my opinion (I’m full of opinions):

1. How long had the new location been open before you tried it? Maybe there were new store issues that needed to be ironed out.

2. Did you go a second time? Again, new store learning curve; maybe the blockheads weren’t following the margarita recipe correctly.

3. Did you eat at both locations within a couple days of each other? You may have the first store on a pedestal. An actual taste-off might get your expectations in line.

4. Did you voice your quality concerns to ownership/management? How do they know there is a problem if you didn’t tell them? And I agree that it’s a “shame on them” thing for letting quality slip, but shame on you for not being a loyal enough customer to say something.

As you know, there are a myriad of reasons for a second-rate restaurant to be doing gangbuster business—no competition, great location, new concept, etc. Eventually the newness will wear off and competition will come in.

Rob Barron
Director of Operations
Arvada, CO

Editor’s note: Here are the answers to your questions, Rob. 1. I’m not sure exactly, but the restaurant has been open close to a year. 2. I did go back and I sat on the patio. It was a better experience because of the server, but the margaritas were still inferior and one of the blockheads was still behind the bar. 3. I did not eat at both locations within days of each other. The original place has been open for a few years and I’ve been back there numerous times. Each time has been superior to the new store. 4. When I expressed my concerns to the bartenders, they acted as if they couldn’t care less. I tracked down the manager and expressed my concerns. She was courteous and said she would look into it. I gave her my business card, but I have not heard back from her. I’ve been covering the restaurant industry for 30 years, so I know better than to remain quiet.


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