Monday, June 25, 2012

Will That New Restaurant Fail?

Please let me be wrong! I think the new restaurant by me (let’s call it “Sidewalk Café”) is going to fail. The food I’ve tried there is tasty; that’s good.

And why do I think this? 
  • That location had a major failure before they moved in. It could be enough to keep some folks away.
  • Right from the start they’re using Val Pak. Offer people 20% off at your new restaurant. Will this work? Well, it will “train” people to EXPECT 20% off, ALWAYS. What happened to longer term strategy building a reputation instead?  
  • The clientele dining there. I've dined there several times and have rarely seen anyone dining there under the age of fifty. Are they all bringing Val Pak coupons? Where's the rest of the world?
  • The atmosphere. Well, there’s no theme and not much décor so while clean and pleasant, it’s not exciting. 

  • After a couple of months, the service is still sketchy. On my last visit I was told that it would “be a while” for my food even though the place wasn't crowded. My dish came in a timely fashion anyway. On my first visit I sat outside and it took them 45 minutes to turn on the heater. Meanwhile I was close to shivering. Hope they’re better rehearsed at using those devices now. That same evening I ordered trout and was served salmon to me. The waitress told me I got a good deal because the salmon cost more! Uh, ok.
  • The website shows few photos of the food; which of course, should be the star! Accessing the menu is cumbersome; you have to click on each listing for the description and the price. 
  • Their social media sucks. 
Sidewalk Café has 14 fans on Facebook and 9 followers on Twitter. Every single post is about their specials. I have seen this so many times…they are using these outlets as a sales tool! But it gets worse. The twitter feed is prominently displayed on the front page of their website. The last tweet says “68 days ago” on it. On my last visit I spoke with the owner. I offered up ONE piece of advice:

“If you’re not going to use your social media accounts, delete them. Having them just sitting there is going to hurt you in the long run.”
I elaborated a bit more and pointed out the 54 days (at that time) lapse in tweets. The reply? “Oh, my son was doing that”. THAT, my friends, is a tragedy; why recruit your kids to do something they don’t know how or don’t WANT to do? Social Media is a serious commitment.  And sadly, my advice has not been followed.

Let’s say there’s a miracle and you happen to land on their page. What would your reaction be when you see tweets that are 68 days old? Is the food just as stale?

During another visit I handed my card to the owner and told him what I do for a living. He said “Can I pay you with free meals?” I replied with a firm “No”.  Obviously, social media is on the back burner for him. If he only knew how cookin’ Sidewalk Cafe could be through social media. Oh, don’t get me started!

All of this comes on the heels of my finishing a great read, Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (I’ll have a post about HIM soon). I mentioned this culinary celeb to the owner and he had never heard of him. 

That’s a shame. The book relays a scenario about how some restaurants start; the owner has already had a career elsewhere, however, when throwing parties his friends devoured his cooking with glee and said time and time again “you’re so good at this; why don’t you open a restaurant?” and so he does. His friends come and eat for free or for little money. And when times get bad and the freebies cease, the “friends” disappear. 

I’ll stop by the restaurant again. I don’t want to see them fail. The owners seem like really nice people!

Can this restaurant be saved? 

Can bread be buttered? The Newbeats thought so!

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Tim Armstrong said...

You've made some of these points before, all good ones. Keep going there, and keep pecking away at the owner (not the son) on how you can improve their social media presence with your strategies. Meanwhile, order salmon and see what comes up!

Gerry Wendel said...

Haven't met the son but he appears to be rather unreliable.

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