Monday, February 8, 2016

How about some good restaurant news?

Does the recent spate of closings portend doom? Perhaps not.

How about some good restaurant news?


Is the restaurant business in trouble?

The closings documented here over the last week (Roy's, Domenico's, Floret, Tequila Joe's in Center Square) beg that question, just as previous closings prompted similar hand-wringing.

A few observations:

  • It's July, usually the start of a slow season for white-tablecloth dining in the city and suburbs. What better time to pull the plug, just as poor-performing restaurants wait till after New Year's to close.
  • Even in a good economy, restaurants close -- partnerships blow up (e.g. Ro-Zu, which reopened after a chef change, and Thoreau), accusations of tax fraud (Drafting Room in Spring House), owner vacillates on the merits of a concept (Saute's impending changeover to Catahoula).
  • In a shaky economy, as we're in now, quality and value matter. Domenico's in Blue Bell, which lasted seven months and never overcame service issues, was out of its league; its home base is a busy but small storefront in Ventnor. Alison two in Fort Washington was overdesigned, overleveraged, and overpriced. If you're charging $25 or more for entrees -- especially in the burbs where you're relying on locals -- you had better execute. (And pray a lot.)
  • NPD Group reported last month that restaurant traffic had slowed for seven consecutive quarters. In what is seen as a positive sign, the most recent quarterly decline, however, was not as steep. (See report.) The NPD predicts two more soft quarters before a recovery. (In a finding that should delight my buddies at Unbreaded, the NPD found that sandwiches and burgers were the only food category to post growth. See it here.)
  • On the optimistic side: Most of the closed restaurants have new tenants. Life goes on. Entrepreneurs are still attracted to what they see as a glamorous profession. Rents have come down in many areas. Food costs have stabilized. Some examples of repurposed spaces: Luca Sena bought a piece of the Snow White Diner at Second and Market, and he's renovating it into an Italian-American lounge concept called Revolution House. The white-tablecloth Roy's, which stuck around for nearly nine years at 15th and Sansom until it closed over the holiday weekend, was an underperformer whose landlords were eager to take it over to open a more casual restaurant of their own; it will open early next year. I've heard of strong interest in the Chew Man Chu and Alison two spaces, and I'm certain that Floret, in one of the loveliest settings on the Main Line, will find a new operator.
Staff Writer
We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue.
Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines.

Comment policy: comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

Please note that comments are monitored by staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

Read 0 comments
comments powered by Disqus
About this blog
Michael Klein, the editor/producer of, writes about the local restaurant scene in his Inquirer column "Table Talk." Have a question? Email it! See his Inquirer work here.

Michael Klein Staff Writer
Latest Videos:
Also on
letter icon Newsletter