Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Passing of a Restaurant

I have been blogging for a while now and eating out at new restaurants for way longer. I am linking to one that has recently closed nearby. If the link breaks just know that it was a local cafe that served rotisserie chicken.

Brickyard Grounds.  It is one of the many that I have reviewed over the years. Here is an excerpt from when I reviewed it.
Further down the strip, Brickyard Grounds has high gloss wooden tables, coffee and light fare. The light fare part is important. The whole place, in the best way, reminds me of the converted Coffee Times. Now hear me out. When I came to Toronto, the cafe scene was a little odd. The only places that felt as if you had a community were these ex-franchisees of Coffee Time. I wrote a post about how each was a reflection of their owners and the community. This is a great thing. The light fare reflects the area in the offerings. There are flavourful and pronounced spicings available. They sell rotisserie chicken and are working on getting local craft beer -- on TAP! It is an updated Mom and Pop Greek shop. This is a place to come as family...
...Will all of these places still exist when I get around to posting a third update? In short, I think they all serve a particular community. There is not much in the way of difference for the product they are supposedly serving, coffee. None of these will win barista awards or become destination eateries. The real value in these neighbourhood places is in the community they bring and serve. A friend recently talked about how she needed a new cafe in the neighbourhood so that she could talk about the women who frequented the cafe where she usually went.
So far this is the first of the four places mentioned in that review to close. I still stand by the idea that each of these places served a particular need within the community but somewhere along the way, this place started to go down a hard path.

Firstly, there seemed to be doing well until a fire shut them down for a while. When they came back, some of the momentum and steam had left. When you, as a business, start to falter and become a little unreliable, the good will built will dissipate. It will take a while to get it back.

But there is a pattern to failing restaurants. Menu items start disappearing or not being available. Substitutions are made for more inferior items. Staffing is cut. Hours are cut and erratic. And finally...

So, they re-opened with a modified menu and brunch. Each time I went there for brunch it was packed. Service could be a little odd and disorganized but it seemed to work for a small shop. The hardest thing for a small business is the people aspect. Staff started to leave but not at first. First the coffee began to be tweaked in major ways. The coffee began to taste more 'robust'. Menu items began to change.

Already, the hours had been cut for the shop times and it was erratic. It seemed as if the place was already cutting corners. At first, customers don't notice but eventually, after a few times of showing up at the door and finding the cafe unexpectedly closed, I stopped going.

There is no malice here. It is just another story of a business that chose to start cutting corners where the money was instead of where it wasn't.

If the place had opened earlier in the morning and wooed the morning crowd and tried to stretch into the families in the area, it may have done a little better. If rotisserie chicken is offered for supper then make sure to stay open late enough for those coming home from work to get it. Find where the money is and exploit it.

I genuinely liked the owners and wished them well both then and now. The restaurant is a hard, fickle business and it is easy to armchair quarterback. It is just to see so many places come and go with the same pattern, it becomes easier to see where it is headed. There is something great about watching a family business thrive. Those successes are nice when you can say that 'you knew them when' but no one really takes much joy when they fail.

Good luck to the owners of Brickyard Grounds. I wish you all the best in whatever you do.

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