Here’s one you haven’t seen before: a review of a restaurant that is closed.
Obviously, it’s not because we can suggest you go there, even though we really liked the food and they got great reviews from customers. It’s because theirs was a restaurant dream that came to life and then died.
Here’s what we found when we visited The Social Taco last year—a new concept that opened in the already heavily-restauranted area of Northwest Arkansas.
- Their tacos were like street tacos, filled to the brim with a variety of compatible flavors
- The owner was the same as the chef, who moved from Texas, where he learned the ins-and-outs of this style of food
- They had great customer service, with management doing rounds, checking for satisfaction
- The corn was amazing
No reason not to succeed right? What’s more, they were on a well-traveled street, with visible signage and a clean, well-maintained building. The layout inside was meant for socializing, with long tall tables and plenty of room to move around.
Keep in mind we don’t know the reasons behind the April closing of Social Taco. It could be everything from a personal situation to under-capitalization—two of the things you hear about in this industry quite frequently. Its website says:
Dear Guest, we are brokenhearted to announce that our dream, The Social Taco Restaurant will be closing Wednesday, April 4th, 2018 after dinner service.
We are proud to have served the NWA community of families and businesses for the past two years. Chef Fernando and Stephanie will continue to work and be involved in the culinary and hospitality community here in the Rogers/Bentonville, Ark. area.
Chef Fernando will be consulting and serve as a private Chef and instructor.
Thank you for your support, friendship, and loyalty.
Your love has meant the world to us and forever will.
It’s sad to see a dream die.
We saw a lot of it during the most recent recession. People got laid off from their day jobs, and decided to strike out on their own with a family recipe—that was a common story. It was also common to hear that the business didn’t make it.
Reasons? First, as always, competition. People are no longer restaurant-loyal—not when there is a new, shiny one opening down the street. We seem to be on a never-ending search for new flavors, new excitement, new concepts, and, while we welcome new restaurants into our lives, it may be months before we visit again. Restaurants need repeat customers to survive.
Second, under-capitalization. The people we work with live and breathe food as a business, and even we get sucked into thinking we should open a restaurant—and we know the cost. Business licenses, marketing, infrastructure, food margins, employee training, taxes, cleaning and laundry, and so much more.
Third, attracting and retaining employees. These days Gen Z (born before 1996—many of whom are now the teenaged workforce) tend to be much more digitally entrepreneurial and willing to take the reins. While many hold more traditional jobs, there are those who’ve learned to start a YouTube channel and the next thing you know, they have a million followers. It’s hard to move into a back-of-house mindset if they’re entrepreneurs by nature.
While we could continue to go down the list, there is another side to this, which we saw Bobby Flay express when he closed Bar Americain. The New York Times quoted him as saying, “Like Broadway shows, restaurants have their runs. We’ve had a good run. But there’s no secret that it’s exorbitant to build and run a restaurant today.”
That New York City restaurant was really good—although we only got the chance for one visit. Because, after all, New York is filled with restaurant opportunities, as is Northwest Arkansas, as is Seattle, as is San Antonio, and so on. That’s at least partly because people continue to believe in their dreams, people continue to fund those dreams, and customers continue to give them a chance.
Think about that next time you eat out.
Publisher’s Corner is a weekly dive into the world of dining and food that you can find on foodchannel.com!