for tomorrow your restaurant will die.
Running a successful restaurant is hard work, make no mistake. Eating establishments come and go every week and the competition grows leaps and bounds as collective consumer tastes are fickle and, now, stingy.
I grew up in New York and of course as a kid I had no idea just how lucky I was about that. The best of culture, arts, theatre, music, history, museums, you name it – you can find it there. (And if you make it there, you’ll make it -duh -duh any where…)
And FOOD. oh maaaan, the FOOD. every taste and cuisine you can imagine. and even some you never thought to imagine.
Now it’s a commonly known fact that restaurants open and close practically within 24 hours on a regular basis in NYC. I guess there are people who live by “professional” critics but really you could go eat each meal at a different restaurant every day for the rest of your life and not get to all of them. The trick is getting a following and a reputation. I cant even tell you the name of the restaurant I went to often during my days at New School University. I could walk to it on the corner of 12th and something. But dont ask me the name. I also can’t think of the names of the places I went to up the block on E. 83rd or 1st or any of the spots I had been to several times. But I found places I liked on my travels and because NYC is a walking city, you do tend to find these things.
Maybe part of our problem in Williamsburg is that no one walks any where. I mean apart from Merchant Square and the Colonial area, there isn’t any where to walk. I miss 16th Street Mall in Denver and South Broadway and even Cherry Creek (NOT the mall). Maybe Williamsburg should think of better ways to develop our areas to be more pedestrian. Get people to get out of their cars for a spell.
Then there’s the uniqueness of your place and the loyalty factor. My mom is a prime example of a picky consumer. She hates paying someone else to feed her and then not liking it or feeling like she could have done it better, and she usually can. What makes her go to Panera every chance she gets? the stability. she gets exactly the same thing every time she orders it and she’s not let down. This is why people do chains. We all know this.
My mom is not your target customer. I am. Everyone can cook better than me and if you start telling me how you braised something or other, my brain launches a growling bear program who just wants you to shut up and let me eat. I dont know from saute.
What I do know is I want the servers to be around and friendly, it would be nice to chat with the chef or at least someone who cares that I didn’t touch the vegetables which were entirely too salty, and I want to be appreciated for choosing to eat at your crib and not the 5000 other places I could have gone.
I recently went to a locally owned place for a fundraiser. That’s a good way to get me to go somewhere new. I cant say I loved it, but it wasn’t the worst. Would I go there again? Doubtful. Why? There was no ambience whatsoever and the food was mediocre. There was nothing unique about it and I felt like I had the same exact thing from a box from Trader Joes.
Sure, it makes me sad that local businesses have a hard time here. But take for example, New Town. In this relatively small area, there are 16 eating establishments and 4 places to get coffee. (but only one ice cream shop which is fine by me.) We’ve had two restaurants close already and a major retail chain (Old Navy… this was devastating… to me personally as well as to retail here) not to mention the sad departure of Great Harvest Bread Company which actually choked me up when I went there in its last days.
Williamsburg is struggling. I don’t know how many people realize the enormity of the struggle – or maybe it’s the elephant in the room. Sure, it’s nationwide and worldwide for all intents and purposes. But maybe it’s time to stop looking to the Federal Gov’t to fix everything and to take back the local power of business where this country began in the first place. Maybe we need to rouse the troops and get them excited about being herein this amazing, unique historic place. I mean people have to ask themselves why they’re here and if they are serious about keeping this place healthy for a long time to come. Because honestly, if you dont support local, you need to move.
Now I’m hungry.