Seattle is apparently not the place to be if you are a budding entrepreneur looking for a place to try out a new dining concept. According to the Seattle Times, a number of previously respected restaurants will be closing by the end of the year followed by additional closings in 2020. Still other restaurants are adopting new concepts in order to remain viable.
One of the restaurateurs profiled by the Seattle Times is closing three underperforming restaurants. He told the paper that he loves their concepts, though he also admits that they were never as successful as they needed to be. Why? Perhaps it is the whole idea of a restaurant concept.
Perhaps the ‘concept’ concept is not really that good. Maybe restaurateurs are focusing too much on concept and not enough on giving people great food, great service, and a reasonably priced menu. It is just a thought, but one well worth considering – especially when you take a look at what makes some of the oldest restaurants in the U.S. successful.
Hundreds of Years of History
The Daily Meal published a fascinating piece in 2012 profiling the oldest restaurants in the U.S. At the top of their list was the White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island. It originally opened in 1673. Likewise, the Griswold Inn in Essex, Connecticut is the oldest continuously run restaurant in the nation. It has been serving great food to customers since 1776.
You can go through the Daily Meal’s entire list of oldest restaurants and find one thing in common: the lack of a concept mentality. Their owners are not trying to come up with something new and unique in terms of theming, atmosphere, and menu. Many of them originally opened as inns that provided a hot meal and a warm bed. Others opened as taverns where you could get a satisfying meal and a stiff drink. Still others were about sharing mama’s recipes with friends.
When you compare all those old restaurants with their more modern counterparts, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the restaurant industry has lost its way. Restaurants exist for one reason: to give people a place to get a good meal. That’s it. When you try to make a restaurant more than that, you are on shaky ground.
The Local Mom and Pop Establishment
Go into most cities and towns and you will find at least one local mom and pop establishment that seems to have been around forever. Indeed, the local diner is an icon of American culture. That is not without reason. Local mom-and-pop establishments continue to succeed because owners are not obsessed with new concepts. They have something that isn’t broken, hence they do not try to fix it.
The good news for enterprising restaurateurs is that they don’t need decades of history to succeed. Just ask the people behind Taqueria27. Known as one of the best Mexican restaurants in Salt Lake City, Taqueria27 is owned by a husband-and-wife team who have never worried about embracing a new concept.
Taqueria27 is all about providing Mexican and Mexican-inspired cuisine in a neighborhood setting that invites people to sit and linger while they enjoy a good meal. There is no pretense. There is no attempt to make Taqueria27 a dining destination. The restaurant is only concerned about keeping its neighborhood customers happy.
With restaurants closing almost as fast as they are opening, it’s clear that something is wrong. Maybe the ‘concept’ concept is not the right way to go. Perhaps restaurants need to get back to the basics – like good food and great service.