July 30, 2008
Casual dining goes belly up
Continuing the downward trend of the "casual dining" industry, pretend-Irish chain restaurant Bennigan's has declared bankruptcy and is closing. So is a chain called Steak and Ale (these don't exist around here. I think I saw one in Atlanta once?) which is owned by the same parent company, Metromedia Restaurant Group.
The NY Times reported that the whole industry was in trouble last fall, due to rising costs, shrinking family budgets, and Americans realizing that paying $18 for mass-produced microwaved entrées is idiotic. Restaurants like this going out of business helps restore my faith in America.
Bennigan's hasn't had a presence in NYC for a few years now. Sometime in 2005, one opened on the corner of 8th Ave and 47th St, replacing an independent casual family restaurant that had been struggling there for years. It lasted about 10 months, then closed. Now the space is (you guessed it) a Duane Reade. In a troubled retail real estate market, all roads lead to Duane Reade.
Besides having a business model that asks customers to pay inflated prices for cheap food, the problem with the casual dining industry is that it's an outdated trend that has finally started to fall out of favor. Restaurant consultant Bob Goldin says, "All these bar and grill concepts are very, very similar. They have the same kind of menu, décor, appeal." Another restaurant consultant in Chicago says, "The stores got old and the concept got tired."
The Simpsons made its episode about chain restaurants back in 1995 (back when the show was still a cultural barometer) when Moe opened his short-lived family restaurant Uncle Moe's Family Feedbag in "Bart Sells His Soul."
Here's the clip. It's still funny. Especially Marge's wonder at the décor: "An alligator wearing sunglasses?! Now I've seen everything!"
TrackBack URL for this entry: