Looks like we may be soon losing one of the more well-established restaruants here in RVA. The end brought about not by the economy but rather by poor decisions and management in-fighting.
The restaurant here was created to revive a well established name that had closed in a northern city after years of decline. The place was a hit. No reservation, no table. Food and wine flowed freely and diners indulged to their hearts content. Success, though, can lead to overreaching and overextending. Several more local restaurants were opened or partnered with and plans to reopen the flagship up north were put into motion. As the managing partner withdrew to these other projects (we’ll call him ‘Journey’) problems started popping up. On-site managers were not given the authority to make decisions and routinely had their choices overruled based on back-room gossip. Frustration set in and, while restaurants always have a fairly high level of intrigue, this one was becoming toxic.
In the midst of this commodity prices started spiking. Rather then raise prices a couple of signature items disappeared and, when the menus were reprinted, a key word was missing – Prime. Of course, rather then tell the customers they were now being served Choice, no mention of the beef grade was present on the menu. Guess they were hoping no one would notice. People did. Other shortcuts started creeping in. Not enough turtle meat in the soup to make it last another day? No problem. Dice up some chicken and throw it in!
The head chef, working from his open kitchen, would yell, cuss and swear at the staff and give a running commentary on the guests walking by. Personally, if I heard a member of staff say about my wife as we walked by ‘I’d let her sit on my face and take a crap’ there would be a bit of a scene… Some chefs should just not work in kitchens where they are exposed to the public.
As the re-opening of the original restaurant was repeatedly delayed a series of temporary managers served their time in RVA. With no vested interest in the local establishment they were the definition of the term ‘empty suit’. One General Manager was ousted in a palace coup by another manager who immediately went from being effective to a ’sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen’ by spending his time snapping the hostesses G-strings. Slacker staff put more energy into gossip and theiving, while the management turned a blind eye, and harder working staff members left as they realized all the delayed promises would never be filled.
Customer traffic dwindled. The drop in beef grade. Pasteurized crab from Indonesia. Frozen farmed shrimp. Turtle soup made with chicken. When your paying premium prices one should expect to receive premium ingredients.
The mother restaurant reopened and, while it is still operating, is doing so under bankruptcy protection. The family partner’s (we’ll call them the Cabs) and Journey’s relationship became strained. Banquets and parties (brought in by a very competant banquet manager) keep the place alive in RVA but the Cab’s and Journey’s inability to gain a consensus on the direction of the restaurant have come to an impasse. Journey and the foul mouthed chef have threatened to shut the place down and open a new eatery in the West End – leaving the remaining staff to their own devices. Senior staff, reading the writing on the wall have left or are keeping the resumes updated.
Rumours of a Fall closing did not come to pass. Personally, I think the Holiday season followed by the legislature coming into session are just to lucrative to pass up. If they are to close, my guess would be to see a sudden appearance of a padlock right after Valentine’s. After that date I would not use cash to pay for a banquet deposit… use a credit card, just in case.
Note – I will not post any comments using the restaurants actual name or any of the players involved. Use pseudonyms.