Opening a restaurant is 'really luck of the draw'

Published on Sunday, 27 January 2019 20:22
Written by Karla Santos


Restaurants with decades of service and others that have operated for just months recently closed their doors in the areas of Bristol and New Britain; but each one of those food establishments seems to have its own reason to move on.

Bristol Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu and other officials agreed that the restaurant industry is a tough one and while some restaurants do succeed, others end up experiencing financial difficulties.

“I think over the course of time, even going back 50 years or more, the restaurant business has been one of the hardest industries in which to succeed,” Zoppo-Sassu said. “There used to be dinner theaters, 24-hour diners, and fine dining in every corner of downtowns until the demographics changed. The ones that survive appeal to the public and offer a menu or setting that people enjoy. Some restaurants enjoy a brief burst of popularity, others suffer due to financial issues. I don’t think that there is any one factor that can be attributed to a restaurant or a chain’s rise or fall in any given community.”

Cindy Bombard, president of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, said that local restaurants don’t fail because of a good business plan.

“People who are in the restaurant business I think they do their due diligence,” Bombard said. “The majority of those businesses that do come into town if they have a good business plan, have done their background research on whether it’s going to fly or not. It’s really luck of the draw.”

Justin Malley, executive director of the Bristol Development Authority, said that every time a business closes, it’s an opportunity for something new.

“Our goal is to create an environment that’s conducive to economic development and business growth, but in the end the private sector and individual business owners and property owners determine what is going to work and what maybe will not work in the community,” Malley said. “We do everything that we can, but in the end, sometime it cuts down to the industry. The restaurant business is very volatile and most folks know that. With that said, we are grateful that there are folks out there that are committed to the industry and that they want to open those types of businesses in Bristol.”

New Britain’s Miss Washington Diner, The Kitchen, and West Side Tavern all closed in 2018. KC’s on Main closed earlier this month. Bristol’s Super Natural Market and Deli and Sonic also closed in 2018. Barley Vine, now Main Street Pint & Plate closed in 2016.

Miss Washington diner was in business for 85 years and Super Natural Market and Deli operated for 37 years. However, West Side Tavern, Sonic and Barley Vine each operated for less than five years. The Kitchen and KC’s on Main were in business for less than a year.

Health issues and financial decisions are some of the reasons why these business owners decided to move on. The reason why a majority of these restaurants closed throughout 2018 is unknown.

“We are saddened any time a local business closes,” New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart said. “In fact, more than half of new businesses, especially restaurants don’t make it in the first year due to a variety of reasons-this is not specific to New Britain. While there have been several closings in New Britain over the last year, they closed due to the owners taking opportunities elsewhere. For every business that has closed, we have had a ribbon cutting on one more. ”

Tim Stewart, president of the Greater New Britain Chamber of Commerce, said that while restaurants close for various reasons, lack of business has not been the case on the recent closings. Tim Stewart also said that the city needs to have enough people in the streets supporting the restaurants. An issue he mentioned is that some people perhaps don’t go to the downtown restaurants because of the stigma that downtown isn’t safe. One of the reasons the police station is located where it is, is to help people feel safe in the downtown area, Tim Stewart said. In addition, the crime rate in downtown is low, which shouldn’t be a reason why people don’t visit the restaurants, he added.

The former mayor also said that despite the recent closings, the city also has many successes such as Mofongo, Great Taste Chinese Restaurant, Criollisimo and Riley’s Hot Dog & Burger Gourmet.

“It’s a tough industry, in which failure is a risk,” Bill Carroll, director of New Britain’s economic development department, said. “If it’s an entrepreneur, the failure rate is higher than the success rate; it’s an issue across the country. Even those who have been in the industry for a while also have a risk of failing. Most people in New Britain have experience but individual circumstances happen.”

Carroll said that his recommendation for those looking to open a restaurant is to build “a strong business plan, a great team, and a good product, but there’s no magic formula,” he said.

Karla Santos can be reached at 860-801-5079 or .

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol, General Business, General News on Sunday, 27 January 2019 20:22. Updated: Sunday, 27 January 2019 20:24.