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Two restaurants under one roof. Could it work?

I was driving home the other day and I noticed a bunch of restaurants closed at 4pm. Now, that got me to thinking, in these hard economic times if two restaurants could share the same spot. Restaurant B opens from 5pm-2am. Both could share the expenses and keep inventory separate.
restaurant A is already closed, so it wouldn't cut into their business at all.

Of course, there would have to be a way to swap signs. I know it sounds crazy, but could it work?

How confusing do you think this would be?
What potential problems could arise?

If someone showed up at restaurant A looking for restaurant B they could simply say it was closed and come back after 5pm.

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  1. I haven't seen this, but there did used to be two places next door to each other in Cambridge, MA that had the same owner (Chris Schlesinger) and shared a kitchen: East Coast Grill and Jake & Earl's Dixie Barbecue. The former was a very creative sit-down restaurant and the latter a take-out BBQ joint. Only East Coast Grill is still there.

    3 Replies
    1. re: BobB

      Something sort of like this is actually kind of working near where I live. There is a bakery that is in use early in the morning until the afternoon (supplies restaurants) then Wednesday through Sunday evenings 5-10p.m. or so pizza is being sold - it's very very good. When it is pizza there are a couple of tables and chairs out on the sidewalk or you can take the pizza to go. They are also doing crepes for dessert.

      1. re: BobB

        I think there is a place like this in London- a diner and a sushi place that share the same kitchen and bathrooms. It seemed to work out alright, although I was really confused when I walked out of the bathroom into an entirely different restaurant. In more expensive cities where real estate is at a premium, it can make sense to do some sharing.

        As for a total switcheroo from morning to night, I am not sure how feasible it is. The one restaurant would need to close in plenty of time for the second restaurant to have time to prep and get everything set up. There is also the issue of trying to coordinate deliveries since most everything would arrive during the earlier restaurant's hours. I think there's also the potential to play the blame game if something goes wrong- who pays?

        1. re: queencru

          Some prepping could be done the night before right? The blame game problem is a question I don't have an answer for. Maybe the contract between the parties could provide some clarity.

      2. I actually have/had this in my area, I don't know if both restaurants are still operating. It is a breakfast/lunch/deli by day and an Italian restaurant by night. There is a sign out front stating the original restaurant, the deli, and they had a banner made that hangs outside restaurant for the dinner option. Both signs are visible from the road, both are up 24-7, and the banner includes the Italian restaurant's hours.

        I don't think they had that many problems regarding showing up expecting one restaurant and the other is open. In this case, the deli was an established restaurant for quite awhile before the Italian incarnation at night. I think the largest problem they had was transforming the dining room of a deli into an Italian restaurant. I have never been, but from what I understand they have a hard time getting the right ambiance.

        On a personal note, I do not think this is a far fetched idea. I think it could work, but I think it might be easier if both restaurants opened at the same time. I also think there should be a continuity between both restaurants...food, decor, menu prices, etc. I don't think the menus have to be the same, but I do think some combos work better than others.

        A couple of things I have always wondered about with this scenario......How the liquor license works and what about the health dept. inspections.

        1. There's a placein Brooklyn - I think the name is Egg? - where I went last year for a great breakfast. They close before dinner and another restaurant opens in the same space, or that's the way it was working. I'm thinking that the othr one has closed and Egg has increased its hours.

          1. I know this is a tangent, but you're idea spurs something I thought about before. Have a restaurant and "broker" out the days of the week. Cook A rents the place on Mondays, Cook B rents the place on Tuesdays, etc,. If done right, could be a really cool idea. Some might like the adventure of the variety, whereas others might make a weekly habit out of coming a certain day of the week. Plus, cooks could jump in without a huge commitment or a big sense of risk.

            You thoughts?

            2 Replies
            1. re: scuzzo

              I like it. The only potential problems I see are...

              The chefs would need another job unless they can make enough money in one night for a weeks pay. Maybe the chefs could rent it out for two weeks and have a run, kinda like when a play comes to town. It might work better with celebrity chefs too.

              Also, if I wanted my favorite dish, I may not be able to get it when I wanted it, since it might not be that chefs day. But, this is not that big of a deal since sometimes I want something from my favorite restaurant and go and it's closed. It happens. Seems to me the biggest expense would be marketing to let people know what chef is there and on what day. Cool idea!

              1. re: LuluTheMagnificent

                I think my idea would provide a great training ground, with less chance of failing big. You can start with one day, and really focus. You don't have to worry about tomorrow, someone else can think about tomorrow. After mastering one day, you may have a loyal clientle, plus the expertise to then open your own place. Or maybe you could expand to more days a week.

            2. Actually, one of my "early indicators" of a recession is restaurants EXTENDING their hours. When you see signs like "Now Open for Breakfast", or "Now Open for Lunch" cropping up, you can figure that the economy is going in the tank.

              1. I live in a small city just outside of Boston, and we do have a restaurant that does this! In the morning ( and maybe at lunchtime, not really sure), it is a small breakfast joint. On weekend evenings, the restaurant is taken over by a local chef, and she creates wonderfule meals. The menu is not huge. but there is pasta, meat and fish usually on the menu.And it is fun to watch her cook just behind what I guess would be a breakfast counter in the am. It is bring your own wine, which makes it fun. Called Absolutely Fabulous Dinners.

                1. In Englewood, New Jersey this exact scenario you query happened with a old fashioned ice cream parlor that had been around since maybe the 40's or 50's. The place was called Baumgart's Cafe. Roughly twenty years ago, this business model happened incredibly with a Chinese Restaurant taking over the evening hours for dinner service after the diner/ice cream parlor ceased after the lunch hours. This Chinese restaurant became to be known as arguably the best Chinese food in the area and later spawned off three new locations for a total of four restaurants all opened under the name of Baumgart's Cafe.....the success of the original restaurant in my opinion had to do with the novelty with the new concept of non traditional individual portions, while being served in the diner's retro surroundings, atypical of most Chinese restaurants normal decor back in the time....and something different from the more traditional family dining experience.


                  1. I have been interested in that idea for a while. There is a local chain here in FL that serves just breakfast and lunch and closes at 4:30. I think it is difficult to pay today's occupancy costs without being open in the evening.
                    Anothere idea I had was in super high dollar areas of Manhattan, London, or Hong kong, a street level boutique would close at 5:30 and descend like a giant elevator car into the basement, and a restaurant above it would almost magically appear at ground level by 6:30.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Veggo

                      That is an amazing idea!

                      Thanks to everyone for the replies! I thought something like this might already be going on, so I thought I'd ask. Very interesting stuff. Thanks again.

                    2. I've seen different restaurants share space, but I don't believe I've encountered one that opened up at different times. In NYC, a Blimpie and a thai restaurant operated out of the same spot. And not exactly food-related, but my friend went to an underground sex club many years ago that was an Italian restaurant by day.

                      I suppose it could work, but there may be some logistical issues to get around. It would probably be a good idea for restaurants located with a lot of office workers. During the day, it could be a quick take-out volume-driven lunch place which turns into a sit-down restaurant by night.

                      1. Hey, it works for many fast food restaurants, so why not others? It is a bit more complicated though, and the right market for it has to be found, but I bet it would work. I think the best way would involve staff members (at least a manager) who are employed by both restaurants.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: madgreek

                          In the QSR industry, it's not really a huge success. I've worked with several of these concepts & they present a whole new set of issues. Although it seems to make sense on paper to house two concepts under the same roof that have different peak hours, that's rarely the case. One brand is always much more dominant than the other and owners/managers focus the majority of their time on the money making brand & neglect the other.

                          Problems often involve keeping things separate (food cost, labor cost, scheduling, shrinkage, royalties) while presenting a united appearance to the public. Cross training employees is a challenge and even when decently trained they may rarely be required to prepare the other brands' menu items causing customer service issues due to slower service, over or under portioning, inconsistent product and overall lack of product knowledge. Not to mention the blame game that goes on between the two groups of workers even with a manager or owner that serves both brands.

                          Most people involved in co-branded concepts would rather just concentrate on a single brand, but often it's the franchisor that requires both brands in order to buy or operate the desired brand. Why? Money. You're paying for both brands, paying more in royalties, buying more product from them & you are actually marketing the secondary brand for it's single brand locations.

                        2. I know that there are a number of restaurants here that let the lunchwagon cooks come in during the wee hours of the morning do do their bulk cooking before they load it all into the lunchwagon for serving later in the day.

                          I'm thinking that economically it probably makes more sense to find two compatible crews and just keep the one restaurant open longer, but who knows.

                          1. There is a very successful restaurant like this in our city. It opens in the morning as a coffee bar/ light breakfast place. No tablecloths and lots of jostling and coffee to go. No cooks, just continental type breakfast food.

                            Come lunch time (with the same wait staff as the morning) it morphs into a good quality pizza/ excellent salad place with two decent cooks, behind an open kitchen where you place your order, paper tablecloths and a decent wine list.

                            It is a wine bar all aftenoon with fresh wait staff coming on just after lunch. It has a great wine list, and little nibblies, but no visible chef. Until...

                            Evening! when the real linen tablecloths go on, a genuine, white-hatted chef comes in and the pirces go up as the lights go down. Really good and expensive entrees: some pasta and upscale pizza, but chops and fresh fish predominate. Same wait staff as post-lunch.

                            My understanding is that it is all the same family but different branches, with Mom and Pop overseeing one, son and wife another and daughter and husband the third variation.

                            To add to the confusion or success, the same family also runs a place across the stree that goes from being a lunch only sandwich place that becomes a brunch place on weekends.

                            I couldn't make this stuff up...

                            1. There's aseafood place in Destin, FL that operates in th emorning as a breakfast place with it's own cooks and wait staff and then changes over to a seafood restaurant at lunch time. I understand the people doing breakfast lease the place from the owners of the seafood restaurant. They even hang their own sign over the door.

                              1. In the early 80's, I ran a breakfast in bed service out of a commercial location for kicks; as a 2nd job. I advertised my services in local newspapers around holidays that would attract customers seeking a novelty gift idea (Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, wedding anniversary, breakups, new job, house warming) and the business grew quickly. My working space consisted of an answering machine, a week to week calendar and a phone in one of the bedrooms in my apartment. I'd come home from work, grab dinner and make call backs to book weekend deliveries.

                                When food storage, customer orders exploded, advertising and baking time grew to a professional level, I approached my landlord, the owner of an Italian restaurant (I lived above the restaurant in a 3 bedroom apartment with a gigantic kitchen) about renting kitchen space during his off hours. The breakfast service was weekends only. Thurs night after he closed, I prepared breakfast trays and non food items and returned early Sat & Sun mornings to prepare the food & package for delivery. I continued to advertise locally but began including the Italian restaurants menu on my breakfast tray (tucked it inside the Sunday newspaper that was included with the order) and the owner of the restaurant started advertising my breakfast service in his restaurant. Both our businesses flourished. We shared a med sized commercial kitchen at different times, refrigeration, shared advertising, cultivated the same clients for different reasons and saved a ton of money on mutual expenses. If you ever decide to try out a new idea that involves food service for the public I highly recommend this business model.

                                A dear friend started a cookie business in the 90's and adopted a similar business relationship with a small restaurant in her town. Her cookie trays went from custom orders for private parties & events to a part of the restaurants dessert menu to her buying the restaurant a few years later and turning it into a cooking school.

                                Innovation is a gas!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: HillJ

                                  You're story is very inspiring!! Thanks for sharing it.