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Jul 14, 2009 06:44 PM

Restaurants Going Downhill

One is always hearing about restaurants that are going "downhill." One seldom if ever seems to hear about any restaurant that is going "uphill." The best outcome seems to be to remain static, and that seems mostly to happen with good ol' homestyle local places serving some local type dish(es).

Is there a law of nature at work that almost always makes restaurants go downhill after a while, or is it just our perception (perhaps after getting used to, and then bored with, whatever made the place be "uphill" to start with), or is it something else?

Why is it that, on average, the trend always seems to be down?

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  1. This isn't always the case. Certain restaurants take a little while to find there groove and they go "uphill". The same can be said for restaurants that get new chefs. This can make a huge difference. A prime example of this is Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan. It was resting on it's laurels and had become moribund until the new chef Michael Anthony came and breathed new life into an old institution.

    1. I think downward might be in the nature of the industry.

      Just speculating but:

      If you enjoy a restaurant the first time you go, you’ll likely go back. You might go back enough times that you realize nothing is changing and the service/food is consistent. I imagine that’s the least a restauranteur hopes for.

      If you didn’t like your first visit to a restaurant, you are unlikely to return. If the consensus of opinion is bad, no one is likely to go back and the restaurant will fail before it has a chance to improve. (That’s why I like to give them a second chance.)

      Most restaurants probably open somewhere in the middle, its fate resting with the owner and his/her passion. Truly passionate restauranteurs will act as KTinNYC states above.

      4 Replies
      1. re: cuccubear

        I think the case KT cited, however, IIRC, was one where the restaurant was revamped, new menu, new staff, new everything. They were actually starting over from scratch--they just kept the old name because it had some recognition value. So I'm not sure that particular example counts.

        1. re: johnb

          A new chef usually results in a new menu but in many cases it has nothing to do with new ownership or staff. Good chefs move on all the time and good owners will scout for new talent or promote from within.

          1. re: KTinNYC

            I agree there are exceptions to the "rule" ,and apologize if I suggested there weren't, but my original question was not whether there are exceptions, but why so many seem to go downhill over time, or at least are accused of not being as good as they once were.

          2. re: johnb

            I guess I was picturing the owners bringing in the new chef to change things up

        2. Things ain't what they used to be and probably never was.

          1. I'm in the restaurant business. I've seen a lot of places go downhill, some quickly, others slowly. It usually has to do with a lack of concern on the part of management. They start forgetting about the "little stuff." (I believe there's no truth to the saying "take care of the big stuff and the little stuff will take care of itself.")

            More often than not, a restaurant's downhill slide will begin with a period of poor revenues. Rather than address the cause of the poor revenues, staff and management become complacent. The cleanliness of a facility starts to suffer with this. Then, the bored cooks in the kitchen stop putting their hearts in the food and start to turn out "passable" food. It's a vicious cycle.