By Dale Fenwick
Every time The Apopka Voice publishes an article about restaurants, we are inundated with comments. And within those comments is one consistent complaint: Why doesn’t Apopka have more sit-down restaurants?
A recent article on the website Thrillist may provide some insight.
The title of the article tells us a lot, “THERE’S A MASSIVE RESTAURANT INDUSTRY BUBBLE, AND IT’S ABOUT TO BURST.”
The author, Kevin Alexander, tries to explain why America’s Golden Age of Restaurants is coming to an end. To do it he tells the story of the rise and fall of Matt Semmelhack and Mark Liberman’s AQ restaurant in San Francisco.
Now Apopka is not San Francisco. But Alexander interviewed chefs from around the country and maintains that the challenges facing restaurants are not confined to San Francisco. One chef complained about out-of-control personnel costs and the lack of skilled hospitality workers. Another noted the problem of copycats and said, “If one guy opens a cool barbecue place and that’s successful, the next year we see five or six new cool barbecue places.”
AQ opened in the fall of 2011. From the beginning it received high praise. In 2012 the profit was $250,000 on $2.9 Million in sales. Sales increased in 2013 to $3.1 Million. But profits decreased to $200,000 due to increased costs.
Fast forward to 2015. Sales of $2.6 Million and profits of only $40,000. In 2016 sales dropped to $1.6 Million and the restaurant lost $250,000. The owners plan to close the doors later this month.
So what went wrong?
Did the owners lose their focus? Did the new-restaurant shine wear off? By the way, there were 3,600 restaurants in San Francisco when AQ opened and now the number is close to 7,600.
Alexander contends that most sit-down dining will. “…revert back to what it was in the ’80s/’90s: reserved for special occasions,” and that more and more restaurants will become, “… hip iterations of fast-casual restaurants, with smaller menus, counter service, and a skeleton crew of front and back-of-the-house staff.”
Again, Apopka is not San Francisco. Or Atlanta.
But, isn’t this what we are seeing in Apopka? Sit-down restaurants are for special occasions and fast-casual restaurants are getting the bulk of our business?
Dale Fenwick is the publisher of The Apopka Voice.