Friday, May 3, 2013

My Trail of Tears

Consider this before you open a restaurant.

The restaurant history of Russell Britt.

1980 to 1983:  Six Flags Over Texas
A) There were 13 Pink Thing Carts; now there's just two.
B) Rose's Cantina served nachos and foot-long hot dogs.  Now it's just snow cones.
C) Colonel's Café served Chicken Fried Steak.  Now it's one of five pizza places.
D) Southern Plantation Chicken served Fried Chicken.  Now it's an Alligator place.
E) The Alligator Place, Casa de las Banderas (Mexican food), and Dry Hole Charlie's are now open only between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  They are closed during weekend-only operations.

1984:  El Chico in the Golden Triangle Mall in Denton, TX is now closed

1984:  Bonanza on I-35E in Denton, TX is closed and the building is now a feed store.  It's sister restaurant on I-35E in Lewisville, TX is also closed.

1985:  El Chico on I-35E in Lewisville, TX.  I opened the restaurant in 1985.  It was new, clean, had great access to the interstate freeway and was substantially renovated in 1995.  Business was booming!  It is now closed.

1985:  Tio's Mexican Restaurant (not to be confused with Tia's Mexican Food Restaurant) located in Highland Village, TX.  It was closed by the Sheriff's Office - probably for falling behind on the lease payments.

1986 to 1990:  Steak & Ale at 10909 Composite Drive near the intersection of Walnut Hill and I-35E in Dallas, TX.  This was part of Dallas' well-known Restaurant Row which included Bennigan's, Old San Francisco Steak House, Tony Roma's Ribs, Red Lobster, TGI Friday's, Chili's, and Trail Dust Steak House.  This particular Steak & Ale was closed in 1999 or 2000.  At last visit, all restaurants (except for the TGI Friday's and the Chili's) are closed.  The Steak & Ale and Tony Roma's were razed and a Car Dealership now occupies that location.  The Bennigan's was razed and two gas stations now occupy the that location.  The Red Lobster was also razed.  I don't know what occupies that address now.

2003 to 2006:  O'Charley's in Florence, KY.  This restaurant used to pull in $95 to 100k per week.  There's more competition in the area now and an O'Charley's was opened in Campbell County, KY.  Since then, sales for my former employer have dropped.  But it is still there and it is still profitable.

2008:  The entire Steak and Ale Corporation closes.  The Bennigan's and Bay Street restaurants (which operated under the Steak & Ale banner) are also closed.  I wasn't working there at the time (so it's not my fault).

Oct. 2012 to May 3, 2013:  H & D BBQ & Grill.  Open for approximately six months.  It closed it's doors permanently today.

The moral of the story?  (If there is one).  All but two of the restaurants/locations are closed permanently.  The other locations are substantially changed and not performing as well as they had in the past - regardless of the reasons. 

If you are considering opening a business (and especially if it's a restaurant), prepare a detailed exit plan in the event things don't work out.  Some items (but not all) to consider in the plan are:
  1. How will you sell the business and its assets?
  2. How much monetary loss can you handle?  Can you handle 1 month?  Are you willing to take out a second mortgage?  If things do get better, how long will it take to get into the black?
  3. Are you networked into another job if the restaurant closes?

Update 5/03/13 @ 8:45pm CDT
The owners of H & D BBQ & Grill will continue to run a catering only business from a location in Allen, TX (North of Plano, TX).  If that succeeds, they will try to open a Take Out only storefront in Allen. 

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