Why Is “Hard Times Downtown” the Kneejerk Assumption about Restaurant Closures?

Restaurant closures aren't always about hard times, are they?

Relish Burgers Closed for Business

The subheader below is not meant to belittle a closure. A reputable chef (Roger is a Chopped Canada Winner!) took a shot on a franchise – an interesting one, as far as they go – and it worked for four years.

In fact, Relish survived competition from a nearby burger joint, The Works, that came after Relish and disappeared before it.  Unfortunately, there’s a closed sign on Relish’s doors this week, and owner Roger Andrews has implied the construction of the Convention Centre cost him important foot traffic.

Maybe Relish Just Couldn’t Ketch-up with the Increasing Competition? 

What’s hard for a lot of food lovers and avid restaurant goers to watch online is the doomsday assumption that every time a local restaurant dies it means all of downtown’s businesses are struggling-Oh-My-God-Only-the-Chains-Can-Survive! Couldn’t it just mean that a particular restaurant’s time has come and gone?

Everyone eating out on the regular knows the difference: our food culture is booming more than ever. More people are turned away from Adelaide on a Friday night than can find a table, and people know to cross their fingers when calling or Chinched or Mallard for a reservation.

That said, bums in seats does not mean a ton of money in the bank for a restaurant. It is after all an industry that largely considers breaking even to be a success. Restaurant closures are a complicated beast, but arguably, they’re a sign of healthy competition as much as they’re a sign no one’s eating out.

Food Culture is Booming Here More than Ever, That’s the Real Truth

Numerically speaking, we have more restaurants than we have ever had. It’s astounding that for nearly 3 years, The Overcast has profiled 1-5 new restaurants a month — and many of them are very good and here to stay. Moreover, Newfoundland is constantly in international news for its newly booming food culture, and for having better food than ever.

With that kind of rampant evolution comes a pressure on our restaurant scene to adapt and respond to a more food-cultured clientele and their new range of dining choices. Some places will go extinct in that sort of competitive environment. In Relish’s case, unlike when they first set up shop, there are a dozen places to buy a “gourmet burger” here now, Like Bernard Stanleys or Evoo or The Fifth Ticket, and these places serve more than only burgers, and the also serve drinks, in an environment more conducive to hanging out in, etc. 

As in biology, the healthier and more diverse an ecosystem gets, the more it matters a restaurant fills a particular niche in that community to avoid competition. This includes offering patrons an experience and menu quite unlike that of any other. Whereas in a dull ecosystem — like our food scene just 10 years ago — there is no competition, so people will eat what’s available out of circumstance, not choice.

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1 Comment

  • not so much food culture as food commodification beyond understanding anything about, well the food! Unless of course that is what you mean by `food culture`. seems as long as you can instagram about where you ate, facebook a like of some food item you cannot pronounce, and twitter that drinks are cheap at….well there food culture in all the glory….and at the end of the day these new found foodies will still have bills to pay, iphones to buy, and finance that new car they hear is trending on…….

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