Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Restaurant Update

Real quickly -

Panera is just about to open a drive through. I bet they lost 15 to 20 parking places, which is a pretty big hit. They wiped out all of their handicapped parking when they did it and had to convert 6 places near the door to recover. Since they did away with 20% or more of their parking, does that mean that more then 20% of their business will be drive through?

The new Japanese place in Bistro 51 is OK, but I think that Kaya is better. The new place (as you can guess, I have no idea about the name) is pretty Americanized, the side stuff is indifferent and they blew our orders (switch the rice) and didn't fix it efficiently. Parking is still terrible. I give them a year.

I hear that "unnamed Indians" have bought Chicago Underground, both the building and restaurant. Closing date was yesterday from what I hear. Should be interesting to see what happens there.

Noticed the "Euro Cafe" on Illinois Ave. next to Pag's (old LaRoma spot) the other day. A friend pointed out that it is likely to be the refuge from the Mall. I don't know why downtown needs another sandwich shop with no parking. I don't think they can possibly do well against Jimmy John's and the rest of the players within a block of there.

I wonder if the food court at the Mall will every reopen and if it does if they can do something better then what they had before.


Jonathan Bean said...

I've written a critical history of anti-chain store politics, from the early 1900s to today. Chain stores have given small towns like Carbondale a taste of the cosmopolitan offerings of bigger cities. Panera has made Carbondale a much more livable town and I am not surprised that it did so well.

Since the anti-chain store militants get all the press, here is an excellent short essay, "In Praise of Chain Stores" (Atlantic Monthly), by Virginia Postrel:

Now we just need to get a good donut shop in town and a real bagel bakery...

sthorne said...

Or you could go to Cristado's or the Neighborhood Food Co-op, both of which offer darned fine baked goods.

Jonathan Bean said...

They are fine but I'm from New England, which means. . . Dunkin Donuts! :-)

sthorne said...

Whic, according to Fortune, actually makes more money selling coffee than donuts.

Peter in Carbondale said...

I'm pretty sure that I agree with anti big box politics. At some point we need to decide if we are simply consumers looking for the best deal or if we are members of our community. I have lived in Southern Illinois for the last several years based on this model.

It is interesting in some towns that have held the big boxes out (say Corvallis, OR), they are getting a Home Depot soon. People seem excited about it because no one is serving that segment well in town. But the arrival of a Super Walmart would kill half the downtown shopping district. Can that be a good thing?

Like my call for SIU to privatize more services because it would be good for the Southern Illinois, if Walmart disappeared, it might well be better for everyone. Granted consumers might have less plastic toys for the same money, but does anyone really need more in our society?

Jonathan Bean said...

There is more than enough room for "big boxes" and stores for those who don't like chains. Wal-Mart, as the biggest, has led people to swipe all chain stores with the same broad pen. Supermarkets are chains -- do we really want to go back to Mom and Pop grocery stores? Where does that leave the working class? Many chains are the best opportunity for locals to open SUCCESSFUL business. Why go through the trial and error of trying to reinvent McDonald's, Panera, Dunkin Donuts, or whatever.

Besides, if you don't like chains, don't shop there. I grew up in Burlington, VT, a small city with a vibrant downtown, lots of cosmopolitan stores (espresso shops, boutigues, cafes, etc.) AND ALSO chains. Why get the politicians involved? They tend to favor the status quo (which I know you are not fond of Peter!) and have shown their stripes "pro-small business" initiatives like the local liquor cartel.

BTW, when I debated this issue on a left-wing Pacifica station in San Francisco, I was surprised how many of the callers were on my side: They were affluent enough to shop at coops and the like, but what about the working class?