When I was a kid there was a nice Chinese restaurant that my family would eat at every week. The dishes were unique, family recipes that you couldn’t find anywhere else, and the restaurant was run by an old Chinese lady you’d never see. Well, the time came when she was ready to shut the restaurant down, but at the last minute her son from out of state bought it and took it over.
It slowly went to hell. The food got worse and worse. The quality of ingredients got poorer and the cleanliness started to waver. In a last ditch effort to save it, the new owner turned it into a buffet. The new idea was a failure, and the restaurant soon faded away, with only memories of “when it was good”.
The Front Page Deli has a lot in common with this restaurant.
Many of Clarksville’s long-timers will remember good times they have had at the Deli. You find that many of those good times happened years ago, “when it was good”. They talk about some band they saw, some party they had, or some New Year’s celebration they attended. But the stories are never about the last year or so.
And with that, the Front Page Deli has announced its closure. Apparently it’s been around 15 years, busy for about 12 of them. In the last few months I’m told the only thing people ever went to was the trivia night, and even that would empty out the moment it was over. I heard they had karaoke, but that crowd already seems stuck to the Kelly’s Pub and High Notes, which do it every night.
The plan was to go out with a bang, inviting former workers and musicians to suck it up one last time.
I will say…we went by on Friday night and the place was already shuttered. I’m assuming either the party already happened or it hasn’t happened yet. Either way, g’bye now Deli.
The building’s owner is in talks with several people that apparently want to go another round as a restaurant. Great idea, I say. The Blackhorse has 30-45 minute waits every night, and the fact that the Deli couldn’t siphon away any of that crowd is just another testament to how terrible that place got.
But could a new restaurant actually succeed in this building? Hell to the yes! It IS expensive to run a restaurant, but the rewards are boundless if you give a damn. If any potential investors are reading this, let me clue you in on a three-part plan that will ensure you more success than the Front Page:
Good premium food and service
This is the “duh” part, isn’t it? But you’re gonna need more than frozen mozzarella sticks and club sandwiches to attract any customers. I can’t remember the last time (or any time) someone was excited about a sandwich at a nice restaurant. Even if they did want a nice sandwich, they’d go to Jersey Mike’s or somewhere quick and easy. They aren’t going to fight with downtown parking for a club on wheatberry bread. Sure, have them on your menu, as every nice place does have a couple. But if that’s what you’re leading off with, you’re in trouble.
As for service, I’m not necessarily saying the Deli had awful service. But it sure as hell was inconsistent. Plus, I could never tell whether I was supposed to wait for a waitress or order at the bar. More confusion = less times I’ll stop by. Also, the kitchen was often randomly closed. Some late nights I’d come in and the whole menu was available. Other nights…nothing. WTF?
Don’t piss off your demographics
In the last few years, I heard so many different people say they were sick of the Deli. My friends that were musicians would say the Deli either wouldn’t have a consistent schedule for them to play music, or they were so difficult to work with that they didn’t want to bother. My friends that enjoyed listening to live music hated when Open Mic Night disappeared. But they also didn’t enjoy nights when bands WERE there because it was so loud that they couldn’t eat, talk, or think straight. My foodie friends would just say they refused to eat the food at the Deli. My alcoholic friends didn’t enjoy the atmosphere anymore.
Basically, they lost all their fans, either by not listening or by not giving a damn. I’d say it was a little of both. The new owners need to kill the bad blood, attract new fans, and keep them happy. First off, whatever you do, don’t call it “The Front Page Deli”. That name has so much negativity behind it, that you’ll probably alienate a few people straight away. Start fresh, know what you want to be, and listen to the people eating and drinking.
Try this thing called the Internet
Being online as long as I have, I forget that many people aren’t “web savvy”. The Internet isn’t the ultimate promotional tool, as many people either do too much (slamming Facebook walls and Twitter followers makes people want to “unfollow”) or too little (the Front Page Deli’s last Facebook post was on DECEMBER 3, 2011). But there’s a sweet spot and a good way to build a loyal fan base. It’s not with 10 minute YouTube yawnfests…
yer’ doin’ it wrong…
I’ll say a great example of online presence is Lasater’s Coffee. They have nearly 8,000 Facebook followers who actively communicate with them. They post once or twice a day at most. They talk about new drinks, and they post pictures, news, and SPECIAL DEALS that might interest their people. It’s not rocket science people. Kudos, you caffeinated bastards.
But to wrap this up, let’s remember the good times you might have had at the Front Page, and hope that someone that gives half a rat’s ass will take the building in a positive direction. Personally, I’d love them to just turn it into a nice Italian restaurant, but I’ll take anything that doesn’t suck. That might be asking for quite a bit in Clarksville though.