We've tweaked the menu for fall. Our venison now has a savory bread pudding, braised red cabbage and port sauce, the panna cotta is coming with an Asian pear salad and fennel shortbread, we've got a glowing pumpkin pie and parsnip pancakes with butternut relish, onion syrup and goat cheese among other things.
I'd like to thank Alex and Aki from Ideas in Food for invigorating my thought process in the new menu. After nearly 8 years being an owner my mind goes down the well worn grooves of what sells, what we've done before (trying not to repeat, except for seasonal faves that people ask for) and what my clientele can afford. Between those things and that a chunk of our menu uses up the proteins that most people make their menus from for a section that gives the diner more control, it is at times difficult for me and the crew to come up with new things.
Yesterday I had a call from a local realtor. A restaurant in town is trying to sell. Well, calling it a restaurant would be kind. We had actually made an offer to the previous owner of the building. He accepted, was even going to carry the note, but upon sobering up changed his mind. The people that own it now, bought the place, put a ton of money into it and proceeded to serve crappy food, with poor service and spent more of their cash trying to keep the place afloat. I've been waiting for the call for a while now and I have to say they've hung in there longer than I figured.
We'd love to move. There are things about our location we love. The building is old and grand and our dining room is quite spacious. We've been there for nearly eight years and have an excellent reputation. We have a lot of space to accommodate large parties. However, we are in the middle of a boutique mall, our landlord is an insane freak, we have no doors and other than having it in our lease that we get to choose the music for the building, no control over our environment. We have to pay common area expenses for cleaning, heating and other things, but the building is poorly cleaned and poorly maintained. I would LOVE to be able to lock the door at night, knowing I didn't have to deal with the crap of being in a multi-retail environment.
Plus, we have been a success in spite of, not because of, our location. The other place is street level and much more visible, although admittedly not on the main drag.
The hitch of course is the cash. They want way more than the place is worth. They're asking about 20% less than a nationally known restaurant, in business for 25 years, with property that is far more valuable sold for about 2 years ago. Even at a more realistic price obtaining a commercial mortgage would be difficult for us since they typically require a 25% down payment and our coffers are not that well stocked. I'm sure the current owner can't carry the note because there's no way they own it outright like the last owner did.
We've looked at other properties with a friend as partner. I haven't talked to him about this yet because unlike the other properties there's no income, other than the business, so I don't see him being interested. The other route would be private investors but I don't know many people that well-heeled.
We'll see what happens. Today is Halloween. The veil is thin. Perhaps the spirits will smile upon us, in some obscure way. We're having our employee/friend party this evening so I need to start playing punk rock Martha Stewart.