Wheatberry: R.I.P.

Last Thursday on the 2 week anniversary of our breakfast at Wheatberry Bakery Cafe, I revisited it with a girlfriend for a late lunch. But it was too late.

Inside it was dark & closed. Outside was a tombstone, a bright white paper sign. Basically it said, “thank you customers” and “5/31” was the date of death. A girl I know told me she heard they may have had recent trouble meeting their rent. That will help kill a good number of small businesses.

This follows the “temporary” closing about 4 weeks ago of Metropolitan Coffee & Tea on Colorado Blvd., across from Office Max. The same type of tombstone lays on the door, the words are “Open Friday” and “Sorry”. Well, several Fridays have come & gone. I’m sorry for these good people and hope Metro will indeed re-open “Friday”, or any day soon.

Neither of these closings are surprising to me. Aided by my experience with restaurant clients, I have a sort of female, oops!, I mean male intuition about how well certain restaurants are doing. One thought for both was these were modern facilities, occupying large spaces for their kind of menu, on expensive and competitive Pasadena streets. A lot of money must have been invested. Would their offerings in terms of quality and/or quantity be above average to at least meet their cash flow? This applied in particular to Metropolitan which offered mostly coffee & teas with only a very limited food menu.

One strength both shared was actually non food/drink related-FREE Internet. For Metropolitan in particular this seemed to make their establishment a study hall as much as a cafe. It sometimes looked like a computer place where you could try before you buy.

Those involved in independent restaurants need to know exactly what they are getting into: You’re in a finicky business where customers can jump ship as soon as the next new place opens, very personal taste takes precedent so what you think is wonderful many of your customers aren’t gonna buy, you can be packed one year and empty or even closed the following, they may love your food but often will stay away if they find fault with your service and vice-versa.

I could go on. You’ll probably have to work many hours with few days off. Oh, and in today’s economy of ever rising fuel & food prices this can read like a death sentence in this industry. I often tell restaurant owners that theirs is a “tough business”, “you have to be a special kind of person to get into this”, and “I wouldn’t want to do what you do”,…and that was before these rising costs!

  • Restaurants, today more than ever, are a numbers run business. You gotta know your costs & percentages constantly, with payroll & food/drink costs being preeminent. And, you always gotta be alert to tweak your menu a little here and/or there.
  • Also, more than ever owners need to know they are in the people business. Your customers come to you with certain expectations they want served. Get to know your customers, get to know what they want from their restaurant experience. Give it to them and they’ll want to come back to you for it again, breathing long life into your restaurant.

Ok, gotta run. I’m not being paid for this afterall.


3 responses to “Wheatberry: R.I.P.

  1. I liked Wheatberry, too. Trouble is, with the economy, we don’t eat out as often as we used to. I suppose that’s true of a lot of people.

    Would love for Jill to hold office hours! I met her after she stopped. Zephyr? Coffee Gallery? We still have tons of delectable choices.

  2. Hey Jill!, I love your blogs. See what you got me started into! When r u gonna have your office hours again? Getting a bit difficult with Wheatberry and, apparently, Metropolitan now out of business. Yes, the food business is a really tough business, especially now.–Mike