The end of a short era
The restaurant business is hard at the best of time, and these aren’t.
Still, it was with great sadness that I read today that our favorite Oakland place, SR24, is closing this weekend.
You can’t blame the food, it was great. You can’t blame the service, we loved it, especially Khleber, our waiter extra-ordinaire.
So what’s left? Promotion, advertising, signage and location loom large, I should think.
Location is supposed to be all important, except when it isn’t. You can hardly find the French Laundry, a mostly unmarked building in tiny Yountville. You also can’t get a reservation there, because it is perhaps the best restaurant in the world and people will go anywhere to eat at the best. SR24 was good, but not world class, and it was in a tiny space in a weird triangular piece of land at the intersection of Telegraph and 51st Avenue–not a place people will be looking for upscale, comfort-chic food.
I liked their promotion–using the power of Facebook, they had an updated message every day listing the daily special pizza and the secret word to get a free drink at happy hour. We used that last one frequently. Facebook is pretty effective, and free. That’s hard to beat.
Signage? This may be a key item. After SR24 opened, I started to hear about it, but I didn’t know where it was. I must have driven right by it dozens of times, but never noticed their very small, unlit, not flashy sign.
Advertising? Who knows with advertising? It costs a ton and you can never tell how much good it has done. I can’t remember ever seeing a SR24 ad, but that either means they didn’t advertise or their message just didn’t get through the daily onslaught of ads we all face.
Khleber told us that management felt they needed another $1000 a day in sales to make it work, and it just wasn’t there. Of course, the general economy has a great deal to do with that, and there is nothing any of us can do to affect the situation.
So Gail and I are sorry to see them go, but not shocked. Even Bing Crosby’s, a very well financed corporate restaurant in Walnut Creek has closed in this recession. I hope all the staff get good jobs soon and the chef opens his own place and makes a huge splash in the foodie-verse. I sure like his food, and Gail will miss the tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.