Village Inn, a chain of restaurants competing with IHOP and Denny’s, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on April 3rd. They closed a location near my home where I had eaten monthly since they opened a year ago. The restaurant was seldom crowded; frequently there would only be three or four customers in there.
Opening about the same time was Estancia Churrascaria, a Brazilian steakhouse located about three miles away. My wife and I have eaten there several times and the place is always packed.
It is somewhat unfair to compare the two restaurants since they serve different markets. The Estancia Churrascaria is an upscale restaurant focusing on a fine dining experience. The Village Inn goes after the breakfast crowd. Yet there are certain common factors that led to the success of one and the failure of the other.
Both had bad locations. The Estancia is located on a one-way access road next to a Holiday Inn Express. That building’s first restaurant went out of business within six months of opening. It’s hard to get to the Estancia, especially if you’re coming from the west. But they’ve overcome the bad location by offering a superior dining experience based on excellent food, wine, and service.
The Village Inn near my home never did anything to differentiate themselves from their competition or to offset their less than stellar location. Although they bragged about their signature pies on their Web site, their food was similar to their competitors. Their pancakes were very good, but they didn’t try to market them. For those looking for healthy choices, pickin’s were slim (yes, pun intended).
Second, The Estancia has extraordinary customer service. The wait staff who bring the 14 different kinds of meat are also the chefs. They literally run from table to table offering their food. Others make sure that your beverages are always refreshed and that your side dishes never empty.
At the Village Inn, the wait staff was polite but cool My impression was that waiting tables was just a job to them and that they’d rather be doing something else.
Churrascaria Estancia succeeds because it offers exceptional food and an extraordinary customer service experience. It used word of mouth advertising to build a loyal following. Village Inn filed for bankruptcy because it couldn’t differentiate itself from its competition. It didn’t stand out in food quality, dining experience, or customer service.
Don’t let that happen to you.