Another Restaurant Closes Its Doors in Downtown Wichita Falls
Another Wichita Falls restaurant has closed up shop. The Sidecar Brewery at 902 Broad apparently closed for good on Sunday. The closing seems to have caught its patrons completely off guard. I reached out to one of the owners, Daniel Anderson, but as of Wednesday afternoon, he had not responded. Several people on Facebook have commented that they were either unaware of the restaurant's existence or had wanted to try it out, but not yet had an opportunity.
Wichita Falls has lost several restaurants in the past few years, most recently a Pioneer Restaurant on Southwest Parkway and now Sidecar, open just a few short months. So what's going on here? Simply put, the restaurant business is tough, extraordinarily competitive and very risky. In fact, according to an Ohio State University study, some 60 percent of restaurants close or change ownership within their first year. And as the number of restaurants grows, the competition becomes even tougher.
It's easy to speculate on just why these businesses shut down, but the reasons can be very complex sometimes. Sometimes it's pure economics. Sometimes it's health reasons or family reasons. No matter the reasons, it's always sad to see anyone close their doors. I applaud anyone who takes on the task of running a restaurant. Wichita Falls is sometimes tough to read. It is still very much a 'chicken fried steak and hamburger' market. And there's plenty of that around. Variety is wonderful, but what's tried and true is, well, tried and true. I love a great steak, salad and even just a good old sandwich myself. I'll try nearly anything once and twice if I really like it. And lots of folks have been calling for more variety for a long, long time.
A look at the Sidecar menu seems to reflect just what we love around here: beer, burgers and a cool atmosphere. The presentation looked really good. But again, maybe even that wasn't enough. And if we're being honest, the location was really tough, beneath an overhead freeway that offers no convenient exit to explore what lies below. That overhead is a sad design from that standpoint.
We're a city of roughly 104,000 people. Our population hasn't changed much at all in 60 years. Couple this with the fact that we are largely a paycheck-to-paycheck economy, and it makes the dining out experience all the more challenging for the restaurant owners. When you live payday to payday, you have X to spend and that's that. Going out every night or even every other night to a different place can be a financial challenge, particularly for families.
Anyone who's spent any time at all in the business will tell you, there are two parts to the formula you must get right: great food and great service. I can't speak for Sidecar personally because I never went there. Like many of you, I wanted to, I planned to, but I never had the chance. But the handful of people I've talked to who had made it there had good things to say. Again, perhaps in the end maybe that just wasn't enough.
There's another element that is so critical to any business. No matter what business you're in, if you're counting on the retail public to make a living, there's one thing you cannot do too much of-advertise. I've never met a successful business owner whose told me they wished they had not advertised so much. Brick and mortar retailers of clothing, shoes, electronics, etc.., are no longer competing against just the local guys, but the entire world. Thank you, online shopping. Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the world. Their name is deeply embedded in the American mind like no other. And yet, they continue to advertise everywhere, all the time. Why? Because they're on top and they want to stay there. Clearly, it works.
While most restaurants aren't really competing against anyone other than those within a reasonable drive (I don't count food delivery services just yet), their business model is the most competitive to live in and the fight is fierce to sell people on why your food, your service, your spot is the place to drop some money. Profit margins are usually thin, so it's all about volume. Turn over lots of tables, sell lots of food and keep 'em coming back for more. So staying top of mind with as many ears and eyes you can reach has never been more important, especially in a market like Wichita Falls.