In a hard economy, downtown restaurants face tough competition — and some are updating their menus to keep up.
The Lodge Bar and Grill changed its menu yesterday to include tapas, an appetizer originating in Spain, and added other Mediterranean options.
Owner Frank Bece said the restaurant has been facing bad business since it replaced P.T.’s Olde Fashioned Grille ten months ago, but he hopes to improve business with the menu change.
Bece said all of the fried and frozen foods will be off the menu, and will be replaced with fresh and healthy options.
“Everywhere I go is fast food. It’s all the same food, bar food, fried food,” he said.
A native New Yorker, Bece was surprised by many Chapel Hill residents’ “stubborn” attitude toward the 2011 change from P.T.’s, an establishment he characterized as well-liked, but not making money.
“We’ve had an identity crisis, but we’re finally settling into our image,” he said.
While other Franklin Street establishments feel the same financial pressure, they are making only minor changes to their menus.
“The competition on Franklin Street is tremendous,” said Don Pinney, the manager of Sutton’s Drug Store.
Pinney said he responds to competition by changing Sutton’s menu to adapt to trends in food and lowering price items.
“For a while people were low-carb, so we did wraps,” he said.
Gavin Toth, the manager of Spanky’s Restaurant and Bar, said the most recent change to Spanky’s menu occurred over a year ago when the establishment made the switch to all-craft beers. He said the menu has been changed a few times since it opened in 1977.
“Our style of menu fits with the college town, so I don’t see any changes happening any time soon,” he said.
Toth said Franklin Street restaurants have been protected from the worst of the economic downturn because the college-town atmosphere creates a constant demand.
He said the quantity and quality of Franklin Street restaurants ensures variety for the Chapel Hill market.
“I feel like it’s a healthy competition,” he said.
Unlike other restaurant owners, Scott Cox, the owner of Carolina Coffee Shop, said he would never consider dramatically changing the restaurant’s menu.
Cox said the restaurant actually tweaked its menu about three months ago to more closely resemble the original menu.
“We’ve been here since 1922 with the same menu,” Cox said.
“Business is great.”
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