Whether the delay is a few weeks, a few months or more than a year, it’s rare to find a new restaurant that is able to open without a hitch.
Two Mexican restaurants in downtown Bradenton planned to be up and running by now. The owner of La Mesa, 320 12th St. W., intended to open at the beginning of this year. Pablo Larin, owner of Senor Fajitas at 316 12th St. W., hoped to open in November 2016. Neither restaurant is open yet.
What causes the seemingly inevitable delays in opening a new restaurant? Pat Moreo, a University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee professor and the dean at the College of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership, said for independent restaurateurs, or those not connected to a franchise operation, it’s often a combination of several factors.
“The first one is maybe the land hasn’t been completely secured,” Moreo said. “The second consideration is capital. Maybe they thought they had enough but they’re not quite there yet. The third reason is the licensing. There’s city permissions, the health department and city codes. Somebody thinks they can just throw a stove in the middle of a kitchen. Every time something like that happens, it delays the entire project.”
In February, the Bradenton Herald reported that such equipment problems were delaying Senor Fajitas from progressing on the project. City of Bradenton records show the establishment passed final electrical, mechanical, fire, plumbing and gas inspections earlier this year. State records show that the restaurant’s application for a license is still pending.
Larin could not be reached for comment.
Joey Bennett, the owner of La Mesa, estimates the restaurant has a couple months of construction to complete before he can take another guess at an opening date. State officials approved the layout of the restaurant, Bennett said.
“It’s just a matter of getting them out there to inspect and then getting the liquor license,” he said.
Because La Mesa is located in a historical district, Bennett has consulted with the Manatee County Historic Preservation Advisory Board on building changes. The board oversees historical and archeological districts, which “prevent destruction or modifications of historic structures, artifacts, and/or district characteristics.”
Moreo, who had years of hospitality education and experience before he arrived at USFSM, also said contractors and deadlines given to them by restaurateurs make a difference.
“It depends on how much you’re willing to pay the contractor,” Moreo said. “If you say come when you can and charge me less, or you pay more for having it done by a certain date.”
Paul Mattison, a local chef and restaurateur who began his culinary career at age 15, has opened his share of restaurants. Currently he owns and operates Mattison’s restaurants and catering. He’s also helped others with launching restaurants and said general underestimation is one of the most common mistakes he sees.
“Restaurants take an extraordinary amount more resources than other businesses, especially with water and sewer,” Mattison said. “It’s a business like any other business, but add perishable product and add a business that can be finicky and difficult to manage.”
As much as restaurateurs may underestimate and fail to think about potential unforeseen obstacles, USFSM College of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership Culinary Services manager Garry Colpitts has this advice: Don’t rush into it, and don’t open if you’re not ready.
“If you don’t make a good first impression on day one, forget it, you’ve lost it,” Colpitts said. “Because if those 40 to 100 people have a bad experience, they’re going to tell 40 to 100 people. No matter how many blimps you have in the air, nobody’s going to come.”