Boy, these are hard times for restaurants in the U.S., particularly for Indian restaurants that are starting to see long and dark shadows fall over them.
Real hard times, folks.
Market researcher NPD has just put out a report that traffic for casual dining restaurants in the U.S. declined 4% in this year’s spring quarter ending May 2009 compared to the same period last year while total restaurant traffic fell 2.6% for the spring quarter, the sharpest decline in traffic since 1981.
Even fast food restaurants have not been immune to the recession and are seeing a 2% decline in traffic.
NPD reports that the decline is across the board, meaning that traffic is down for all of main categories of restaurants i.e fast food, casual dining and mid-scale and down for all meal occasions – morning meal, lunch and supper.
Apparently, restaurant owners’ misery is keeping pace with the unemployment. No surprise, indeed.
NPD is not the only one talking gloom and doom.
Last week, Zagat said pretty much the same thing in its survey finding that more New Yorkers are cooking and entertaining at home. Zagat reported that of the 6,807 New York foodies who responded to its survey, 61% said they are cooking at home more since the economic downturn, and 56% are entertaining less outside the home.
Indian Restaurants – Blood On the Ground
Folks, we see a carnage ahead for Indian restaurants in the U.S.
We are already starting to see smaller crowds in some of the Indian restaurants we visit.
But then most Indian restaurants in the U.S. are pathetic pieces of shit that have no business calling themselves restaurants in the first place.
We know of at least four Indian restaurants that have closed in New Jersey in recent times: Tanjore, Malabar, Vasanta Bhavan and Chennai Ponnusamy.
Tanjore in North Brunswick was a decent restaurant that we’ve visited on a few occasions. We enjoyed our meal at Chennai Ponnusamy too. Malabar in Piscataway was a restaurant that we’d been planning to visit for quite some time and when we finally did recently the place was closed. As for Vasanta Bhavan in Hamilton, we’re surprised it even lasted this long.
By our reckoning, the next shoe to drop will be New York Indian restaurants.
In fact, the blood bath for NYC Indian restaurants may have already begun.
Satinder Sharma: Feeling the Heat
A short while ago when we called Bombay Grill and Purima, both NYC restaurants that we’ve dined at to different degrees of pleasure, we got a recorded message that the telephone lines have been ‘temporarily disconnected.’ Go figure.
With their high rents, low traffic, mostly poor hygiene and usually crappy food, NYC Indian restaurants will likely pay a very heavy price. Don’t be surprised if you hear 12 months from now that more than a dozen of them have disappeared.
In what seemed like a desperate move, recently the manager at one of New York City’s most prominent Indian restaurants called us and asked about advertising on our sites. When we told the bloke in passing that even if he advertised we would not remove his restaurant review the fellow never called back.
The same bloke even had a Tamil speaking person of Indian origin (now living in the Far East) call us one night in an obvious bid to influence us in removing posts related to his NYC restaurant. Desperate times call for desperate measures, eh?
Satinder Sharma, partner in the two Brick Lane Curry restaurants in NYC, is feeling the heat not just from his Tandoor ovens but from the impact on the bottomline as well:
I’m seeing close to 20%-25% decline from my gross, which kind of wipes out the bottomline. We’re hanging in there and hoping the worst is over.
Sharma bemoans the loss of the huge chunk of his South Asian clientele who have moved back because they lost their jobs in NYC.
While Sharma is confident that he can ride out the recession because his restaurants are an ‘existing brand,’ he’s heard of eight to 10 NYC Indian restaurants or ‘may be more’ that are on the market:
They can’t sell because there are no buyers.
Recession or no recession, Sharma has recently opened two Paratha Junction restaurants in New Jersey (Franklin Park and Jersey City) that are also showing ‘small minus figures’ but reckons it’s still early days for them.
Sharma told us he’s heard that two restaurants near his Paratha Junction outpost in Jersey City are also looking for buyers.
The dark shadows are not falling over Indian restaurants in NYC or New Jersey alone.
When we were in Virginia over the weekend, we tried calling Ruchi in Sterling to get directions but found the number had been disconnected.
We do not share Sharma’s optimism that the storm has passed. That’s wishful thinking because the economic climate is worsening except for a privileged few.
Au contraire, we are certain more Indian restaurants in the U.S. will die.
But shed no tears.
Most Indian restaurants in the U.S. deserve to die because these bastard offspring did not deserve to be born in the first place (a lot of these restaurants are no more than ugly impostors and shameless rip-off artists serving some of the sickest food and doling out the ugliest service, particularly to desi diners).
God willing, only the best will survive this carnage.