Mike Rabb, who, with his wife Melanie, owned West Midtown Corner Tavern (as well as the original CT in East Point), agrees with Neely’s thoughts on what causes the closures, saying that overbuilding in town, high rents, and less parking have made it harder for customers to get to their restaurants and for them to turn a profit. Melanie sees things pessimistically when predicting the future: “There have to be more closings. Ten to 20 years ago there were maybe two places I went to get BBQ. Currently I can think of 20 places I like and want to check out. Vegas odds would be that an increased turnover is a given.” She also things that management plays a major part in making your restaurant economy-proof.
“The way we used to run restaurants back in the day just won't work. For a restaurant to survive, it's got to be well managed -- not just from the staffing end but from a numbers perspective. Profit margins have to stay tight; there isn't as much room for loss of revenue. You have to be smarter and more controlled with your inventory.”
Ultimately, it seems there's a perfect storm of uncontrollable factors that are killing some of our greatest kitchens: gentrification, increasing rents, higher food costs, and locations that aren't as fertile as aspiring businesses had hoped. Maybe, as Melanie Rabb says, there’s too little between the margins to play around when it’s time to turn a profit. Maybe, ironically, what Atlanta’s restaurant industry needs is just a little more belt-tightening. Then again, maybe we’re franchising our supper sensibilities out to fast-casual smartphone-compatible food, and we’re all in too much of a FOMO-induced state -- insatiably foaming at the mouth for whatever future flavors are in the next bite. Whatever's happening, hopefully it won’t result in ATL becoming a real-life version of Demolition Man, in which we tear down all of our greatest restaurants and turn everything into a Taco Bell. Because sure, Atlanta is popular and more people are moving here, so there's no doubt more condos are coming. But let’s not lose the thing that makes everybody want to come, live, and eat here with us: our exceptionally good taste.
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