“Around since xxxx”

From a reader, Matt:

    Is “Since 19XX” a positive or negative signal for a restaurant? I passed a BBQ restaurant in Denver recently with such a sign. If it’s been around so long but is good, why haven’t I heard of it before? On the other hand, it’s seemingly a positive market signal?

I view that as mostly a negative signal. It does put the restaurant in the top half of the distribution, so if you don’t know where else to go, OK. But such restaurants are rarely excellent or on any number of cutting edges. They are used to serving large numbers of longstanding customers in a pretty reliable manner. Wonderful. Sadly, most people have OK but not great taste. And such restaurants self-consciously think of themselves as a “franchise,” perhaps a bit frozen in time, in a way to be admired by 67-year-olds. Fine.

For the best meals, mostly you should look elsewhere.

p.s. such restaurants also raise the interesting theoretical question of whether a time horizon can be too long. Arguably the most interesting restaurants will end up obsolete, or in some other other way lose their unique balance or capabilities. They just want to be great for a few years, and indeed they can be. The restaurant that sticks around for 57 years is one that makes “pizza” at a “6.7 on a scale of 10” level of quality. Eh.

“Around since xxxx”Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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One Response to “Around since xxxx”

  1. BenK says:

    I will argue that there are several non-linearities. First, any restaurant that says ‘since 16XX’ – or frankly, anything older than 192X – is on a different curve, in a different category. There will always be a place for the Union Oyster House.

    Second, if it is still owner-operated and family-run since 197X to 192X, is it probably quite good at consistent execution but it won’t be innovative. If it has become a chain…

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