As the current recession took hold beginning in 2007, the neighborhood restaurant was certainly not immune to its impact.
Many people stopped dining out to save money, much to the chagrin of restauranteurs.
According to The NPD Group, a market research company, restaurants experienced a weak year in 2011 and 2012 is expected to start slowly. Many restaurants will need to work harder to entice customers and ensure their businesses survive and grow.
In South Gate, the story has been surprisingly positive, at least for a couple of Tweedy Mile restaurants. In the midst of a down market, they have managed to identify menu items and employ strategies that have brought customers to their restaurants.
From 2008 through 2009, T&C Hamburgers on Tweedy Boulevard was in a slump, pulling in about 60 percent less in revenues than the comparable period prior to the recession.
“We added Mexican plates to our menu,” said Eulogio Marcelo Jr., 26, co-owner and chef at T&C Hamburgers. “Most of the people who work at the dental places and banks started coming after work with their families because of the Mexican plates.”
Marcelo’s diversification into Mexican menu items led to an estimated 80 percent revenue growth from 2010 through 2011.
“The Mexican plates helped us build that 15 to 20 percent profitability that we have,” said Marcelo.
Customers have been supportive.
“The customers have gotten to know the new menu and they like it,” said Alejandro Teodoro, who has been a cook at T&C for several years. “[T&C] is going in the right direction.”
Introduction of a popular new service or product can also bring a lot of traffic to a restaurant and give a boost to a new restaurant just starting to build its clientele.
Wing House restaurant on Tweedy Boulevard was founded in April 2010, then opened a bar area in August 2011. It has since seen an estimated 250 percent increase in both revenue and customers.
“When the bar opened, everything went up, both the clientele and the revenue,” said Grant Pstikyan, 25, CEO and owner of Wing House. “We attracted a clientele that was not coming before.”
Offering new services is another strategy that has led to growth for both Tweedy Boulevard restaurants.
In the case of T&C Hamburgers, customizing some of the food for regulars has developed loyal customers and return business.
“I order off the menu or [Eulegio] will change it up and suggest things,” Daniel Chavez, a tattoo artist, who has been a regular since July 2011. “They cater to exactly what you want.”
At Wing House, the staff prides itself in offering food unlike any in the surrounding area.
“I don’t have competition, because I am different,” said Pstikyan. “If I would start offering ‘mariscos,’ I would be like many other restaurants in the block.”
Most of the customers from Wing House are local to the area and are happy with the proximity of the restaurant to their homes.
“It is [a] gas saver for me because I live in Lynwood,” said Jessie Martinez, 20, who would otherwise be forced to drive to Downey or downtown Los Angeles to find a specialty wings restaurant with a sports fan atmosphere. “I have been here like 10 times since it opened.”