The Great Hall
Why aren't there more of these restaurants? The Great Hall: Why aren't there more of these restaurants?
By W.DeBord on Thursday, April 12, 2001 - 06:29 am: Edit

Tomatos is a chain restaurant I've eaten at in Salt Lake, Utah. It's very similar to Old Country buffet except it's concentrates on salads, homebaked breads(simple breads) and soups. It's kind of the clean, healthy approach to buffet eating. They also have a couple of pasta (made to order) dishes and soft serve ice cream for dessert.

Everytime I've eaten there, it was crowded. Even on weeknights it sells out. I believe the price was around $8.00 per person plus drink costs.

I'm working on some business ideas and this concept is one that really interests me. My spouse and I are avid skiers and dream of owning our own place in a mountain resort area. As I understand now a days in the mountains, winter has become the slow time and summer actually brings more people up. So businesses in the mountains have customers year round.

By W.DeBord on Thursday, April 12, 2001 - 06:54 am: Edit

Personally I go into the mountains to ski hard not to eat. At the end of the day I'm sooo tired that I'm not at all interested in fine dining (dressing up, even staying awake is hard)but I also want something good to eat.
Their are many rental condos and I'd say alot of people choose to eat in. Most hotel/motels offer refidgerators and microwaves in their rooms and continental breakfasts.

These are ghost towns during the middle of the day because everyones up on the mountain. Restaurants don't get alot of turn over opportunity because everyone seems to eat around the same time. We race to be earily birds because if your late your dining options dissapear. It always seems like there aren't enough rest. in these areas. Some places do unbelieveable business and others are always empty.

The grocery stores do alot of business, but they are usually dirty, understaffed and have limited take-out food with no attempt for quality.


By W.DeBord on Thursday, April 12, 2001 - 07:18 am: Edit

So here's my idea...a restaurant very similar to the "Tomatos" I previously described. I'd guess I couldn't afford a place with more than 20 tables. Having a NICE salad bar, soups, homemade bread, dessert bar, self-serve drinks with a constant buffet attentant.

Another thought is to expand this concept and serve "entrees" too. Let the customer place their order at your counter and give them a table number. You bring their entree out while they self-serve everything else. Limited entrees like...roasted chicken, baked pork chops grandma style, a broiled fish, etc... not more than 6 choices.

WHY ISN'T ANYONE DOING THIS ALREADY????? What's the catch I'm missing? Would you have "entrees" or do you think it would work with-out them?

I would like to do more volume out the back door with carryouts to all the condo renters. Maybe even delivery to them????

SO please help me see what's wrong with this idea?? What's its' down falls? Why isn't this being done everywhere???????????????

By Chris on Thursday, April 12, 2001 - 10:05 am: Edit

The problem with a restaurant in a ski area is the fact that they do no business from mid april to mid june and then no business from early sept through december. That is a lot of down time to still come up with rent and other bills. Throw in the fact that the employee pool is basically the un-hireable and also what happens if it's a bad snow year? No customers means no income during your supposed busy time. The ceo of my old place of employment once said "Banks don't like restaurants or ski areas because of their volitity, throw a restaurant in a ski area and a bank won't touch it."

By George (George) on Thursday, April 12, 2001 - 10:07 am: Edit

Here are some things to consider-
Tomatoes does so well because of volume, volume volume. They buy product in volume, have a couple of minimum wage folks that prep it very fast and hundreds of customers to turn it over very fast. Anything not used that day is used the next day or goes into the soups. Most likely the breads are the frozen types.
They do lunch and dinner.
They have lots of tables and probably seat 200 or more and do 3-3.5 turns a night during the week.

Combine that with "rental condos and I'd say a lot of people choose to eat in. Most hotel/motels offer refrigerators and microwaves in their rooms and continental breakfasts." And "Restaurants don't get a lot of turn over opportunity because everyone seems to eat around the same time." You're answering your own question.

And as far as "I would like to do more volume out the back door with carry outs to all the condo renters. Maybe even delivery to them????" The narrow window to do the carryout would require more space than you could pay for, combined with "grocery stores do a lot of business, but they are usually dirty, understaffed" where would you get the bodies to staff the place and do takeout?

All that said how about this-

A breakfast place that opens early, specializes in incredible baked goods, is on the way to the ski area, does boxed lunches with gourmet sandwiches on home baked breads and closes around 1PM. Go as high end on everything so you can. Get the best ticket average you can. Breakfast is the lowest food cost meal period, your cooking to order so your waste in minimal, Have a large self serv "Gourmet Coffee" area, and your able to focus on your talents- baking.

You woun't get rich but it would pay the bills and be a good lifestyle.

Just a thought,


By chefmanny on Thursday, April 12, 2001 - 01:04 pm: Edit

I live in S. Fl and there is or was a Tomatoe's
here I went in one night out of curiosity because
I was walking around the area where the restaurant
To make a long story short...I will never go to
one again.
The salads looked limp and old, not iced properly,
short staffed, two soups and one was empty the
other had reduced so much it was like salty
wallpaper paste. The tables were dirty, no busser
I'm guessing. I actually had to clean off a table
to eat with my son.
Tomatoes is on my never return to list.

By W.DeBord on Friday, April 13, 2001 - 07:15 am: Edit

This is why I'm asking......I know there had to be a down side because there is such an obvious vacancy for this type of place in resort areas...I knew I couldn't be the first person to see this.

I can't understand how the small breakfast places make it. There's alot of breakfast competion. I think more people eat dinner out, or at least don't prepare their own.

Upscale places...there are too many in resort areas, that are horrible.

I'm trying to think of something simple. I have ten years of catering (volume) cooking and zero line cooking experience, three years of pastry.

By W.DeBord on Friday, April 13, 2001 - 07:30 am: Edit

What I'm really good at is sweet tables. I've gotten to be a pretty good baker now, but with my art background I can do things that blow people away (better than what's photographed in most books). I'd wouldn't mind being Colette Peters and publishing my sweet tables in do I get that job? Just kidding!

Any ideas (other than being a pastry chef at a country club) on how to make money off of sweet tables?

By chris on Friday, April 13, 2001 - 09:13 am: Edit

The little breakfast places out here in winterpark that have been here for a while and are "making it" do alot more than just breakfast. When the doors close at one the kitchens are still in operation doing off site catered functions, or the kitchen space is rented out to caterers. (who sometimes aren't very educated in the clean up dept) Throw in the fact that the staff (usually the owner)arrives at 12:30 to 1:30 a.m. to prepare for a.m. ops and the job doesn't feel all that glamourous anymore.

By peachcreek on Friday, April 13, 2001 - 05:37 pm: Edit

I have lived and worked in small mountain towns for most of my life. And restaurants in mountain towns can be sucessful. It is different than working in a large operation with a large year-round population in the area. And living in a small rural community is much different than living in a populated area. I find that it is the social shock of moving to a small town that is the hardest adjustment for people . They just can't get used to the slower pace. Or the fact that everybody for 50 miles around knows everything about you.....

By W.DeBord on Monday, April 16, 2001 - 08:11 am: Edit

The slower pace is part of the long as it's slower and still profitable. I could change pace, but I still need to make enough to live on plus save for retirement.....can you do that?

I've met people on the chair lifts that tell you their from CO but now live in the plains. They say they ski more now because the make the time for it, then when they lived locally.

But then you have to visit Salt Lake. You have a city that's closer to the ski resorts than my house is to my work. The guys at all the rental shops (in town) tell us a bad year is skiing less then 30 days in the season.

So I guess the next question is, what kind of income are we talking about? What would you guess the average income is for a owner (of a rest. like Carvers or The Kitchen)?

By chefmanny on Monday, April 16, 2001 - 09:03 am: Edit

breakfast places are a gold mine, granted you may not make millions but, the profit margin is awesome. Figure how much 2 eggs, 3 strips of bacon, 1 potato and/or pancakes or waffles cost.
How much do you get for it $5-6. That is probably less then 10-12% food cost and your inventory can be minimal and if you loose it it is not a big ticket item.
The other up side is you are out of there by 2-3 if you do lunch also.
You have to work toooooooo.....hard to operate a dinner house and you will get a better % return on your $ with breakfast and lunch. You need way too much labor for dinner also! Breakfast, you ana a couple of waitrons can handle.

By Chris on Monday, April 16, 2001 - 10:29 am: Edit

I don't know how much the above make off of their b-fast ops but I do know of another rest in fraser that is for sale and he does a great business. It's called Sharkey's, He does so well that he takes his entire staff, if they last the entire season,about 8 employees, to vegas at the end of the season. I don't know who he has the business listed with but the only reason he wants out is so that he can move closer to his family. Great oppourtunity!!

By peachcreek on Tuesday, April 17, 2001 - 03:58 pm: Edit

The key to any resort restaurant is to get the locals. The local population will keep you busy when the tourists are gone. Most locals won't even be seen in a restaurant during the busy season. And chances are the locals are busy too, when the tourists are in town. The last small town I lived in 25% of town would show up on any given day in the off season. Unfortunately, only 43 people lived in town....You get the picture.
DeBord, you mentioned Salt Lake City. I live near there, and it is my opinion that they may be the most underdeveloped restaurant area in the U.S. That town gets excited when they build a new Applebees! You have to go to the ski towns nearby to get a decent meal.

By W.DeBord on Wednesday, April 18, 2001 - 08:01 am: Edit

I do love the Salt Lake area.....GREAT GREAT SKIING!!!! SOOOO convenient to the airport, freindly people etc...!!!!!

We stay in Sandy if were skiing Alta or Snowbird...then we eat in and around the Salt lake area. We've had some really good meals there at places that you wouldn't believe. For instance theres an Olive Garden, that's packed everyday all day and all night. Their chef is definately a talented person, the food doesn't taste like it's from a chain rest.(I often think I should write a letter to their headquaters mentioning this)!

They call fried dough "scones".....whats with that?

Then, there's Deer Valley the most amazing ski resort...fresh flowers in the bathrooms, fine art on the ski slopes (well in the yards of the homes surrounding it) the best, most amazing food at a ski resort!!!!!! P.S. I bought "Snowballs" the book their pastry chef just published.

By W.DeBord on Wednesday, April 18, 2001 - 08:15 am: Edit

I could definatly picture myself living there, we actually did look at housing there (without a realitor). It was a bit confusing, there would be a really nice subdiv. next to a run down shack of a house with three horses. We never figured out what area would be the "right side of town", yet affordable for us. Spouse liked the area up foothill drive (older homes) but even there the area was mixed with rentals and shacks.

Two things that worried me about locating there...are the housing prices escalated due to the up-coming olympics and would they drop a couple years later? Also, if a rest. adventure failed I didn't see where I could find employement as a pastry chef (around $40,000)? My husband does heavy highway bridge construction (after all the highways are done will they keep building up that area)????

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