Soon after I arrived in Charleston, I fielded a call from an aggrieved reader, who wished to know why I never wrote about her favorite restaurant, Fatz Café. I explained that I focus primarily on locally owned, independent restaurants, which only upset her further. She’d always thought the Fatz in North Charleston was the sole Fatz in the world.
In recent years, though, fewer customers are making that mistake about any of the 45 restaurants within the Greenville-based chain. “Fatz got off track a little bit,” admits marketing vice president Zac Painter. Based on Painter, Fatz responded to the recession and ensuing drop-off in casual dining traffic by diluting its homegrown Southern character.
“We became everything to everyone, because everybody was fighting over every share of stomach there was clearly,” Painter says.
Now Fatz is wanting to reverse that trend with a new menu featuring freshly made buttermilk biscuits, pimento cheese-and-bacon jam dip plated in a skillet and Mason jar cocktails. The restaurant’s also done away with whatever didn’t pass its “is it Southern?” test, including a lot of the pop music on its playlist.
“We once had an Asian chicken salad,” Painter says. “It had been a great salad, but it’s not exactly what a Southern kitchen would serve, therefore we took them back the menu.”
Painter said customers have mostly responded positively to the changes, but there is a corporate process in position for dealing with guests who desire their Mediterranean fish or pasta back.
“Someone from the support center or regional manager personally contact(s) them to say, ‘We promise you’re likely to love what we’re doing,’” he says, emphasizing quality upgrades for instance a move to Carolina shrimp and homemade peach preserves; the condiment is supposed to reference the converted peach shed which 29 in the past housed the very first Fatz.
“From a kitchen perspective, we’re doing far more things in-house, so that we needed to streamline the menu so that we might be really very best in class at whatever we do,” Painter continues. “We necessary to get back from what https://www.Storeholidayhours.Org/Fatz-Southern-Kitchen-Holiday-Hours-Open-Closed-Today/ was about.”
Fatz isn’t alone in seeking to nurse a casual dining brand back to health. An oversaturated marketplace, interest in local food and also the popularity of fast casual restaurants, like Chipotle, have devastated the casual dining sector. In 2016, Logan’s Roadhouse filed for bankruptcy, while Ruby Tuesday and Bob Evans each closed a large number of locations. Earlier this coming year, the parent company of Carrabba’s and Bonefish Grill announced it had been shuttering 43 outlets.
“It’s been rough,” Painter says. Other chains are testing rebranding in hopes of turning customer demographics inside their favor. A 2014 Morgan Stanley study showed that casual dining’s “core customers” are eaters between the ages of 50 and 68, which may explain why Cracker Barrel recently presented Holler & Dash, an exposed brick-and-cold brew cplgty kind of concept. “We developed Holler & Dash to leverage our brand strengths, more particularly our Southern roots,” a spokeswoman told AdWeek.
Still, aging restaurant chains must also address conditions that Mason jars and iron skillets can’t fix. Over a recent visit to the Fatz in North Charleston, only a couple of the tables inside the section where I was seated were occupied. Within minutes of my arrival, one of the parties received its entrees, including an apparently undercooked steak.