Last week a Trinity Groves spokesperson announced Potato Flats had closed, becoming the second failed restaurant in Phil Romano's theme park devoted to scalable food businesses. The closure marks a good time to check in on the overall performance of the West Dallas development, which is actually doing exceptionally well.
Since Trinity Groves got started two years ago, nearly every participating restaurant has remained open. One in four restaurants fails in the first year nationally, yet Trinity Groves, which first started opening restaurants in mid-2013, had only logged a single failure until now. Didi's Tamale Diner operated for just three months before closing — just a blip on the radar — while 15 restaurants are listed on a website for the development, making for an unprecedented success rate. Even when news broke last week that Potato Flats was throwing in the towel, Romano's business experiment remained well ahead of the curve.
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Of course, restaurants in Trinity Groves have an unfair advantage over traditional establishments. The lease for each restaurant is subsidized in exchange for partial ownership. Without cheap rent it's likely that the failure rate at this restaurant theme park would be much closer to typical numbers.
But cheap rent wasn't enough to save Potato Flats. The concept was based on baked potatoes that customers could configure with an endless array of toppings. Potatoes are heavy in carbohydrates, and the bane of the paleo, Atkins and pretty much every popular diet. It's hard to imagine the Park Cities set that so heavily patronizes Trinity Groves chowing down on a cheeseburger potato, even if they'd spent the whole week at the gym.
The setback isn't stopping the owners of Potato Flats from marching ahead. They're in talks with investors and hope to open in new locations more suited to fast casual dining. Low-carb diets be damned: Look for future locations in 2016.
Trinity Groves, on the other hand, keeps chugging ahead, with newcomer Off-Site Kitchen pulling in plenty of new customers.