Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Sacramento Icon, Brother Oliver's, Closes its Doors

In what may be the first victim of the faltering economy combined with a dramatic increase in California's minimum wage, Brother Oliver's, a Sacramento area restaurant best know for it's tudor style building and its English pub feel, closed its doors the night of Tuesday, January 22.

Robert Miller opened Brother Oliver's over 28 years ago and for the last quarter century, it was an icon on the corner of Madison and Manzanita on the edge of the Sacramento community of Carmichael.

On Tuesday, Robert and his family simply walked away from his life's work. Why? For the same reason any business fails.... outgo was greater than income.

Essentially, the continuous increase in CODB (cost of doing business) including lease of the building, increased food costs and wage increases were too much for the Miller family to sustain.

Whether or not they tried to sell the restaurant first is hard to discern, and Robert is a very private individual with too much pride to hang his problems on others. No, the restauranteur simply decided that instead of paying the increased costs, he should just gather the staff around, give them the bad news and close the doors.

Now I can debate all day and all night that their are a thousand other options that are better than just good riddens to your life's work, but, then again, I am not privy to their books or the dy to day operations.

I do know that the current owners of the building and the land, apparently real a-holes, raised the rent to almost $12,000 a month (up from $10K); food costs have continuoulsy increased due to the rising cost of gas, corn, and other fundamental building blocks of the food industry; and the increase in the minimum wage for servers... good for them, bad for restaurants.

I am also sure that Robert, who is in his early 60's, was far too set in his ways to make the dramatic changes necessary to keep Brother Oliver's hip in the increasingly competitive Sacramento area restaurant market.

But still, there are so many easy solutions... marketing is the first. Robert continued paying for expensive Sacramento Bee advertising. Truly a waste. But he never brought anyone in to help him understand how modern marketing is done for little or no costs. And the idea of social networking or web 2.0 was far too foreign. Then, of course, there is the decor... a real neat concept, but was it increasingly... dull? And the menu. From a grand menu with terrific options to a single one-page with limited selections. One pagers ARE definitely the trend in modern restaurants, but it looks like a menu based on food cost, not on customer demand.

And instead of walking away... what about selling? What about auctioning off the memorabilia and other restaurant equipment?

Oh well... just another RANT: Restaurants are a tough business... Brother Oliver's thrived for a quarter century. That's amazing. It died a quick death. That's stupid.


Anonymous said...

Truly a shame the way this business ended. I used to love happy hour there and spent many fun nights of my younger years in the night club. I agree he should have sold the business. And to set the record straight, he didn't gather his staff around and break the news. They were notified by a long time waitress without warning. A lot of the staff had been loyal to him for years and that is how they were treated in the end. Shame on that business owner!

Anonymous said...

yeah, i'm pretty devestated by this closure :o(. We had some good times there.

Susan said...

oh this is horrible!! Brother Olivers was one of the three restaurants from my husband and my courting days. we loved that they served dinner late when I worked retail many many moons ago. in fact, I found your blog while looking for their webpage. tomorrow is our 15th anniversary and we planned to go there for dinner to celebrate......the other two restaurants have been long closed.

David Gay said...

I live right down the street. My family used to go to Brother Oliver's for a Christmas lunch. The atmosphere felt perfect. As a kid, I loved the restaurant Steak and Ale, in the same building.

The next closest place is Garcias Mexican restaurant or Lyons, both chain restaurants. Not to mention the Kentucky Fried Chicken, Arby, Togos, or the new Starbucks, all on the same corner.

It seems almost every restaurant I like closes. When quality vanishes, we get blandness. Goody for us.

Anonymous said...

Good was a mismanaged falling apart dump. And the owner, Robert, was petty and mean.