, Salem, MA


February 6, 2013

Letter: Despite changes, restaurant industry in Salem continues to prosper

To the editor,

Tuesday, Feb. 12 will be the last day Café Polonia in downtown Salem will be open for business. Soon after that, it will be taken over by new owners who, after minor renovations, will reopen the location under a new name. While the new restaurant will feature some of Polonia’s menu items, the new concept will be significantly different.

Café Polonia is one of a number of restaurants in our community that have recently closed or changed hands. While this trend may suggest that the number of dining establishments in Salem is not sustainable, I believe that not to be the case.

Whether it is Salem or any other city, only a small number of restaurants enjoy the same longevity as other businesses. It could be said that frequent change is almost an inherent characteristic of the industry. Café Polonia has enjoyed a tremendous following that turned our restaurant into a success. For us, the difficult decision to sell was a result of a change in personal family plans.

Among some of the restaurants in Salem that recently closed or changed ownership, including the Grape Vine, Seaport Café, Strega, Bangkok Paradise, Upper Crust, Green Land and Coven, I believe none did so because their businesses was not sustainable. Oftentimes, these locations were quickly pursued by new owners who have or are in the process of turning them into successful enterprises. Café Polonia alone entertained half a dozen potential buyers who are scouting Salem for possible locations. There are probably many more.

The restaurant business is not easy. Many first-time owners do not realize the amount of work, stress and attention to detail involved. Running a restaurant becomes your life and one needs to have a deep passion for it to do it well. While more and more people dine outside their homes, the industry is competitive and trends are changing quickly. Today’s diners look for a different experience: they prefer smaller, share-size portions, better values, healthier options, locally grown ingredients, and unmatched customer service. Owners need to make sure each customer leaves the establishment satisfied or they run the risk of negative feedback on rating sites which can hurt business and turn potential customers away.

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