And unfortunately, there are many people who somehow think that restaurants closing is unique to Great Falls – but the fact is that restaurants are HARD to open, operate, and make successful, and Great Falls is certainly NOT alone in seeing restaurants close on a semi-regular basis. For people who have never lived anywhere but Great Falls, it might SEEM that way – but it’s simply not true. I have lived in many places – large and small cities – and trust me, successful restaurants that stay open for more than a few years are the exception, not the rule.
According to CNBC: “The restaurant business is not for the faint of heart … or stomach. They have a high failure rate, but knowing why can help prospective owners avoid a similar fate. Around 60 percent of new restaurants fail within the first year. And nearly 80 percent shutter before their fifth anniversary.” And the closure rate is correlated to some degree by the size of the restaurant – smaller restaurants with fewer employees have a tougher go – which does reflect a bit on the Great Falls situation, because due to the size of our community, smaller is sort of a given in some respects. I’ve read a few articles that have slightly different % figures listed, but you get the idea – it can be a rough go.
The fact that 5th Street Diner was open for TWENTY YEARS is a great testament to the wonderful owners and staff, and Noodle Express in Great Falls clocking in at TWELVE YEARS is pretty darn good, too.
Part of the incorrect perception of Great Falls restaurants closing at record-setting rates is that the closing restaurants are KNOWN to the community – just about everybody has eaten at, driven by, or heard of 5th Street Diner during its 20-year existence. But when a new restaurant opens, not too many people know about it at first, or even for a long time, simply because it is new. It may get a mention in the TV or paper, and anyone who chances to see or read about it may decide to check it out, but after that initial push, the “newness” quickly fades and a lot of people simply don’t know about it.
So let’s focus on the OTHER side of it — yes, some restaurants are closing, but did you know that there are at least six NEW restaurants that have opened in the last few months?
The Black Bear Diner opened in December over in the Marketplace; I’ve been there twice so far.
The Double Barrel Coffee House Cafe opened recently on 15th Street South – been there a few times, and really enjoyed it.
The Block opened downtown on 5th Street a few months ago; been there three times so far (love it!).
Pho Vi Tai opened several weeks ago along 10th Avenue South, offering some unique dishes (mini-review here).
The Last Straw Bistro just opened this month on Central Avenue – it’s quite fun!
The point is – please don’t let the closure of any particular restaurant (or two, etc) lead you to think that Great Falls is some sort of bottomless pit of despair when it comes to dining out. We have so many choices – some that succeed and stick around for years or decades, others that manage to hit it off for a few good years, and others that try their best but just don’t “click.”
Just like in every other community.