Ouch. The closing of Manny’s on the River and the Jimmy John’s sandwich shop at South Fourth Street and Franklin Avenue left many of us surprised, especially given glowing reviews we’ve received from friends and co-workers. However, no one should necessarily see these closings as evidence that downtown Waco isn’t a vibrantly promising venue, especially for eateries. It only confirms a certain overlooked reality: “Location, location, location” is sure critical but not the sole ingredient in any successful business.
As one restaurateur informed veteran Trib business writer Mike Copeland while he was interviewing different folks about these closures, Manny’s on the River could be inconsistent in food quality — “sometimes great and sometimes not.” For a lot of busy customers with a host of other restaurants and food trucks constantly beckoning, one or two disappointments are all it takes to compel even the most reasonable patron to go elsewhere.
The closure of Jimmy John’s, part of a popular chain nationwide, is especially puzzling, given its location in the heart of downtown. Some have hinted that the controversial big-game pursuits of its owner were enough to discourage at least some animal-loving patrons (though owner Jimmy John Liautaud insists he no longer hunts big African game.) On the other hand, we’re not sure we’ve ever seen an assembly-line operation that worked so well and so merrily in producing sandwiches so promptly. Fans of the shop can still find another Jimmy John’s on Speight Avenue.
Meanwhile, both closures offer lessons to those restaurant owners savvy enough to learn from others’ mistakes and missteps. And with the Waco City Council’s approval this week of a $100 million pact for a riverfront development dubbed Brazos Promenade, digesting these lessons for long-term improvement and sustained dividends is strongly advisable.