Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe announced on Friday that it will temporarily suspend dinner and late night service at both its Emeryville and Oakland locations. The announcement, published on their website, touched off some concerns amid swirling rumors of the direction of the beloved establishment that helped put “E’ville” on the map.
“We’re not selling the company and we’re not going out business” noted Rudy’s founder and co-owner Jeffery Bischoff through email. Bischoff was quick to dismiss any rumors about the long-term viability of the establishment he founded in Emeryville in 2002 and expanded to Oakland in 2011. “We are simply restructuring the organization. We’re updating training programs and manuals and doing some much-needed maintenance. There are no code or city violations that are causing this. It was an internal decision made by the owners.”
Restaurants have been especially vulnerable to recent labor laws and many are struggling to adapt quick enough to stay afloat. Labor laws that mandate higher wages yet do not provide a tip exemptions and more recently scheduling ordinances that would hinder their ability to adjust to surges in business which restaurants are notorious for. Restaurants already operate under the thinnest of profit margins and will need to optimize efficiencies if they are to remain sustainable long-term.
Bischoff has not been involved in the day-to-day operations of the restaurants for some time but decided to put a pause on his consulting business to return to one of his first true loves. “I came back from a family retreat in the mountains and made the decision to commit 100% of my time to Rudy’s”.
Bischoff first made the difficult decision to dramatically scale back service to allow time to make these adjustments. “We can either try to rebuild the engine while speeding down the highway, or slow things down a bit. Temporarily reducing our hours will give us time to retool including new equipment, training, technology and some cosmetic updates”.
“I take great pride in the restaurants we built and the community that we serve. I live in Oakland and I have heard loud and clear from our customers, friends and family. This restructure is part of our commitment to giving Rudy’s customers the level of service they want and deserve.”
– Mike Dirnt (Green Day Bassist/Rudy’s Co-Owner)
Bischoff notes there are no planned layoffs as a result of the diminished shifts and he hopes to see all his employees through this transition and back to work. “We’re taking the ‘Longview’ of things” citing a popular Green Day song. “Like a good track needs a strong bass-line, we need to a strong foundation to build and grow our business on.”
Bischoff could not commit to a timeframe on returning to normal business hours. “We hope to be back to our normal 7 am to 1 am hours as soon as possible.” Bischoff even acknowledged the possibility of a third East Bay location that they are currently evaluating. “We’re not going anywhere” he added emphatically.
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I’m going to starve. Rudy’s is my dining room.
I’m glad they are going to take some time to address issues. Here is something: My boyfriend & I each ordered a burger and a shake to go from Emeryville Rudy’s @ dinnertime, a couple months ago. It cost a lot of money, I think they had raised prices while making their food portions smaller. I doubt that prices are going to come down (they never do) but they really should. I have a hard time coughing up $16.75 for a burger and in this case, the food quality & quantity are going to have to step up quite a bit to justify doing it again. We don’t need an East Bay version of The City’s Mel’s Drive In chain .
Thanks Michelle and I’ll echo your sentiments that prices are not coming down but also want to reinforce that their high prices are reflective of the city’s ideas of supporting their “living wage” idea. I think the city has done a HORRIBLE job of communicating that their pursuit of the highest minimum wage in the nation means passing the cost along to the consumer and if you support this, than we as consumers need to help shoulder the burden. I think Rudy’s has identified that their are some service lapses that they need to rectify as well.
I really like the site, but I wish the blog would treat the minimum wage ordinance with a little bit more objectivity by refraining from such direct causal statements. You could be right that the increased costs reflect the increased cost of labor, but the connection isn’t necessarily quite so simple or singular as your sentence suggests, and as the blog often speculates. A lot of data out there suggests that minimum wage increases don’t dramatically affect consumer costs. On the other hand, there are a number of other potential factors that get sidelined when the MWO is blamed for a cost-pass to consumers. For example, there are so many stories about how Bay Area restaurants are making less and less economic sense because the local housing situation prices restaurant workers out: forcing them into hour or two-hour long public transit commutes that they would happily avoid by taking jobs closer to where they’re forced to live. I’d also be curious to see how Rudy’s pricing compares to other late-night eateries, which seem to me to have increased their prices at a similar rate: possibly reflecting the exponential increase in cost associated with having a restaurant open for longer hours.
Again, I’m not writing this to pick a fight. Community members should be concerned when restaurant owners who close up shop in the are mention the MWO, since even a skeptic should remember that such statements affect a city’s reputation, and therefore have an impact on our community’s future growth. I’m just mentioning this because I think the spin from the site’s creator encourages an air of exclusivity to the site that it does not deserve: creating an unnecessary distraction and potential impediment to the growth of a great community resource.
Small independent businesses should avoid Emeryville. The situation here is very bad. No one is going to pay $16 for a burger when they can go a mile away and pay a reasonable price. The Emeryville city council killed the small business scene here.
Apologies for the lengthy and somewhat meandering comment, but I’ve given the failure of various E’ville business a lot of thought and therefore have a lot on my mind!
To be honest, the restaurants in E’ville that I see struggling/failing are generally the ones that aren’t measuring up. With the notable exception of Cafe Aquarius, which was awesome and a real loss, I was never impressed with Farley’s (overpriced and mediocre w/attitude), Teacake Bake Shop (shockingly, Barnes & Noble Cafe outdid their cupcakes), nor Elephant Bar (simply awful). That those three failed is survival of the fittest and, frankly, the way it should be!
If you hit up awesome E’ville spots like Jasmine Blossom Thai, Los Moles, Hot Italian, or Spoon (technically in Berkeley, but so close we can claim it), you’ll routinely find crowds of people who will wait in line to pay for the delicious food and good service these establishments provide. I’m willing to splurge at Hot Italian on a delicious pizza I can’t possibly make at home or find in the frozen food aisle at Trader Joe’s. What I’m not paying for? The other commenter’s $16 burger, the ingredients of which clearly come from the same food service suppliers who stock dorms and cafeterias.
On that note:
I recently ate at Rudy’s, which I did like when I first moved here four years ago, but I haven’t been back because the food was sub-par and the service was laughable. Our server forgot about us, then left us waiting for 20 minutes for fountain beverages, then forgot what we ordered, and when we finally received our simple plate another 20+ minutes later, our food (which tasted like it was made from frozen and canned grocery store components) was lukewarm. We ordered pie afterwards … after waiting another 20 minutes, we canceled the request, asked another server for our bill, and left. Truly ridiculous.
There have been many articles on this blog speculating that the E’ville businesses that have been closing are a sign of dire financial times on the horizon, or the effects of the increased minimum wage. I’m not well-versed enough in economics to say either way. My layman’s observation is that if the food, services, merchandise, etc., are good and appropriately priced for the city’s demographic, E’villians will come!
It seems to me there are a lot of misconceptions about who actually lives, works and shops here. Perhaps because of the high rents, E’ville’s been mistaken for a luxury market, but the fact is that a lot of the shoppers are here for Old Navy and Ikea, not White House Black Market (no doubt next on the Bay Street chopping block) and Pottery Barn (which, unsurprisingly, closed). Speaking from my own experience, I moved here to escape the crazy rent of San Francisco. I’m doing well enough to survive, but not well enough to drop $300 on a skillet — yeah, Williams-Sonoma (another Bay Street casualty), I’m looking at you! I’ll happily hit up Ross … another business in our little city that’s always teeming with paying customers.
In my apartment building, there are people who work in SF, but came here to escape the rent; families who prefer the kid-friendly environment and lower prices of Emeryville; and UC Berkeley students. Other people are here on short contracts with one of the many major companies that call E’ville home, hence why they need to rent and not own. None of these people are looking to buy heirloom-quality furniture, nor splash ridiculous sums on a burger they can get at Denny’s in 15 minutes or less for 2/3 the price and the same quality of that at Rudy’s.
I would implore anyone who plans to set up shop in E’ville to really get to know and understand the demographic so their efforts will not be in vain. Bay Street Emeryville in particular should take a moment to reevaluate the stores they install in their spaces. And restaurants should consider that:
A) We all live a hop and skip away from Berkeley Bowl, so crappy frozen food at a so-called local business won’t fly
B) A lot of people just want to grab moderately-priced, delicious takeout after a long day working outside of E’ville + a tiring commute, so that should be a no-brainer component of their businesses.
It’s not that it’s impossible to succeed in Emeryville — it’s that businesses have to put more care into understanding the challenges and their market. Kudos to Rudy’s for taking the time to get back on track. I’m confident they can become a local favorite again. Other businesses should follow suit!
“My layman’s observation is that if the food, services, merchandise, etc., are good and appropriately priced for the city’s demographic, E’villians will come!”
And the business will fail because they won’t be profitable while paying the highest minimum wage, the highest rents, and some of the highest taxes in the country.
The reason the quality is going down, and the service is bad, and the lines are long is because that’s what’s required here to break even. The owners eliminated the staff they need, they cut the quality of the food, and they are trying to make money in an impossible situation.
The owner of Los Moles spoke about Emeryville’s problem in the LA Times. The owners of Summer Summer work 40 hour a week second jobs to make ends meet.
The best solution for small businesses is to leave the city and let the chains like Dennys aand the high margin gentrified boutiques and bars have the place.
Sorry, meant to say Jasmine Blossom, who you mentioned, whose owners work 2 full time jobs, not Summer Summer down the street. Summer Summer’s ownership has spoken publicly that they are under attack by the city and that it’s nearly impossible to do business here.
[…] can either try to rebuild the engine while speeding down the highway, or slow things down a bit,” Co-Owner Jeff Bischoff noted at the […]