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Our periodic series in which we gauge how the global economic slow down is affecting local restaurants and what they are doing to combat it. This issue: Black’s Bar and Kitchen in Bethesda.
The Problem: Revenues are all over the place at Black’s, says co-owner and chef Jeff Black. One week was slow “to the point I was feeling it,” Black says, but another week was $4,000 higher than a year ago. Overall, though, business is “down a little bit” at Black’s. The owner can’t quite pin it all on the poor economy, especially when the other operations in the Black Restaurant Group are actually doing better than last year (BlackSalt and Black Market Bistro) or holding steady (Addie’s). Black blames part of the fluctuations on Bethesda’s burgeoning dining scene, which now includes such newbies as Redwood, Assaggi Mozzarella Bar, and Lebanese Taverna. Of course, part of the issue may be that Black’s own kitchen has been in flux, the reverberations of which have been felt both in the dining room and the kitchen itself.
The Solution: More marketing. Unlike a lot of restaurateurs who cut advertising at the first sight of economic trouble, Black believes in the power of marketing to attract diners. He typically hires PR firms for special occasions only, like when he reopened the renovated Black’s in 2006. But Black recently hired Linda Roth Associates to, among other things, promote Black’s weekend brunch and its happy hours. “We’re trying to do more to point out what we do well,” Black says.