Urban Flats has closed its Lindbergh City Center location "temporarily." I stopped by today and a man entering the locked restaurant who identified himself as a manager said he was told to close the restaurant Monday by owners in Nashville. He was told the owners were looking for new investors and far as he knew, the restaurant would re-open. Apparently, though Urban Flats as a corporation filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last March, it may have recently exited bankruptcy, as I'm told the owners in Nashville are hoping to sell the Buckhead unit to corporate, and have them run it.
Interestingly, though the restaurant has been closed for over three days, its closure seems to have gone unnoticed by nearly anyone, including the leasing agent for the center, who when reached by phone, indicated that the business was open.
Urban Flats first opened at the project in late 2008, and in early 2009 I questioned how successful they would be. On December 24, 2009, signs were posted indicating their "holiday hours" but they never re-opened. In early 2011, I reported new owners would reopen the Lindbergh location (the other in Lawrenceville that closed before Lindbergh would remain closed.) In late July, despite all signs pointing to re-opening being a waste of money, another investor group re-opened the restaurant.
I was invited in to try out the "new" Urban Flats and I gotta say, the food is not bad, nor is the pricing outrageous, it's just a bad location for that type concept. They are trying to be almost a cross between Seasons 52, with full service healthy dishes, and F2o with moderate to mid level pricing heavy on "long plate" options.
As I've said with new eatery Tre'za, it's very difficult to be everything to everyone, so you might as well be good at one thing and do it consistently well. Tre'za also is not quite sure what it is: full service or fast casual. In my mind, and I think most in the restaurant industry, fast casual is a step above the fast food industry and includes such brands as Panera Bread, Willy's Mexicana Grill and Smashburger. Prices are often between $5 and $10 for most entree options. You order at a counter and pick your own table and your food is delivered to your table, usually designated by a number or placard. While gratuities are always welcome, in this service segment, they are not warranted as they are in other segments.
On the other hand, in full service casual restaurants like Ruby Tuesday and Olive Garden, you are assigned a table, are waited on by a server, and as is customary in America, are obliged to leave the server gratuities for waiting on you. Entree prices at casual "mid level" restaurants such as this usually range from about $12 to $20.
Both Urban Flats, and Tre'za for that matter, seem to be caught in between the two, hybrids of sorts, but I fear their desire to be different may be the reason for eventual downfall. Tre'za has already taken note of their pricing issue where some pizzas were as much as $18, and have lowered entree prices across the board.
According to the Urban Flats website, the Ocoee, Florida-based chain currently has five locations in Florida, one in Nashville and one in Atlanta. Tre'za, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has two locations open in Arkansas under the name ZaZa (which will later be rebranded Tre'za), the location in Brookhaven, and an upcoming location in Birmingham at The Summit.
Is Lindbergh City Center just a bad location for restaurants in general, or it more a problem with the restaurants that have opened? Should Urban Flats re-open or should some other business altogether open in its place? What is your take on fast casual vs. casual dining restaurants, what do you prefer? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.