Thursday, January 5, 2012

Urban Flats Closes "Temporarily" at Lindbergh City Center

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.

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8 comments:

Anonymous said...

i think residents are scared to walk around the area there, to be honest. i had a friend who lived in the apartments behind pike's and after the "kidnapping" a year or so ago move the hell out!

Anonymous said...

B.S. to the comment above. I have spent a lot of time here due to holiday returns at Target and Best Buy. I also get my hair cut near Chic Fil A. It is always bustling and safe.

Why post false info? Is your life that miserable?

Anonymous said...

Agree that the 1st comment is BS. Chilis, Longhorns & Taco Mac are plenty busy. I went to the Urban Flats in Nashville and it was PACKED. I was shocked, considering what I've read about it here in Atlanta. Not sure why the 3 restaurants I mention can be crowded and Urban Flats isn't...

Anonymous said...

It's pretty easy to figure out - mixed demographics and parking issues..atlantans don't do well with Parking decks, which is a broad generalization but applies to a lot of centers that are struggling.

Also the clientelele they're targeting doesn't go into the center either..other than maybe pikes, the rest is targeting the lower to middle income.

- Chris

Anonymous said...

Lindbergh City Center flat out sucks (no pun intended)! Traffic is the worst in the city along Piedmont right in front of it. Parking deck is expensive. Maybe Urban Flats should just move instead of opening and closing twice now and considering opening in the same failing location for a third time!?!? Who ever the investors are that would put up money to re-open it need to call me. I've got some ocean front property to sell you out in Paulding County. Dummies.

Anonymous said...

The parking deck is expensive? Every place in there validates parking if you ask. I live in the Amli apartments across the street and my husband and I routinely walk up to the shopping center for dinner at all of those restaurants (miss you, Bobby G's!). We also often walk home from MARTA and have never had a problem with safety - nor have I ever felt threatened when walking alone.
The problem with Urban Flats, which we patronized four times before giving up, was the lousy, couldn't-care-less attitude of the servers. Food was pretty good...once you were actually able to order and it eventually arrived.
I'm guessing the management of the center isn't doing much to keep these places around.

Anonymous said...

I only go to Lindbergh Center businesses if I can take Marta. I got caught up in that parking deck mess enough times to avoid it. It can take 20 minutes and a lot of frustration to get out of that parking deck. Not sure why but that deck gets way too crowded.

Anonymous said...

Lindbergh is a bit of a pain in the butt when it comes to parking, and rush hour on the local roads can be quite the nightmare but, as others noted, Chili's, Longhorn and Taco Mac all seem to do well.

I've been to both the Urban Flats at Lindbergh and at The Villages (Florida). I went to the latter UF while visiting my parents, who live at The Villages and, trust me, it's all about ADVERTISING.

That Urban Flats is part of the Villages community -- they constantly promote themselves in local media, have tables at town fairs and other events, promote trivia and poker nights, etc. When I went there with my wife and parents, there was a 30 MINUTE WAIT for a table.

Fast-forward to my wife and I going to UF at Lindbergh Center. There were all of seven people dining in the restaurant. None of the wait staff seemed to give a flip about service. I went back around the holidays to get a gift card for my parents, and the entire wait staff was around the bar, playing along with a "Price is Right" contestant on the TV.

The only times I see Urban Flats being promoted in Lindbergh is through, of all places, this website.