Monday, January 26, 2015

Bantu Jumping The Gun On Second Location?

Bantu adding second location

Bantu Noodles, a  fast casual "Asian fusion" restaurant, has already signed a lease for a second restaurant less than six months after launching its first.  

Banu was conceptualized by Ciaran Duffy, an Irishman who traveled extensively to China and fell in love with the cuisine. Duffy is listed as "The Chef / President" on the restaurant's website.  Additionally, according to Bantu's website,  Duffy has "twenty years in the kitchen."  During this time, Duffy has reportedly worked at "some of the best restaurants and private clubs in the South and worked alongside some of the world's best chefs."

Bantu's new location will be at the corner of Peachtree & Sixth Streets in midtown, in the lobby level of the Viewpoint condo building.  The space, measuring 3246 square feet, was previously a Sprint store, and before that, Clear.  Plans call for the new Bantu to open in April.

The first Bantu opened last fall in Avalon in Alpharetta. I went once and have spoken to others that have gone since. As sad as it is to say, it was one of my worst overall restaurant experiences of the past few years. The food, the aesthetics, the atmosphere, the layout, it was basically all bad.  

Bantu lists "Fast, Casual, and a Great Value" as a tagline of sorts on their website.  Interestingly though, I found their food slow to appear and overpriced considering the portion size. They do earn high marks for a sleek design that is appealing and effectively positions them within the "fast casual" segment.  

Design aside, a brief glance at Bantu's Yelp reviews give credence to my observations as the restaurant has over 40 reviews but only a 2.5 overall rating.  

Among the more alarming reviews were ones such as:

"SAVE YOUR MONEY! Over priced and flavorless. Got up and left food sitting on the table. Food served lukewarm."

"Horrible. Everything is horrible. Water and coke is good that's about it.  Pad Thai tastes like it was made from lime juice.  Asian bbq pork udon broth has no flavor. Steam bun was pure grease and fat. You've been warned."

Both of the above reviews are from November, about a month after opening.

"Had the Pad Thai here and was really unimpressed. Just a lot of weird Flavors going on here, and WAY too many bean sprouts. (For my taste at least) and it really upset my stomach. I was expecting this place to be more like a Tin Drum, which is one of my favorite places but this isn't even a comparison. I probably wouldn't come back. I will say the restaurant has a really cool vibe about it, the food however is lacking."

"High prices, terrible service, SLOW kitchen, mediocre food. I will not be returning any time soon."

"Food is mediocre at best! Will NEVER come back here. Had to order more white rice to combat all the soy sauce in my daughter's fried rice. Honestly, ready-to-make Asian food from the market is better than this place."

The above three reviews are all from this month, certainly well past any acceptable opening days / week jitters.  

All of this to say Bantu ain't exactly killin' it, so one has to question the thought process of opening a second location.  

I seriously don't understand people who without even six months under their belt, sign leases for additional locations. Midtown, especially on / just off Peachtree Street, has a record of being tough on restaurants.  

Not that it will help Bantu's business, but Jeanette & Co. Bakery is also opening in a shoebox (904 square foot) space in Viewpoint.  The small bakery specializes in Macarons and other French pastries and has two locations in South Florida.

In addition, Starbucks has temporarily relocated to Viewpoint (former Evos space) as their nearby location was demolished to make way for a new condo project.  Seventh, aptly named given its location at Peachtree and Seventh Streets, will house Starbucks in its street level with the coffee shop expecting to reopen in their new space later this fall.  

It's never my intent simply to bad mouth a business but this decision is a head scratcher to me.  I'm not in the restaurant or retail business, but one metric that's used in both is a measure of stores / restaurant open at least one year.  It's unfair and unwise to make growth decisions / projections based on the results of such a small period.  

Have you been to Bantu?  If so, what were your thoughts? Do you think it's wise to open a second location so soon after a first location and with such negative reaction?  

Please share your thoughts below  


Eric said...

We've heard from friends that the noodles were really bland and lousy let alone the price. The bigger question to be answered is how many of the restaurants at Avalon will fail? Interestingly enough, you'll find that the retail that are the more typical mall stores (Banana Republic) are generally very busy, yet many specialty stores are incredibly quiet. We know many people that would be considered to be in their demographic of having disposable income to spend on these high priced stores, yet none of us have any interest in spending that kind of money in these stores.

Chris Bonnett said...

I was there a month ago. The service style doesn't fit their concept. To me, it's set up like a counter-service type restaurant. I was confused when the employee showed us to our table. I ordered the BBQ pork udon. The pork was amazing!! The broth was super salty. All of the other veggies in the broth were actually really good. My coworker had something similar to a banhmi and sweet potato fries and she really enjoyed it. Service was also really slow I think a 2nd location this soon is not a wise decision.

Anonymous said...

2nd location? Fix the first. Mediocre food at best. lousy service. Design cant overcome those two main faults.

Anonymous said...

The old Sprint location is at the corner of Peachtree and 6th Street. They just demolished the Starbucks on the corner of Peachtree and 7th for new high-end condos.

Anonymous said...

Noodle is already a block away. Diversity of cuisine would have been better.

JenniferGFinGA said...

I went to the opening and the food was pretty good although a little under seasoned. The next time I went with friends the food had completely changed. Portion sizes were smaller and there was no consistency and we all didn't feel well. WAY too soon to be opening a new location.