Monday, June 24, 2024

[WOW] SocialBites Food Hub New Name of "Empty" and "Terrible" Sandy Springs Restaurants

What do you do if after adding a third, and later a fourth concept to a single restaurant location and people are still not coming?  You change the name, of course! The owners of a group of Sandy Springs restaurants - all housed in a single location - are changing the destination's name in an effort to appeal to more diners.  Despite the appellation "ghost town" being an apt description of the venue, the new name will be "SocialBites Food Hub." 

Located next to the Goodwill thrift store at the corner of Roswell and Abernathy Roads, SocialBites Food Hub is home to four separate concepts that all share a communal kitchen and a common owner.  Formerly home to local Mexican eatery Huey Luey's, the two story restaurant space was set to become a location of The Captain's Boil before owner NRD Capital, an Atlanta-based private equity firm, pulled the plug and went in a different direction.    

NRD, who also owns Altitude Trampoline Park (and recently launched sibling brand The Pickle Pad) as well as Frisch's Big Boy, among other businesses, first opened their new concepts in a former Folks Southern Kitchen and short-lived Captain's Boil off Highway 92 in Woodstock.  Originally home to The Original Hot Chicken and Inked Tacos, Pinsa Roman Pizza was later added, followed by Flametown Burgers, a Guy Fieri-like overpriced burger joint that surprisingly offers not even one meat alternative burger.    

All four concepts - collectively "Experiential Brands" - were newly launched without the benefit of any brand awareness in the market.  And let's be real: we do have a burger and pizza deficit in metro Atlanta.    

According to the Experiential Brands website:

"Experiential Brands is a portfolio of quick service and fast casual restaurant brands designed to deliver rapid returns on invested capital for franchisees."  

We have visited both the Woodstock and Sandy Springs locations and while the Woodstock unit was moderately busy on the day we visited, it's also in Woodstock.  Worth noting, too, is the closure of Joella's Hot Chicken just off Highway 92 this past December, one of few serious hot chicken competitors.  

The Sandy Springs location will soon be tested by the upcoming nearby arrival of Dave's Hot Chicken, with their Atlanta market entry bolstered by investor R&B star and North Springs High School graduate Usher. 

The Original Hot Chicken in Woodstock has racked up more than 500 reviews on Google with a respectable 4.5 overall rating.  Inked Tacos, however, has only 148 reviews with an overall rating of only 3.9.    

The Sandy Springs location of the hot chicken joint, which as of this month has been open for a year, has a whopping eight reviews on a Google with a cumulative rating of only 3.5.  Inked Tacos, with an earth shattering 47 reviews, has an overall rating of 4.2.  

Among the more notable reviews of the Sandy Springs restaurants: 

"At peak dinner time the restaurant was completely empty, and unfortunately the food was ruined."

"Food is terrible. I mean it is terrible. Old fries. Old chicken. Soggy waffle. Instant can mac and cheese. Waste of money!"

"I spent $24 for 2 order of the Birria tacos and I can’t believe how small the portions are. They gave us barely any chips to go with it, and the birria sauce is super small and essentially just oil. The place was completely empty during lunchtime and I now understand why."

The numbers - and reviews themselves - don't seem to represent the "groundbreaking dining destination" that NRD called the business upon opening.  While one cannot correlate reviews to visits with 100 percent accuracy, the limited number and negative sentiment of them don't paint a very rosy picture for the company's "flagship" location.   

Exterior work is already underway to debut the new SocialBites Food Hub branding this month with plans to make the change in Woodstock in August.  

In an interview in May with trade magazine FranchiseTimes, NRD founder Aziz Hashim spoke highly of the opportunity SocialBites presents, especially when opened in a converted former restaurant.  Hashim said the goal is to keep the conversion cost of an existing restaurant space to no more than $500,000.  He wants franchisees to be able to recover their investment in two years, according to the interview.  It seems hard to recoup one's investment when the concept itself is flawed, has limited brand awareness, and serves what some diners in Sandy Springs feel to be food that "terrible" and "disappointing".  

The company is reportedly scouting Ohio for a third location followed by a fourth in Atlanta late this fall.   Its franchise disclosure document is reportedly still in the works with a franchise program for SocialBites slated to launch in 2025.  

Have you ever been to any of the "SocialBites" concepts?  Do you think The new name will lead to more business in Sandy Springs or Woodstock? What type of restaurant that is not currently in Atlanta would you like to see enter the metro?

Please share your thoughts below.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the hate. My wife and I go here every couple of week. I like the hot chicken tacos. It's consistently good. Service is friendly.

Yes, there's very few people inside. I have seen them do, what appears to be, a lot of take out.

This article is timely because we just went there today. The staff told us there's going to be a nice bar win the upper level but the existing food choices will remain.

Anonymous said...

Interesting...I have been to the Sandy Springs location several times and have NEVER been unhappy with the food or service. I agree some items are better than others BUT the Birria Quesadilla is FIRE and that Sando is SO DELICIOUS!!! Haven't tried the pizza or burgers yet because I always go back to my favorites.

Personally, I am excited about the changes at the Sandy Springs location. I can't wait for the bar to open and events like trivia, live music, etc. Don't knock them off the map - give them another chance when they reopen as the new brand (which appears to be much more than just a name).

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