UPDATED — The new AVI Seabar & Chophouse at the Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview is not doing well.
Or, as owner Ben Arnold more descriptively puts it, the restaurant is “like a turtle on a Texas highway on his back in the middle of summer.”
In the first six months of business, he’s lost about $225,000.
“I put higher expectations on the restaurant initially because I got wrapped up in the media hype,” Arnold says. “There was so much chatter … for months and months and months surrounding the hotel.”
Banquets and catering at the hotel are doing well, though.
“It’s a package deal,” Arnold says.
He’s laid off five salaried workers in catering and at the restaurant, including Chef Adam Courtney. He also laid off three hourly workers at AVI. Some changes to the menu are coming in the next few weeks as well.
“The restaurant was losing so much money, it was dragging the entire company down, and that’s why I’m making the changes I’m making,” Arnold says. “We were robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
His other businesses – Corporate Caterers of Wichita, Cafe Intrust, Cafe Comotara and Cafe 151 – are all healthy, Arnold says.
“Catering is extremely healthy.”
Last year was a record year, he says, and the first three months of this year were up 127 percent over that time last year.
As an east-sider, Arnold says he can understand why some diners don’t venture too far from their homes.
“The answer is why?” he says. As in why would they? Arnold notes he has about 35 restaurants near his house from which to choose.
Unless there’s an event downtown, he says diners don’t come to AVI.
“We have to have something going on downtown every day and every night.”
That doesn’t mean the restaurant can’t do all right once he’s through making changes, Arnold says.
“The restaurant has great potential to break even or barely make money.”