A few facts:
El Toro Tambien was in business for over 25 years at West and Bullard. Campagnia is a restaurant with a 10-year history minus their recent hiatus and IBC is still an infant at just over one year old. El Toro never had a Facebook or Twitter site and a virtually non-existent website. Campagnia has over 1200 likes on Facebook and no twitter account. IBC has over 2200 likes, 259 Followers on Twitter, and an internal blog site.
Let’s do some basic economic math. El Toro Tambien has had a major impact on Fresno by staying in business for over 25 years. It has employed at least 300 people over that time period at a minimum. It has served thousands of meals and drinks, occupied a commercial space, and of course paid taxes to the City of Fresno for a very long time. It was technically a pioneer at West and Bullard along with Me N’ Ed’s and Baskin and Robbins when there wasn’t much in North Fresno but fig trees and the promise of great development and population. It was basically the anchor tenant of the strip mall.
Where is the “news story” about a 25-year locally owned restaurant in Fresno going dark after serving tens-of-thousands of customers, employing hundreds of people and contributing to the local economy?
Pivoting to the locally owned Campagnia, undoubtedly another major revenue source for the City of Fresno, a large employer, and major contributor to the local economy: Campagnia has served thousands of meals and employed hundreds of people before their reorganization and recently reopening on their 10th anniversary. The re-launch was covered by local news, both online and on television. Facebook commentary increased on their fan page as a result of the announcement. But really, much ado about nothing; Campagnia re-opened and is serving customers again.
Moving on to the 1-year-old, Iron Bird Café. From the social media outcry, I thought The Elbow Room had closed (which is the equivalent to the sun in the North Fresno solar system extinguishing, and all social life as we know it ceasing to exist). So, I get the social outcry. I’d be upset if one of my favorites closed or cut hours dramatically. After all, I’ve had a 25-year love affair with El Toro, 20 years with The Bow and 10 years with Campagnia.
But what’s the fuss all about? IBC has been in business a little over 1 year. I’ve got blue jeans that are older. IBC has cut its hours and is actively listening to customers more about how to improve its food and service. I thought growing pains were part of every infant business? I thought mistakes and resets were simply part of doing business? The success rate of a one-year food service business is poor to begin with, so I don’t find IBC’s story all that surprising, certainly not as newsworthy as the re-start of Campagnia.
How many other businesses have started in the last year and are struggling? How’s Yalla Yalla doing in a center that has lost Gigi’s, Red Door, Bentley’s, and Gold’s Gym amongst others? I guess Yalla is adapting, listening to customers, making changes and surviving on a tough corner. And Yalla has 159 likes on Facebook, no Twitter account, and a basic website with no blog.
When compared to either El Toro or Campagnia’s economic value over time, IBC is a de minimis player at this point. Perhaps, in time - and if they survive - IBC will make a major economic impact to the area. There certainly is a social media following by all accounts, but does social media positively correlate with regular paying customers? Apparently a business can have a lot of fans, but no customers.
Before Twitter, Facebook, or social media, there was El Toro Tambien at Bullard and West. People drove by it on their way home from work for take-out, they were regulars at the bar, or they stopped by for lunch because they heard from a friend that the food was good or the server was pleasant - sort of a “like,” but more meaningful. Sometimes the food was off. The place usually got a new coat of paint once every 5 years. People said El Toro wasn’t authentic. Sometimes the high school server got your order wrong. El Toro had its ups and downs over the years, but it would make it through, year after year. El Toro was a local restaurant that served consistent food, had decent service, and had owners that listened to patrons. If the owners didn’t listen and didn’t react, they wouldn’t have lasted for over 25 years. The Cured Ham “liked” loved El Toro Tambien before there was Facebook and I’d be sad to see them go.