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Gratzi Takes a Hiatus

The Chop House needed its outdoor seats.

by Micheline Maynard

From the October, 2020 issue

Anyone who has dined in downtown Ann Arbor since 1987 has probably eaten at Gratzi. Some older Ann Arborites even remember when the building at 326 S. Main housed the Orpheum Theater.

But now Gratzi is indefinitely closed. In August, the Italian restaurant's Facebook page said it was taking a "brainstorming break."

Kevin Gudejko, president and CEO of Main Street Ventures, says it came down to a basic business calculation.

Over the past few months, MSV has looked at the income being generated across its portfolio, which includes twenty-one restaurants in fourteen cities and five states.

"I think everybody's looking at assessing their business model," Gudejko says. "We're rightsizing, for lack of a better term."

The review found that 50 percent of the company's revenue now comes from outdoor dining. So that was a key factor in examining its four restaurants on the 300 block of S. Main: Gratzi and the Chop House on the west side, the Real Seafood Company and Palio on the east side.

The math explains the decision. The average bill at the Chop House is $75 per person, including alcohol, Gudejko says, while a diner at Gratzi typically spent $40. (Palio's average is only $25 per person, but it does the highest volume of the four restaurants, because it has seating available on its roof and at street level.)

So they decided to give the Chop House all their outdoor seats on the west side. "The demand of outdoor dining was moving more to the Chop House than to Gratzi," he says.

Gudejko emphasizes that Gratzi isn't closed for good but can't say whether the shutdown will be short-term or long-term. "We'll come back at Gratzi at some point," he says.

Social distancing isn't an issue for the space, which has a big main room and a balcony with additional seating. "It was not so much about capacity; it became an economic decision to look at what was the best avenue forward for

...continued below...

us," Gudejko says.

Mainstreet Ventures has made a similar calculation for another one of its restaurants, Carson's American Bistro, at 2000 Commonwealth Blvd. While it also has a sizeable dining room, it remains closed for dine-in business but is open for curbside pickup and delivery orders.

Gudejko said Carson's relies on customers from North Campus and surrounding businesses, and, with so many people working from home, it did not make sense to offer sit-down service. He said Mainstreet will reassess Carson's situation in October.     (end of article)

[Originally published in October, 2020.]


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