Last year I told you about a gluten-free (GF) cafe/bakery closing in Harrisburg, PA and a GF burger place closing north of Philadelphia, PA. Here we go again folks, another one bit the dust last week and second one is no longer 100% GF. This is so upsetting to me and I share this type of information with all of you because I want you to think about this sad reality and hope it sinks in and you will support those who are doing it right! I did my own mini investigation. Below, I tell you what I believe happened with the latest casualties in the completely GF/AF arena. (AF=Allergen Free)
New Day Gluten Free & Peanut Free in Ellisville, MO closed their doors after 5.5 years. They served breakfast, lunch and dinner and enjoyed 4.5 and 5 star ratings. They were about 23 miles outside of St Louis. This is the post from their Facebook page on 9/16/16 and it is also on their website:
“It is with great sadness that we write to you tonight to inform you all that the doors at New Day Gluten Free Ellisville will be closing effective immediately. It has been a true labor of love to serve this community for the last 5 and a half years, yet with our current staffing issues and lack of sales we have to cease operations. We are still working toward and are hopeful for a new central location, but are unable to make a move at this time. …”
I know they had great products based on their reviews and how long they lasted in a sparsely populated area. They want to re-open but will have to re-invent the wheel in some way to get more customers. Lets look at what most likely happened to them.
First; the population of Ellisville is only about 10,000 people; St Louis’ population is a little over 300,000 and we can add in sparser suburb populations. The glaring problem that I see is that another GF Cafe opened up in St Louis and a mini chain with 2 locations (dedicated GF prep space; Find Me GF App allows them to list as dedicated GF). That is a lot of competition! When the competitors arrived closer in to St Louis, less people were driving out to Ellisville. I can see from the above that they were struggling due to lack of customers/sales and when 3 competitors popped up, this is what took away quite a few of their customers and they could not survive.
Maybe a move into downtown St Louis (3,0o0 Celiacs = 1% of population) will help. If each person with Celiac Disease was eating in Ellisville twice a month..they could probably have survived. However, I know from experience that this was not the case and I don’t believe that 4 establishments can survive given the limited number of people who actually need to eat at these establishments. A move closer in may work for them and they may put the other GF place out of business. The place that has 2 locations and also serves mainstream meals will survive because 99% of their customers don’t eat GF!
Moo Cluck Moo no longer GF: (outside of Detroit with a population of 688,701) Last month, folks around Dearborn Heights, MI (population 95,000) and Canton, MI (population 90,000) were freaking out because Moo Cluck Moo (chicken place) announced on their Facebook page that they were moving from only serving GF buns to introducing regular buns and just offering a GF Bun option. Reviewers on the Find Me Gluten Free app went crazy, giving them 1 star ratings (after many five star ratings previously) and people were ranting and raving about how awful it was and saying that they would lose the support of the GF community. I understand that this is upsetting to the GF community; maybe they should have supported them more to begin with! There are also 4 other facilities showing as dedicated GF in the vicinity of Detroit; I can see why they had this problem. Supply and demand is the problem.
I have to give you all the REALITY; neither of these places had the full support of the GF community; that is why they were forced to make the decisions that they are making!
Moo Cluck Moo was not making enough sales to stay in business while being completely GF. The owner clearly stated this in an interview by saying that they were not making a profit doing what they were doing and he was paying himself less than he paid his employees! A popular GF Blogger wrote about it too. My thought bubble after reading all of the comments on one blog (many of them were nonsense) was: “What do you expect them to do? It appears that many of you would rather have them go out of business instead of changing their business model to one in which they can survive and stay in business?”
It is clear that not enough GF people (GF & Peanut Free in New Day’s case) chose to do this and to make matters worse and what pushed them over the edge was the competition; it spread the customer base so thin that it will be hard for more than one to survive staying completely GF. Moo Cluck Moo just decided it is not worth the headache because they can’t make a living. Think about it gang… is it worth doing it if you can’t take a paycheck or make a profit?
This is a another wake up call for the GF/FA Community. These were very highly rated restaurants who responded to the pleas for safe GF/AF meals and were doing it right! What a restaurant cannot overcome is the lack of sales; which is due to the lack of support (people showing up) from the communities they serve. Many customers do support these establishments but not frequently enough and there are many reasons for this. Some reasons are the distance needed to travel, preferring to eat at mainstream restaurants who offer GF items (complain when they get sick) and finally there are those who just assume everyone else is supporting the GF/AF place.
I am sure there was a small group of regulars who were supporting them. However; if most of the GF customers only show up once every 6 months, these businesses can’t survive and it is even worse when several completely GF places open up; supply and demand rears it’s ugly head and there just are not enough customers to sustain them all or sometimes even just one of them!
*If they were in NY City, with a population of 8.4 million, not to mention tourists, there is plenty of room for competition!
We are so thankful for our customers (6.5 years for our frozen food line and 4 years for our cafe, deli and bakery). You might be wondering what the population of Ellicott City, MD is…65,834 & close by Columbia is 100,000. We are not immune; we also suffer from the same common problem; lack of customers. All I can do is tell you what is going on; I can’t make you all support those doing it right; that is completely up to each one of you. These places will only stay in business by you showing up and creating the demand at the places who are doing it right.
Thank you to New Day Gluten Free and Moo Cluck Moo for making a valiant effort on behalf of the GF & FA communities. I feel your pain and can truly say, “I get it”. Thank you for your efforts.