San francisco restaurants

Are “classic” restaurants in San Francisco on the way out? These favorites don’t think so.

When Lucca Ravioli Company announced plans to close in late April, the news was another blow to locals who have seen a number of long-time Bay Area restaurants close over the past year.

Between January and December 8, 2018, San Francisco alone experienced 326 restaurant closures. More than 110 of those closures were restaurants that had been in business for 11 years or more, according to The Chronicle’s Jonathan Kauffman.

The Nantucket in Crockett, which in February announced its closure after 89 years, and the upscale Jardinière, which had its last service on April 27, joined the list of 2019 closures. Jardinière had been in operation for 21 years.

“It’s a scary time,” said Susie Biehler, a Bay Area restaurant marketing and consultant with 30 years of experience. “We are in a really unpredictable market.”

ALSO: The Bay Area’s most notable and shocking restaurant closures of 2018

The reasons for the closures varied, but the causes didn’t make each closure any less shocking.

There are issues that plague all businesses, not just those that have been around for a long time, of course. According to a report from the San Francisco Office of Economic Development and Workforce, the most common challenges restaurants face include:

  • Employee recruitment and retention
  • Land use regulations and permit requirements
  • Real estate conditions
  • Increase competition with online sales and other sources
  • Demographic changes

With that in mind, I decided to reach out to three long-time businesses in town — Sutro’s at the Cliff House, Tadich Grill, and One Market — to find out how restaurateurs manage to stay ahead of the game.

In short, they are not so worried.

“We’re up against high costs, high competition – frankly, that’s what keeps us on our toes,” said One Market managing partner Michael Dellar. “On the other hand, it’s the fact that it’s a great place. Business is alive and kicking.

At their core, these restaurants say they have remained loyal to their customers and their staff. Every restaurateur I’ve spoken to considers consistency to be their greatest asset.

David Hanna, general manager of the 170-year-old Tadich Grill, says one of the charms of eating out is that customers can find a dish they ordered decades ago that still stands the test of time. time.

“Other places process their menus monthly, weekly and although we change our menu daily, we have our vigils,” Hanna said.

Similarly, Ralph Burgin, managing partner and head chef at Sutro’s, says his restaurant doesn’t dabble much in what’s trendy. Instead, he says they offer entrees with flavors customers can expect.

“We don’t do avant-garde, we don’t do the latest trend; it’s rock-solid craftsmanship,” Burgin said. “We play around a bit and keep things interesting, but we don’t go beyond that.”

In a recent phone call, Dellar told me One Market had done various things to keep the 26-year-old restaurant in the conversation. As a self-proclaimed marketer, Dellar says he enjoys bringing new concepts to the table.

In the past, this has included dinner specials like the weekly beast, where One Market prepares a whole animal, carves it, and serves it over the course of a weekend. The restaurant also offered half-price wine last July — all 400 labels, bar none, Dellar said.

Sutro’s at the Cliff House and Tadich Grill take advantage of social media to reach their customers, whether through a monthly Instagram contest, as Tadich Grill does, or with the help of social media experts who post real-time business news, like at Sutro.

Additionally, Sutro started selling its Bloody Mary mix a few years ago.

“We sell about 20,000 Bloody Mary’s a year at the Cliff House,” Burgin said. “I started tinkering with the formula and now we have a product, it’s awesome.”

ALSO: We asked customers why they left 1-star Yelp reviews at beloved restaurants in SF

Value is another thing that Sutro’s, Tadich Grill and One Market have going for them.

One Market has a fixed price lunch deal for $27 that includes an appetizer and entree. For an additional $5, guests can also have dessert. The restaurant also offers $6 cocktails during lunch service.

Hanna said he will often go to other restaurants and order a starter offered by Tadich Grill just to compare. In most cases, he says other restaurants tend to be more expensive or serve smaller portions in comparison.

“It shows me that we are in the right price category and sets us apart,” Hanna said.

On the phone, Dellar told me he had a copy of The Chronicle’s 100 Best Restaurants in the Bay Area for 2003 where One Market was among the businesses mentioned. He started going through the list to name which businesses were still open and which ones had been closed for a long time.

I asked him how it felt to be among the company of still-running SF ventures.

“I’m proud. It makes me appreciate our staff, our customers and the community as a whole.”

Dellar says things have changed in the area around One Market; they primarily served older legal and accounting professionals. These offices have since been replaced by technology hubs, as well as young professionals in their 20s and 30s.

Dellar believes that despite the different crowd, One Market has retained its dedicated customers while embracing change.

“I think people who throw their dyed-in-the-wool client run the risk of trying to be something they’re not for a different audience and we’ve tried to bridge the gap between the two.”

Follow Susana Guerrero on Twitter and send him an e-mail at

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