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Staying Afloat 101: The Case of Paradou and Jefferson

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There is nothing easy about keeping a restaurant open in NY. In fact, the only task more daunting than keeping a mega-restaurant like Del Posto afloat is staying out of the red if yours is a small venue with mostly good food in a neighborhood filled with bigger players with richer PR, marketing, design and food budgets. And yet, with a little self-promotion and a lot of pluck it can be done.

Meatpacking underdog Paradou is celebrating its 5th Anniversary this year. "Knock on wood, we're enjoying the best October ever," reports Vadim, one of the owners. Yet, they are surrounded on all sides by more robust dining options. (If you think economic laws of supply and demand are at play here, given the neighborhood, look no further than Meet and Bivio, and soon Sascha, none of which couldn't get the job done, despite the fact that Pastis run-off alone could have kept them going for all of time.) So what is their secret sauce?

It turns out that the Paradou strategy is simple and is based on the very essence of good customer service. It is the Danny Meyer school of restaurateuring, adapted for the little guy. Small-time proprietors should take careful note. For example, they send a newsletter once a month with wording like this:

"Bonjour Mes Amis,

Alex and I have been waiting for this time of year for a long time. Why, you ask? Is it the Fall Foliage? Is it the baseball playoffs? What, you ask, could have these two cynical New Yorkers so excited. Four words, we answer, just four simple words....

CASSOULET Season is here!!!!!
It may be a bit folksy, sure, but it's getting the job done. They are to be commended for being earnest, available to the customers, and openly enthusiastic about their food. But even if that doesn't get you, examine their October specials lineup. For example, if you make a reservation, you get a free bottle of wine. Yahtzee.

On the flip side and to further emphasize this point, we have at our disposal the case of a venue doing things ass-backwards: the deathwatched and dying West Village sob story Jefferson. Eating there in these last days is like trying to enjoy oneself in the lobby of a funeral home. There is nothing by way of announced freebies, no front of house personalities to draw you in, and certainly no email newsletter to keep the venue in the front of people's minds. It is the opposite of Paradou -- right down to its poorly functioning website -- when it should be taking cues from Paradou. At a bare minimum, anyone who eats in Jefferson these days should be offered a return visit on the house.

Let's cut to the summation and the Deathwatch Committee PSA: Paradou will close either when they're good and ready or they lose their lease. They don't do PR, but they do reach out to their customers. Jefferson will close much sooner than that, having used a strategy of PR placements and one guest appearance on Sex and The City.