Monday, May 16, 2011

Demise of Shockoe Bottom's Boom Boom Burgers

Read the Richmond BizSense article here first.
Though I am saddened to see an entrepreneur struggle and a business in the urban core close, attributing Boom Boom’s demise to Shockoe Bottom nightlife is overly simplistic. There are several excellent restaurants with sophisticated menus in the immediate area that seem to be surviving, if not thriving, including Cafe Gutenberg, Lulu’s, Aziza’s, Sette and Millie’s. Although Boom Boom had an intriguing storyline of redefining burgers with grass-fed beef from a Polyface Farms, a rockstar in local foods, I think there were too many aspects that were not thought through.
For one thing, the location was challenging. It is a common mistake to miss the subtle disadvantages of particular sites. All of the restaurants listed above are on Main Street or 17th Street, part of the continuity of the commercial life of the Bottom. Boom Boom chose to locate around the corner on Franklin – a location that is one significant degree away from the action and in a highly competitive market, a potentially fatal flaw.
Another challenge was the menu. Boom Boom chose to have a singular focus that I believe was too narrow. Although redefining burgers with local foods is a worthy goal, what about vegetarians? In my experience, a group of people in the one of target markets (young professionals that care about things like local foods) will inevitably contain at least one vegetarian. Also, burgers with no fries? In know redefinition was the goal, but come on.
Finally, I think the price point was fatal. I talked to multiple people who tried Boom Boom and the consensus was that the burger was too small and the price too high. Given the choice, the perceived value was much higher at any of the other restaurants targeting sophisticated palates. Plus Boom Boom refused to accept cash, an inconvenience that was unnecessary.
I truly hope the entrepreneurial spirit stays alive for the owners of Boom Boom and that the lessons learned will contribute to a formula for success. However, I would suggest the owners be a bit more contemplative before drawing superficial conclusions about the circumstances of Boom Boom’s demise.

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