In an odd way, the struggles at Wild, the pizza restaurant on the first floor of the Ogden, could be a good thing for the Downtown Project.
Here’s some background: The Downtown Project invested in the restaurant that was brought here by Miki Agrawal. A few weeks ago, it bought Agrawal’s share of the restaurant and hired Natalie Young, operator/owner of Eat, as a consultant.
Wild was a new concept downtown. Gluten-free pizza and pastas, presumably made with locally grown or raised products.
It seemed like a good idea for downtown, whose redevelopment is drawing a modicum of young people who might be more concerned about organic foods and where and how their food is produced.
I remember driving by on a First Friday night and seeing just a handful of people inside. First Friday, mind you, is one of the busiest nights of the month, drawing more than 20,000 to downtown.
Around the same time, I started hearing people taking bets that it wouldn’t stay open past New Year’s Eve.
I’m not a businessman, but from what I heard, Wild operated from the get-go with two major flaws: Agrawal was rarely there, and the focus appeared to be more on the amenities than the food.
Agrawal lives in New York, so that’s where she spent most of her time. People who go to restaurants, especially those who become regulars, like to mingle with the owners. That wasn’t easy to do in Wild’s case.
As for amenities, they included things such as calling the wait staff “facilitators” because they would, if you wanted, pass messages from you to someone at another table. I don’t know about you, but if my waiter is passing notes from table to table when I want my check so I can leave, I wouldn’t be too happy.
And who wants to pass a note to someone in a restaurant in the first place? Was this a restaurant focused on fourth-graders or people who wanted to eat good, healthy food?
Young has promised to get rid of all those distractions and get down to business.
Here’s how Young made Eat, the Downtown Project’s first small business and arguably its most successful, a hit: She worked like a dog, never left the restaurant when it was open and paid attention to every detail.
That’s a lesson not just for restaurant operators but for anyone getting into business, including the Downtown Project, Wild’s new owner.