Perhaps people were just waiting for the right restaurant to sink their teeth into. Shake Shack opened in that space last summer, and business has been gangbusters.
“Shake Shack is a success story,” Dzelkalns said. “Judging by how they’re doing, they’ll be around for quite a while.”
Part of that restaurant’s winning recipe has been engaging the community — a must if Shake Shack wants to keep customers coming to its 270-seat Coral Gables location, its biggest in the United States. It does so by donating a portion of sales to Miami Children’s Hospital (Shake Shack’s Miami Beach location does the same) and by marketing to UM students, faculty members and athletic departments.
“The Coral Gables Shack has truly become a community gathering place for Gables locals, students and visitors,” said Greg Waters, senior communications manager for the New York-based hamburger-and-milkshake chain.
Figuring out why previous tenants failed — and what local residents really want — are two of the most proactive things restaurateurs can do before opening in a “cursed” location, according to Haskell.
“You need to be in sync with local needs and local eating habits,” he said. “The last thing you want is to be a $9 taco shop in a $5 hamburger market, or a $35 steakhouse in a $15 pizza-pasta market.”
Miami culinary publicist Larry Carrino echoed Haskell’s thoughts.
“You have to know the market that will sustain you, not the market that you dream will embrace you,” Carrino said. “If you know your space is located in a mostly residential, less-than-luxe neighborhood, and those folks will be your bread-and-butter clients, installing a super-expensive or special-occasion restaurant probably isn’t a smart move.”
Tapping in to what the neighborhood wants is the idea behind this month’s relaunch of Tosca in Miami Beach.
When the restaurant opened in October at 210 23rd St., in the space that was formerly Talula — and for a minute — Eden South Beach, it aimed for the stars, both in terms of clientele and pricing. Owners billed the über-high-end Italian concept as the “French Laundry with a sexy vibe,” with dinner clocking in about $500 a head. (Care for a thimbleful of 100-year-old balsamic vinegar on your salad? Add $200.)
“That did not work,” said David Black, whose Coconut Grove-based Black Label Hospitality is consulting for Tosca. “We set the bar too high, trying to provide an exclusive, Michelin-starred experience.”
Tosca has brought in a new chef and a general manager to execute its second concept, which features dishes with lower price points and a daily happy hour to appeal to locals and nearby hotel guests.
Scrapping Tosca’s original concept was a difficult decision, Black said, but one the restaurant had to make if it hopes to make it.
“It’s easy for restaurants to be like, ‘if you don’t like what we’re doing, or you don’t get us, tough,’” he said. “But we want to have longevity, and that means you have to be willing to make changes. In this business, it’s adapt or close, and we don’t want to close.”