East Lansing Restaurants: Drowning or thriving?

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This Cosi location in downtown East Lansing closed.

Lauren Wallenfels

This Cosi location in downtown East Lansing closed.

Clothing stores, restaurants, apartments and book stores run all along East Grand River Avenue at Michigan State. But what else do you see? Naked store fronts and worn away signs. Look at Thai Hut, for example. Although not clear as to when it closed, this old restaurant has been closed and the building gets more run down and ragged by the day. Just this year, three popular restaurants bit the dust. It took students and locals by surprise when Cosi, Sweet Lorraine’s Fabulous Mac n’ Cheez, and Conrad’s Grill shut down. Cosi’s own employees weren’t even aware of the restaurant’s termination. Near such a large campus, how do restaurants keep closing down.? And how do other restaurants manage to sustain their business?

Joseph Furness, shift manager at Noodles & Company, is confident that his restaurant will continue to have a strong business. Located at 205 E. Grand River Ave., this home-style noodles restaurant gets more than enough business, with their busiest days being Thursdays through Sundays.

“We get a vast majority of students. We do get a mixture between Saturday and Sunday of parents and old folks for church Sunday and stuff like that. A really good percentage is students, though,” said Furness.

Furness finds that Limited Time Offers, LTO’s as he referred to them, the home-style food, along with its parent company, Pasta Per Trio, keeps the restaurant afloat in an industry in which it is quite difficult to succeed. According to CNBC, 60% of restaurants fail within the first year, while 80% fail before the fifth anniversary.

“Because our company is owned by a company called Pasta Per Trio, all the stores have a connected revenue. So East Lansing is our third highest location revenue-wise in Michigan,” said Furness. “The best way to keep ourselves open is our menu. It’s pretty home-style//,// so it’s kind of hard to fall down when you’re doing easy food.”

Lotsa Stone Fired Pizza made its arrival to East Lansing at the beginning of the spring semester, amid all of the other closings. Although this is one of many restaurants to serve pizza, it does so differently.

“Well I mean this right here is a quick-service restaurant. We serve a different product than most pizza places. Most of them are by the slice. We kind of combine the best of both worlds with the product and the quick service,” said Gregory Hunt, general manager.

Regardless of other restaurants’ situations, Lotsa decided to give East Lansing a try. This is the company’s sixth location.

“It actually goes with the business model of Lotsa. There are six locations in the country and four out of those six are on college campuses. Here, West Virginia, Indiana and Wisconsin. We’re targeting younger people in a hurry or out late,” said Hunt.

For a new business, Hunt is pleased with the revenue it is generating. Lotsa is averaging 50 to 100 more customers per day than was expected.

“This translates to about $400-$500 more on a daily basis. We’re out of the honeymoon period, now, but it’s been steady rather than dipping,” said Hunt.

While Lotsa’s business is thriving on Grand River, the same cannot be said for the Conrad’s Grill that was located on Grand River and Abbot. General manager at Conrad’s East, PJ Currey, was not able to say much on the closing.

“I really cannot speak of what occurred at that location, but I can tell you that we are actively seeking a new location,” said Currey.

A stable restaurant, a new restaurant, and a few failed ones.

“We don’t have a fault to ever really fail,” said Furness.