It’s been five and a half years since the parent company for Bennigan’s and Steak & Ale filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, leading to the closing of every single one of both chains’ restaurants. I thought the brand was well and truly done. A year or two ago, however, that thought was turned on its head when driving to my friend Louie’s house. I noticed (to my shock) that a Bennigan’s had opened on the corner a few blocks from his house. The logo was different, but the theme looked to be the same. Once I got home, I checked online and found it was a resurrection of the original brand. I was curious, and resolved to try it someday.
The problem for me, though, was that the Bennigan’s was the only one in the city, and Louie’s house is very much out of my way most of the time. Therefore, my opportunities to go were extremely limited. I only ended up going once, and that was when I spent a day car shopping back in August. In the end, I was seriously underwhelmed. The food tasted pretty much like I remembered, but Bennigan’s never was good enough to be a “go out of your way” place. In addition, the customer service wasn’t very good. The wait staff didn’t really seem to care, and I didn’t feel like we were welcome there. I chalked it up as indulging in some nostalgia, and didn’t feel an urge to go back.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. This past Saturday, I went over to Louie’s house, and found that the Bennigan’s had closed and was now a 59 Diner.
It turned out the problems I had noticed with customer service were not due to an isolated incident. Not only did people get terrible service at the location I had been to, a new location had opened in the Woodlands and their customer service issues were just as bad.
The sad thing is that Bennigan’s is falling into the same trap it fell into before it originally went bankrupt. Even back then the customer service was becoming horrible, to the point where people like me were swearing off the chain. Unless the food is absolutely fantastic, no one is going to come back to a restaurant where the service is awful. Bennigan’s was never terrific food; it was at best okay but cheap. This revival of the chain will probably not survive unless they get their act in gear.
It’s sort of a shame, as Bennigan’s was a fixture in my adolescence. Still, the way the company looks now, perhaps it’s better that it stay buried in the past.