Business hasn't changed that much--what we've done is changed our business," says Pat Rogers, 55, co-owner of Che 20 20 (formerly Food Bar) restaurant. Rogers and partner Bob Barbero have kept ahead of the pack by anticipating local trends in the restaurant business and being ready to change.
This marks a departure for the partners--one Rogers says the two should have recognized with their first restaurant, the upscale Rogers & Barbero (R&B). "That was a perfect example of not recognizing the change," says Rogers. R&B, which opened in 1983, was succeeded by Food Bar in 1993.
Featuring low prices and a casual atmosphere, Food Bar had been successful. But Rogers noticed that within three years of Food Bar's debut, most of the restaurants in the immediate area began catering to the same low-price market. "We could have gone a couple more years with Food Bar, but we wanted to cut it while people still thought of it in a positive way," explains Rogers. Food Bar closed in October 1997 and reopened in November as Che 20 20, a restaurant with sophisticated décor, higher prices and a slightly older, more upscale clientele.
"In New York City, very few restaurants can exist for a long time," says Rogers. "Any restaurant in my home town of Wichita Falls, Texas, would last forever because people primarily concern themselves with food and service. In New York, [customers] have to be thrilled and titillated."
Rogers and Barbero have added two more partners to their operation. Joe Fontecchio, the original chef at R&B, is now a full partner, and Judy Mancini has replaced Fontecchio as chef and is also a partner.
Rogers admits the profitability of his restaurants fluctuates from year to year; he has experienced everything from losing money to making a 15 percent profit. But with the success of R&B, Food Bar and a bar on 19th Street called G, which Rogers and his partners opened in January 1997, pros-pects look good for Che 20 20. Says Rogers, "We have a very loyal clientele in this part of the city."
Che 20 20, 149 Eighth Ave., New York, NY 10011, (212) 243-2020
Sight On Seventh, 123 Seventh Ave., New York City, NY 10011, (212) 627-4488