Make us your home page

Here's why Spaghetti Warehouse is leaving Ybor City for the suburbs

TAMPA — Next year the Spaghetti Warehouse will shutter for good in Ybor City and relaunch at a location somewhere else in Tampa Bay. The exposed bricks, the hearty pasta dishes and the family-friendly atmosphere will carry over, but with a revamped menu and a fresh image.

The new game plan comes after the Spaghetti Warehouse's parent company, BLD Brands, moved to close the restaurant last month, then reversed course days later because of customer demand.

But BLD Brands, which has 142 restaurants in 15 states and has headquarters in Newport Beach, Calif., says the restaurant has been losing money and continues to, and that it can't succeed in Ybor City. That's why it's planning to reopen in a nearby suburb like Brandon some time next year.

The restaurant at 1911 13th St. opened in 1991 in a building that once housed a cigar factory. Spaghetti Warehouse is part of a chain that has 15 restaurants in seven states.

Now that the dust has settled, the Tampa Bay Times spoke with Doug Pak, president of BLD Brands, about the company's decision and its plans for the future.

Take me through your choice to close and then to remain open.

It's mainly due to declining sales and declining profits. Since 2010, we've experienced declining revenues and we started losing money at this location. We are a family restaurant and Ybor City is not family-friendly at this moment, and we made a business decision to close. This was a very, very unique experience for us — nothing that any of us have experienced before. We simply didn't know what to do. We had lines out the door, people wanting to dine in our restaurant one last time. City, state and government officials wanting to dine in our restaurant one last time. I got a call and we started exploring the option of staying open two days before we were supposed to close.

It takes a lot of effort, a lot of energy to close. We understood how risky this would be. I'm 43 years old and one of the rules in business is to never make an emotional decision but I knew it was right at heart. It's worth going through this experience and relocating and having a successful location in Tampa. It cost us more money, it was painful, but I think sometimes you just have to do what's right.

It has been more than a month since all that happened. How has the restaurant been doing since?

Sales have been down. We still have a lot of guests calling to see if we're open. We are committed to relocating in Tampa. It's going to be painful because we're not a big corporation so all the money that we lose has to come from our pockets and bank accounts. We've been losing money for five years straight. We have to pour more money into the business, but we want to make it profitable.

Can you describe the factors that led to the restaurant doing so badly in the last several years?

We are a family dining location and I think that there's a more suburban location that might be a better fit. The parking issue definitely hurt us. The brand has been there almost 30 years, but we haven't really updated the concept with changing times. We have amazing loyal guests, and people are so emotionally attached to what we are all about. Yes, we are losing money, but it feels great to be a brand that is beyond a place to eat.

How do you plan to update the brand so that people visit more often?

We want to have an updated look and feel and menu, but we want to keep the core concept and core purpose intact. We're about families and large groups to create memories. The food business has become more transactional, becoming more a pit stop. We want to stay as a place where we offer a great experience. We want to keep the name Spaghetti Warehouse, we like the brick warehouse feel and want to update the menu with more healthy offerings, more lunch offerings, more cool items — not just old American traditional pastas and spaghettis. We want to attract more millennials. We'll probably have a nice bar area as well that has good happy hour options, not hearty traditional Italian pastas but some finger food items so that people can come on a daily basis.

Contact Alli Knothe at Follow @KnotheA

Here's why Spaghetti Warehouse is leaving Ybor City for the suburbs 04/28/16 [Last modified: Thursday, April 28, 2016 8:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Study: Florida most friendly state for retired veterans

    Working Life

    Florida is the nation's best state for military retirees looking for somewhere to settle. That's according to a study released Monday by WalletHub which rated Florida the most friendly when it comes to economic factors, quality of life and health care.

    Veterans watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during training camp in 2016. Florida is the most friendly state for retired veterans according to a new WalletHub study. | LOREN ELLIOTT, Times
  2. Department store chain from Puerto Rico coming to University Mall


    TAMPA — Grand's, a department store chain from Puerto Rico, will open inside the former Dillard's space at University Mall in September.

    Grand's, a department store chain from n Puerto Rico, will open inside the former Dillard's space at University Mall in Tampa in September. Coloring rendering of revamped University Mall.
[CBRE Group]
  3. Bistro 60 offers inviting buffet in surprising location on Adamo Drive


    While many families scrambled to find a brunch option that didn't have a line out the door and a long wait so mom could enjoy her special day earlier this week, a new posh eatery boldly entered the local market in time for its first Mother's Day buffet.

    The Bistro 60 at the Clarion Hotel on E Adamo Drive features three bars, including a well-lit one inside.
  4. AP Source: Ford replaces CEO in push to transform business


    DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. is replacing CEO Mark Fields amid questions about its current performance and future strategy, according to a person familiar with the situation.

    Ford Motor Co. President and CEO Mark Fields speaks during a media preview of the 2018 Lincoln Navigator at the New York International Auto Show in New York in April 2017. Ford is replacing its CEO amid questions about its current performance and future strategy, a person familiar with the situation has said. Fields will be replaced by Jim Hackett, who joined Ford's board in 2013. [Associated Press]
  5. St. Petersburg hopeful Congress will add a NOAA facility, research vessel to downtown waterfront

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The city's efforts to energize its downtown port could get a big boost from the federal government.

    There is vacant land next to SRI International, 450 Eighth Ave. SE, that could be the site of a new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration center in downtown St. Petersburg.