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The Struggle for Survival at Colors

An article in yesterday’s Times chronicles the struggle for survival at Colors, the year-old restaurant co-op founded by former Windows on the World employees. The article notes, “visits to Colors on several Saturday nights, which should be the busiest nights for most restaurants, show there is rarely a wait for a table. Getting a last-minute reservation is almost never a problem.”

A year ago, I rated Colors at one star. I was probably too generous. The colleagues I dined with, who are usually pleased with my recommendations, said it was the only bad suggestion I had ever given them. Other critics were apparently underwhelmed. As far as I recall, Colors didn’t receive a rated review from any of the mainstream media, an omission I take as an act of kindness.

To stay afloat, Colors has reduced staff, lowered the minimum wage, and kept the lid on overtime. The concept has also changed somewhat. The white tablecloths are gone, and there is no entree priced above $25. The same New York Strip that was $33 when we visited, is now $24. Monday nights are BYO.

The staff remain perplexed by Colors’ failure to catch on:

Figuring out the reasons for the restaurant’s troubles since the opening is difficult. It could be a combination of factors — prices, the location, competition, or merely the whims of restaurant patrons. The menu is deliberately international, with dishes including a Japanese-inspired bento box and South American ceviches, some based on workers’ family recipes.

Frankly, I still think that the mongrel menu is the culprit. When you are offering such a wide variety of dishes with no thematic connection, it’s unlikely that any of them will be truly great. However, at its new gentler price level, perhaps Colors deserves a spot on my second-chance list.

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