[From the Food Section of today's San Francisco Chronicle - sadly, another Bay Area veggie restaurant bites the dust.]
THE INSIDE SCOOP
Roxanne's a victim of its own success
Raw-food pioneer lost patrons to the to-go outlet added last year
It's fine and dandy to be committed to a way of life, but reality, in the form of the bottom line, is always there. And that is precisely why Roxanne and Michael Klein last week closed their ground-breaking raw-food restaurant, Roxanne's, in Larkspur. The adjacent take-out deli, Roxanne's To Go, remains open.
The restaurant, located at 320 Magnolia Ave. (at King), was simply bleeding money. And it wasn't necessarily because of anything wrong with the restaurant; the problem was competition from itself.
Late last year, the Kleins added a to-go outlet adjacent to the restaurant for folks who wanted to get their daily dose of Roxanne's. What the Kleins had not foreseen was that the to-go store would cannibalize the restaurant.
"In January, we saw on the graph that the declining numbers of the restaurant intersected with the rising numbers of the to-go store,'' Roxanne Klein says. "The store began generating more revenue."
When it comes to raw food and Roxanne's, there were two distinct types of patrons -- gourmet omnivores who dined at Roxanne's to explore the experience, and people for whom "raw" is a way of life.
Many in the first category came once out of curiousity; for the diehards, a daily or weekly visit was much pricier than buying dinner to go.
Roxanne's was one of a kind. Even before it opened in late 2002 it had been featured in the national press -- not the usual occurrence for a little restaurant in the Bay Area suburbs. Master sommelier Larry Stone assembled the wine list. Michael Judge, friendly and suave, ran the front of the house. The place was beautifully designed, crafted to be ecologically friendly.
It was, by far, the first serious raw-food restaurant in Northern California. I ate there six times and was always amazed at the creativity of the food. Roxanne Klein's pad Thai made with strips of young coconut in place of cooked noodles was alone worth the trip.
Before opening the restaurant, Roxanne, backed by her husband's considerable finances, spent five years learning how to make raw food appealing and sophisticated. People, like the Kleins, who adhere to a raw food diet, believe that heating food above 118 degrees destroys critical enzymes.
As of press time, most of Roxanne's employees had been let go, with one notable exception. Donna Insalaco, chef de cuisine of the restaurant and the to-go store, will stay on.
Now, Roxanne Klein is reviewing her options and wondering what the couple could have done differently. Because the store is doing so well, the Kleins will bump up food production in the restaurant kitchen and are thinking about opening more takeout places around the Bay Area.
She also wonders how the restaurant would have done in San Francisco, with the city's tremendous visitor base and diners willing to eat past 8:30 p. m.
But, the Corte Madera resident says, "We wanted to open in our own community."
However, she seems to be taking the closing in stride. "I'm glad that people are buying their food from the store every day -- that they are eating raw foods," she says.
Roxanne's To Go is open daily.
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