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Saturated DSM Restaurant Scene Makes it Hard for Businesses to Stay and Succeed

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Over the weekend, two downtown restaurants abruptly closed their doors for business, leaving their customers and employees with little explanation.

Restaurant critics say it’s difficult for new restaurants to start and stay in Des Moines' saturated market.

On Friday, +39 Market and Cantina suddenly closed its doors. General manager Derek Messenger says the owners had plans to temporarily close to re-brand, but instead closed citing financial troubles, and announced plans relocate to a resort in The Bahamas.  On Saturday, Goldfinch announced in a Facebook post it is closing as a part of re-branding concept, but offered no timeline of when it plans to reopen.

“I think it takes a special blend, a special cocktail to keep a restaurant up and running,” says Bryan Taylor Carlson, a food and dining reporter for the Des Moines Register.

Taylor Carlson says the Des Moines restaurant scene is too saturated, with close to 1,000 restaurants and bars in the metro area. He says with so many options, turnover is common but consumers shouldn’t be concerned.

“We only saw about 15 restaurants closing in 2017, where we saw 39 restaurants opening in Des Moines,” he says. “So I think the trend is going to continue in that favor, but it’s just right now we are experiencing a larger number of closings in a shorter amount of time.”

So what’s the key to success? Taylor Carlson says the solution is marketing and consistency. Centro, an upscale Italian restaurant downtown, has sat at the same corner for 15 years. The owner is closing the restaurant on Tuesday for 10 days for renovations in order to keep it looking fresh, yet familiar.

Paul Rottenberg, the owner of Centro and president of Orchestrate Hospitality, says with more seats available than ever in the metro, attracting and keeping customers can be competitive as the city continues to grow.

“I’d like to see some of the growth slow down so we can catch up. We've had a lot of constructing and that's been hard on the market on several locations.”

One of Orchestrate’s other restaurants, Django, will be closing and relocating in February. The group is still looking for a new space for the restaurant, but plans to make an announcement soon.