New restaurants owners say tweaking -- not overhaul -- is on menu

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

New owners. Established restaurant.

Will they make changes? If so, will the changes be welcomed?

New owners of some well-known Cape Girardeau restaurants say if they have anything to say about it, no one will really notice a difference.

Brian Noto and his wife Quantella Anderson-Noto took over Mollie's and re-opened it in September after a month-long renovation. Brian acknowledges that Mollie's was "a little rough around the edges," but that was mostly at the management level.

What customers are accustomed to -- the overall feel of the restaurant at 11 S. Spanish St. -- doesn't need to change, he said.

"Mollie already had a personality, and we did not want to change it," Noto said. "We wanted to make sure the personality remained intact. It was more important that Mollie's personality be polished than putting our own personality on the restaurant. We did a little because it is ours, but Mollie's belongs to the community. We were very careful about what we did."

After Mollie's reopened, Noto said customers came in looking to see if their favorite place had changed any.

"People expected more from us," he said. "People have certain expectations we had to meet or exceed."

As far as Noto and his wife were concerned, if Mollie's wasn't broken, there was no need to fix it.

They made some slight changes -- they put up some new art and added to the wine list and bottled beer offerings.

Everything else was pure Mollie's.

"People came in expecting a certain level of service, a quality of food, a certain ambiance," Noto said. "They got that. The food is as good or better, the service is as good or better than it has ever been."

Regular customers may have noticed a few changes, Noto said, but customers who only come to Mollie's to celebrate special occasions probably didn't. Mollie's still has its own personality and, as far as the owners are concerned, why change something that has been successful since 1989?

Brandon Ray and his business partner Brad Robey have taken on not one, but two restaurants -- 2 North Bistro and Royal N'Orleans. New management, Ray said, is not about making drastic changes for the sake of change, but to improve on what was already successful.

"We're making sure people have what they want and expect," Ray said. "It's kind of like the restaurant develops its own personality and customers see it a certain way."

Rather than put their own mark on Royal N'Orleans, Ray said, he and Robey will focus on making the restaurant what it was in its heyday.

"We're actually not changing, but bringing back some of the original N'Orleans items," he said.

The pair found some old menus in the attic and vowed to bring back some of the items the restaurant used to offer.

Another favorite feature of N'Orleans coming back is Grace Wlliams, a longtime server who had quietly retired earlier in the year and is now ready to come back to work.

Williams will teach younger personnel the etiquette and serving style once associated with the elegant restaurant, Ray said.

"People enjoy the place because of its history, its uniqueness," he said. "We're going to go back to the original imprint."

The same philosophy extends to 2 North, Ray said. Making changes for the sake of exerting one's personality on an established restaurant is asking for pressure.

"You want to do as well as the people who started it," he said.

Though still relatively new, customers of 2 North Bistro will still recognize the ambiance, but might find a few menu items -- such as sushi -- have been added.

"I want people to know we are not out to put our own personal imprint and image on these places," he said. "I hope people appreciate it."

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