On a plane two weeks ago, the gentlemen in 1C struck up a conversation with me. Seems he takes the Allentown, PA to Fort Lauderdale, FL route almost a frequently as I do and he wanted to introduce himself. After the obligatory “where do you live” dialogue, his interest was piqued when I said “Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.”
It turns out his friend from Allentown just opened a second restaurant in Wilkes-Barre and not knowing exactly where it was he was asking if I knew about it. Well, after some guessing, it came to pass that he opened Louie’s in the ill-fated location that formerly hosted Boston’s and Portofino. He told me how great the food is at Louie’s in Allentown and that I just had to go and try it.
So Sunday night I did.
The first thing that hit me over the head like a big bag of “Duh!” was the menu, wine list, martini list presentation. I received a Louie’s menu, but the wine and martini lists were encased with reused folders bearing the Portofino name. Those familiar with Portofino will know that the first thing anyone would want to do is distance themselves from a restaurant known for poor service, even poorer reviews and bad food. Hence the reason it didn’t last long.
I called the server over and asked her if I was eating at Louie’s or Portofino. With a puzzled look, she asked why? I showed her the folders with the Portofino name on them and she said, “that’s the first time I noticed that.” She went on to explain that when the restaurant first opened, in order to get customers to know where the place was at, they were calling it Louie’s at Portofino, but now it’s just Louie’s.
The restaurant definitely has an identity problem, or they’re too cheap to order new menu covers. This is branding at its worst. A quick Google search for “Portofino, Wilkes-Barre, PA” will bring up plenty of sites offering less than satisfactory reviews of the former eatery. I know that if I were moving into that building, I would not even want to stock the same toilet paper Portofino had, yet alone reuse their menu covers.
If the former restaurant was successful, had a strong following of regulars and was well known in the community, I would say play off the former name as much as possible. In this instance, whoever suggested that the owner use the Portofino name failed miserably. The server indicated the use of the name was to let people know where the restaurant was. Well, it happens to sit next to a Bob Evans in a plaza occupied by other tenants which include FedEx Office, Verizon Wireless, Wendy’s and a credit union. Instead of saying, “Come to Louie’s in the former Portofino,” why not “Come to Louie’s on Highland Park Blvd. between Bob Evans and the credit union.”
With the restaurant now called just plain Louie’s, I think someone may have gotten the hint.
Now get rid of the menu covers.