GRAND RAPIDS — Royals is relaunching next week as a pizza restaurant after the former East Hills brunch spot underperformed since launching at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
All In Hospitality Group LLC co-owner Paul Lee decided to shut down Royals for a few months earlier this summer as restaurant sales failed to meet expectations. All In Hospitality Group also owns the nearby restaurants Donkey, Hancock and Winchester.
Lee consulted with other restaurant industry colleagues during Royals’ hiatus to decide how to retool the higher-end brunch spot to make it more successful.
“We did phenomenal business on the weekends for brunch, but during the week nobody was craving what we were offering,” Lee said. “It was just a struggle trying to fill those other days and we kept chasing ideas and finally said we need to shut it down. It allowed us to hit pause and think about what we wanted to do.”
The restaurant will keep the name Royals, but the menu starting Aug. 30 will feature stone-baked pizza alongside a full bar, wine list and cocktails.
“Pizza is one of those things that in good times and bad times, everyone loves pizza. But what the pandemic really did was, if you weren’t set up for convenient takeout, then places did struggle,” Lee said. “But that’s one of the things we built into this from the get-go: Opportunities to capture takeout and figure out what’s missing.”
Lee is aiming for “a little more of a throwback” pizza parlor atmosphere at the new Royals.
“Before the pandemic, we were going for a breakfast and brunch spot, and I think it could have worked. But one of the things that happened with the pandemic is people were working at home, not in offices, and schools were closed,” Lee said. “There were fewer people going out for breakfast and having those meetings at restaurants.”
Royals also initially leaned on a mid-century modern interior decor to help attract patrons, which proved difficult with limited in-person dining during the early phases of the pandemic.
“We had this brand new restaurant, but how do we get people to try it if their first experience is outdoor dining or takeout?” Lee said. “We had this big investment in the interior space that nobody could experience for the first six months.”
Lee plans a soft opening for Royals later this week leading up to the Aug. 30 opening.
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