An email blast announcing that Bread & Butter Concepts’ Spanish-themed Republica Restaurant would close came as a surprise to just about no one. The restaurant is going through a rebranding and will reopen as an American-style tavern named the Oliver.
Republica, truly one of my personal favorite restaurants in Kansas City, wasn’t open even a year. But a casual observer, and I consider myself a bit more than that, could see the restaurant wasn’t gaining traction. Bread & Butter founder and CEO Alan Gaylin confirmed that fact and shared some more information on Republica, the Oliver and the rebranding process over lunch.
It was a bit ironic that the noshing took place at Bread & Butter’s wildly successful Gram & Dun restaurant just a few hundred steps from the now shuttered Republica. “We recognized at an early stage that we weren’t at revenues that were acceptable,” Gaylin said. “I wouldn’t call Republica a failed concept. It was just one that didn’t meet our standards.”
Bread & Butter is used to success stories such as the aforementioned Gram & Dun, the expanding BRGR Bar + Kitchen, Taco Republic restaurant and food truck, and Urban Table. Gaylin is confident the newly conceived the Oliver, which will “hard open” on June 16, will join Bread & Butter’s growing list of hit eateries.
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“Once they try the food, they’re going to come back for more,” Gaylin said.
He shared a menu with me. It was marked with dozens of comments, potential changes and reactions to the menu items. As the menu was given to me in confidence, I won’t reveal any of those items, but I can say this: I am really looking forward to working my way through that menu one item at a time.
“I describe the food as American cuisine redefined. People will certainly recognize all of the items, but we will put our special twist on them,” Gaylin said.
It will be a three week turnaround from Republica to the Oliver, almost unheard of in the restaurant business and definitely the fastest restaurant opening for Gaylin and his team. But they had a head start, knowing for months that Republica wasn’t going to turn things around, which allowed B&B to get to work on rebranding.
“The decision to close Republica was actually made at the end of February. That allowed us to order signage and other design image materials and start developing the menu,” Gaylin said.
He said it takes about 30 days to know if a concept is working, and you can feel in in your bones if it’s not. He neither wants nor expects that feeling on June 16 with the Oliver, and Gaylin is confident the restaurant will be a success.
Still, he told me he’s more than a little nervous. “More than normal. This is important for us. It’s the first time we’ve had to do this,” he said.
I, for one, can’t wait to see and taste the finished product(s). I feel like I’ve lost a friend in Republica, but I’m always open to new relationships. As Rick told Louie at the end of “Casablanca”: “Oliver, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” I’ll be sure to let you know how the Oliver and I hit it off.
Dave Eckert was the producer and host of TV’s “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert.”