25-Jul-2018 (Wed)
Wherein DNA Pizza is now only open in the evenings.

I am extremely sad to report that DNA Pizza's new hours will be:

    Sun - Thu: 4 PM to 3:30 AM
    Fri - Sat: 4 PM to 5 AM

We're losing way too much money on our morning and lunchtime shifts, so we have to scale back.

There has been a pizza restaurant next door to DNA Lounge since 1990 (except for one year in the middle). Those previous restaurants were typically only open at night; they depended almost 100% on business from DNA Lounge and Slim's customers, and would often just be closed on nights when neither club had a show. In the later years, Bowser's Pizza never opened the dining room at all, selling slices exclusively through the pass-through window.

When we took over the space and opened DNA Pizza in 2011, my thinking was, "We're paying rent on this space 24 hours a day. Let's find a way to make money in each of those hours, not just one third of them."

Well, seven years later and it's time to give up on that idea. The restaurant portion of our business, taken in isolation (to the degree that that's possible) is in the black during pretty much any time that the nightclub is open; and deep in the red most other times. We have so little business during the breakfast and lunch shifts that the food we sell doesn't even cover the salaries of the 2 or 3 people it takes to run the restaurant during those hours.

San Francisco doesn't have enough 24 hour restaurants, or post-10 PM food options, or lunch spots that also have a café-like atmosphere, where it feels like you're welcome to hang out with a laptop for hours. I thought we could do something to help with that. I assumed that the lack 24 hour places was because the city makes it such a pain in the ass to get the permits, but maybe it's really because the people who live here just don't actually want them.

I guess we have proven that there is demand for late-night food, though. Even mid-week, when the club isn't open, the restaurant is still doing ok after midnight. But breakfast and lunch, not so much.

We tried so many things to make this place function as a daytime café, to no avail. We tried to find a local coffee company or café or other opinionated coffee nerd to run our coffee business; zero interest. We tried rolling out a mobile coffee/pastries cart onto the sidewalk in the mornings to try and snag some foot traffic; waste of time. We've tried to convince various pop-up restaurant people to take over the place for weekend brunch, or for anything, really; zero interest. We tried to reach out to local businesses to get them to order in for meetings and whatnot; nope.

Back in February, we scaled back our morning business, closing the doors to the dining room and only selling out of the pass-through window until 10 AM. That let us run with a smaller morning staff, which helped a bit, but still not enough to put those hours in the black.

I used to think that a part of the problem was that this neighborhood has absolutely no foot traffic during the day. I told myself: the few office buildings nearby have their own underground parking and dedicated cafeterias, so nobody ever leaves them. But then the food-truck court down the street opened up to prove me wrong. Clearly that's not the reason.

Well, it's time to stop theorizing, and just cut our losses. Whatever the reason is that we have no morning or lunch business, we're seven years in to not knowing how to fix it. So let's focus on the part that is working -- putting pizza into drunks -- and spend that money that we had been just setting on fire on something else instead.

Not that there's anything particularly wrong with merely being the food component of the nightclub, but I thought and hoped that it could be more than that (and consequently be both more interesting, and make more money).

The thing that sucks most about this is that fewer hours means fewer shifts, which means that we're going to have to lay off a bunch of people. But I'm just not in a position to keep paying salaries for people to stand around while no customers are walking in the door.

In short, everything is terrible. Join our Patreon.

16 Responses:

  1. Jim Sweeney says:

    We drunks appreciate the place, nevertheless!

  2. Meeks Baker says:

    My ridiculous question: Can I still get a breakfast burrito in the evening? Those things are delicious.

  3. pagrus says:

    Hi, opinionated coffee nerd here. I am sad that it has come to this, and my first impulse is to ask whether you have talked to Dude, or tried This Thing. I'm going to go ahead and assume you did, and have but in the off chance you would be interested in thoughts from a coffee industry guy I'd be happy to try to help.

    I'm pretty confident there is coffee business there, if only because we just closed our coffee shop and it was pretty close to DNA. People keep asking when we are going to reopen, mainly due to the lack of coffee worth drinking in that neighborhood.

    For the record, I have changed my position somewhat since the last time I tried to advise you on how to run your business.

    • Derpatron9000 says:

      advise you on how to run your business.

      I did a double take, first time I thought you said 'ruin'.

  4. MattyJ says:

    What a bummer. I went out of my way (hoofing it back and forth from Market Street) to have lunch at DNA Pizza 3-4 times a month. But yeah, often I was the only one in there at 12:30. I'm not sure how everyone at the food trucks are getting there, they don't seem to be walking up and down 11th. You'd think more people waiting for the bus would wander in. I wish I had a miraculous idea or some insight about what's up with that neighborhood at lunch. I occasionally go to that liquor story across 11th that has tacos and hot dogs, and it's not exactly bumpin', either.

    Maybe redesign the parklet so it looks like a food truck.

  5. bryan says:

    Damn! I was just telling someone the other day how DNA pizza was the best 24hr place (of almost none) in the city; one could eat, drink, rest, charge a phone, surf the net, etc. It happened once that I was in DNA pizza from 2am til 5am because I had an early morning flight and nowhere to sleep.

  6. David Kaye says:

    Having owned a restaurant and nightclub in another life, I concur about the signage. It's nice to have uniformity in look between the nightclub and the restaurant, but the restaurant is really serving two demographics. While the black and green logo is great for the club crowd, it doesn't fit the daytime crowd. I'd say, a logo rich in yellows and oranges on a white background would likely be your best bet -- and it would serve both daytime and evening patrons. But, well, this is too late for that, but I thought I'd offer a few words on the situation.

  7. 3V says:

    This may rub you the wrong way but there are lots of services that book restaurants/bars out for co-working during those hours of the day. I figure you would already have the IT and internet setup to support that. Not sure being full of techies all day would be worth it though...

  8. A part of my heart will always live at DNA Pizza. As I am still deeply in the trenches of the pizza business, if you or Barry ever need any advice or an ear, I still have the same number.

  9. Joe Johnson says:

    Was at DNA this may after x-years of reading this blog, my friend and myself did enjoy ourselves enormously at Hubba. And the pizza advertised as "feeds 1-2" did indeed feed two - for two whole days. For what it is worth, I'm bugging everyone who goes to America to check out DNAlounge and get food at DNA pizza. And to skip lunch that day.

  10. Mike Kirby says:

    Well, still on the Patreon, still with you, still plugging for DNA, man.

  11. Mike says:

    Hi Jwz, I'd like to chat briefly offline. You have my email. Thx.

  12. Eduardo says:

    Hey man, that sucks. :(

  13. BHN says:

    "I assure you, we're open!" :-(

    It can't be easy, but you gotta be realistic, you fought the good fight. Sell them pizza when they want to buy it, at least you're still selling into the early morning hours.

  14. Thias says:

    Who wants to join in a nightclub with a doubtful reputation for breakfast or lunch? It's said to be a dive, it looks like a dive, so it is a ...!