KFnet in T-Town

Jan. 26, 2012 at 7:43am

Business Deathwatch - Zara

Every time I Link by Zara Mediterranean Cuisine in the early evening the huge place has only one or two people at the bar (and no one sitting at the restaurant) and those very well may be servers with nothing to do. Let's get constructive and determine Zara's pluses and minuses to see if there's a reasonable recommendation to be made to possibly save this business from going under.


  • Cool bar setting
  • Bellydancers


  • Social media presence lacking, Fb account often goes weeks w/out being touched
  • Horrible, unprofessional website
  • Awkward location (entrance on Commerce w/no on-street parking)

Number of FeedTacoma search matches from August 1, 2011 (near Zara's opening) through December 31, 2011:

RestaurantAug. 2011Sep. 2011Oct. 2011
Nov. 2011
Dec. 2011
Pacific Grill

Zara: 43 (6 blog entries, 1 comment, 36 tweets)
Pacific Grill: 79 (34 blog entries, 3 comments, 42 tweets)


  • Is this place doomed to fail like it's predecessor in that location Sea Grill?
  • Would any restaurant in this location be doomed to fail especially considering the Starbucks next door was closed?
  • Are these just typical first year restaurant struggles?


  • Engage Facebook "Likes" more regularly, post specials, deals, photos of happy people, good food.
  • Start Twitter account and engage local foodies (at least)
  • Form relationships and come up with deals with other local, more successful places to drum up business.
  • Skip Living Social, offer up a not-to-be-missed deal to Facebook, Twitter followers from time to time
  • Hold bellydancing lesson during quiet hours
  • Continued in the comments below...

Business Deathwatch takes a critical look at businesses around Tacoma through constructive criticism, tips, and writing-on-the-wall facts. Know of a business you think is on its last legs and could use some crowd-sourced analysis? Email kfreitas@feedtacoma.com with the who and why.

comments [31]  |  posted under business, commerce, deathwatch, restaurant, tacoma


by Lance Kagey on 1/26/2012 @ 7:56am
I have never been to this restaurant, although I am curious to see if they have good food. I think their main issue is they have no relationship with the community. Any business that wants to succeed in Tacoma has got to be engaged in the community. We are a very gregarious city and if you are quiet you are forgotten. How can we invite ZARA into the community conversation. Kevin, I think this is a good start.


by izenmania on 1/26/2012 @ 7:58am
I think in all this talk of marketing and location you may be missing one key element in restaurant success: I went to Zara once, and found the food to be quite thoroughly mediocre. That's not something a restaurant placed to be one of the "fancy places" downtown can really get away with, if they don't already have a loyal base. The next time I want Mediterranean food at lunch, you'll find me at Freighthouse Square, enjoying a much tastier meal than I had at Zara.

Regarding the location, though, I don't think the Starbucks closed because of the location by itself. It closed because there were two other Starbucks with better locations blocks away; one nearer the downtown office buildings, one nearer UWT. The bulk of downtown traffic is split between those two areas and had no need for the middle Starbucks. Not a problem that would relate to a unique restaurant in the same building.

by cisserosmiley on 1/26/2012 @ 8:27am
New food genres have been tough to introduce here over the years. They should have had a booth at the markets on pine and proctor so folks could get a taste without a full trip commitment. Should have started with just a stall with shaved lamb, pita and tzeke. Then when it was hep open a full service operation. the next mediterranean place in Tacoma will probably benefit from Zara's sacrifice.

by KevinFreitas on 1/26/2012 @ 8:28am
@Lance: I totally agree. No place has a good chance if they're not at all engaged. That being said...

@izenman: I totally agree. Their food at opening was pretty OK but no better, like you said, then the Greek offerings at Freighthouse or It's Greek To Me. So, improve their food. Do you think it was an ingredient/freshness thing or did they not show any innovation with their dishes? Or would a lower price point make it work for you?

I also hear what you're saying about Starbucks but, if Zara also had two other locations near those other two Starbucks the one at 15th and Commerce would've closed as well because it's a poor location that certainly probably clearly came through when Starbucks crunched the numbers.

by Jesse on 1/26/2012 @ 8:37am
Downtown has very little foot traffic compared to other cities. That's the problem, IMO. Downtown needs a mall just for the sake of that foot traffic.

by KevinFreitas on 1/26/2012 @ 8:43am
Agreed @Jesse. Especially that relative dead zone between 17th and 10th. There's little aside from Pacific Grill and the new T-Town Grocer to encourage foot traffic. I'd lobby for a shopping center/first run cinema to be built over the top of the rental place and parking lot between 13th and 14th.

That being a way longer term proposition, I love @cissero's idea of Zara joining in on the farmers' market lunch scene.

by fredo on 1/26/2012 @ 9:24am
The businesses which fail in the vacinity of the convention center point out a glaring problem. The convention center doesn't actually produce any foot traffic. The rents may say "great location" but the absence of people says otherwise. As I've reported in other threads the typical month for the convention center draws about 5000 people. That's only about 160 people per day.

by Jesse on 1/26/2012 @ 9:31am
@Kevin: I often thought a movie complex would go good on top of Park Place North. Have two entrances - one facing Broadway (and perhaps building the building over Commerce to meet up with the park there) and one entrance through what is now Frost Park and 9th.

Convention Center site = mall???

Tacoma Dome re-do = new convention space??

Murano = taking over convention business??

by izenmania on 1/26/2012 @ 9:31am
That was definitely the issue with the Starbucks... the only logical reason, given the general population downtown, to have put another one in that location when the main areas around were already served would be to cover the convention center and its surrounding hotels. So much for that.

As far Zara's, community engagement or no, if its prime location (for me personally as a lunch spot, based on my workplace) had been combined with the quality of Greek food I had when we went to the opening of Opa on 6th, they would have seen a lot more of my business.

by fredo on 1/26/2012 @ 9:42am
Medaterrarnean is a big geographical area. It's not just Greece and Italy which have pretty good food but also Egypt and other African countries where they probably eat bush meat. I'd rather eat an American hamburger and some yummy chicken wings served by a Hooters girl. I've seen some of those belly dancers. They're usually overweight.

by KevinFreitas on 1/26/2012 @ 9:51am
Nice @fredo. And, back to constructive conversation...

You are right the convention center traffic alone doesn't do it. So Zara will have to work hard to bring traffic to them. How 'bout this, assuming Pacific Grill is successful (and right across the street), what are they doing right that Zara could learn from?

by fredo on 1/26/2012 @ 10:07am
sorry, I guess my posting was a little indelicate. didn't mean to offend anybody.

What are the principal differences between the Pacific Grill and Zara?

The most notable difference is the menu. A group of diners choosing between the two restaurants can choose either a place that is likely to appeal to everyone in the group or a place that might appeal to some of the people in the group. Greek cuisine is very niche type of menu. Of course Greek people and adventurous people will probably prefer to try Zara. The menu alone makes Zara a tough sell. Can this be overcome by social media, perhaps some Groupon giveaways?

by KevinFreitas on 1/26/2012 @ 10:18am
It's definitely a niche which makes it less accessible for people as you said. I'm that way with Indian food -- I don't know a ton about it so don't crave it and just plain don't go. So maybe some education about their dishes when they're reaching out more would be good. I think yummy recipes or photos could got a long way (for relatively little investment on their part).

I'll ponder personally why I haven't been back since their opening and would ask everyone here to do the same. @izenmania's chimed in as such but, the questions may be: Have you been? What'd you think? Have you gone back? Have you gone at all? If no, why not?

by L.S.Erhardt on 1/26/2012 @ 10:22am
I've been to both Zara and Pac Grill multiple times.

For me, I find the atmosphere is better at Pac Grill. I'm one of those oddballs who finds large TVs in a restaurant/bar to be offensive.
Furthermore, Zara's food is not quite as tasty as PG's.
Now, if Zara started serving those cassava donuts that Social has, then I'd be @ Zara a lot more often.

People mention the whole social media aspect. Other than looking up addresses or reviews, I personally find the social media aspect to be useless.

by fredo on 1/26/2012 @ 10:24am
We don't go out to eat as much as we'd like because the taxes in this area are cutting into our discretionary income too much. We're not the only Tacoman's with this problem. Property taxes and sales taxes are taking a huge chunk of our paychecks. Call it the law of unintended consequences.

by jenyum on 1/26/2012 @ 10:59am
For people who spend a lot of time on social media, regular reminders of a restaurant's existence (particularly with food pics) is very good marketing. Cafe Dei's regular presence in my newsfeed has probably kept me away from Starbucks on multiple occasions. The Hub is always posting photos of pizzas around dinner time, etc. (If I were in the market for dinner out I'd go.)

I love Mediterranean food, but most places around here really don't do it well, the little booth at Freighthouse being a notable exception. I'd be reluctant to try an expensive Mediterranean place without some idea of what the food is going to look like.

by Non Sequitur on 1/26/2012 @ 11:07am
Fredo said:
"We don't go out to eat as much as we'd like...cutting into our discretionary income too much...Property taxes and sales taxes are taking a huge chunk of our paychecks."

Sell your house if you aren't seriously underwater (you likely are, most people are) and rent. Problem solved.

by jenyum on 1/26/2012 @ 11:09am
The Yelp reviews are a problem.


Looking at that, I would say that they need a new menu (either without the lamb shank or with a cook who knows how to prepare it well) and an outreach effort to let people know they are making changes.

by cisserosmiley on 1/26/2012 @ 11:26am
More cucumbers!

by jenyum on 1/26/2012 @ 11:31am
...another oddity, they have 13 reviews and 26 "filtered reviews" on Yelp.

by KevinFreitas on 1/26/2012 @ 11:34am
Yeah, those Yelp reviews don't help too much. Sounds like some serious changes are needed from within. I fear that without a strong anchor to bring more foot traffic to that area this space is destined to become a fancy architectural firm or some such thing.

by fredo on 1/26/2012 @ 1:46pm
"•Awkward location (entrance on Commerce w/no on-street parking)" Kevin

Depending on which discussion is going on the lack of parking is either described as a bad thing or a good thing. I thought that the lack of parking made people want to become transit riders or pedestrians or ride their bicycles.

by Jesse on 1/26/2012 @ 2:02pm
Pacific grill does well there because they have the best happy hour anywhere... and it's all the time!

by Jesse on 1/26/2012 @ 2:05pm
Haub postal lot: four stories of mall and eight to twelve stories of consolidated pierce county employees. Per foot cost is high but offset by new revenue mall creates. Also gives them time to wrap up current leases.

There's your foot traffic .

by KevinFreitas on 1/26/2012 @ 3:15pm
Sounds good to me @Jesse! Don't forget to put a first-run theater in there. :)

by Non Sequitur on 1/26/2012 @ 5:27pm
We're talking a building on the Haub lot roughly the size of the Tacoma financial center (70m, 17st).
We NEED to build something taller than Wells Fargo (103m, 25st). It's embarrassing having a dated 103m cheesegrater as the city's tallest for 4 decades.

We need something glassy, modern and more like 150m.

by Maria on 1/26/2012 @ 8:37pm
I've heard from others that the prices were high and the food was average. So I've never even been there. And I'm sad to see they're not doing that well. I love love love Mediterranean and Greek food.

If there was a way for them to lower the cost slightly and make the food unforgettably good, they could succeed. It is a tough location, though. Sea Grill got pretty good reviews and such.

I kinda think Tacoma is more of a mid-scale restaurant town. We have some amazing higher priced places like El Gaucho's, Pacific Grill and Asado. If a new restaurant is trying to be upscale at all, they have to reach the level of quality, decor and service as those three, otherwise there's no point in trying to make it.

RE: social media. I just went to Happy Teriyaki #4 for the first time thanks to all the continual tweets they post with raves on how good their cheap food is. And it was good.

Lastly, I went to Asado for the first time earlier this month. Everything was impeccable and amazingly delicious. So I told at least 20 people how that's my new favorite restaurant. Everyone asked me how was the decor, where is it, what to order, what looked good, did they have a happy hour, etc. Initially I had heard from two others how much they loved the place, and one person told me it was her top restaurant in the region. That's good word of mouth.

by Erik on 1/26/2012 @ 9:36pm
Sad....because everyone had such great hopes for Zara.

As mentioned above, their location makes it more difficult to reach meaning that they have to be even better than restaurants that have curb parking....everytime I went to Zara's I had to think about just how I was going to get into the restaurant.

The size of the space also makes it hard. Such a large space can look very empty unless there are a lot of people there.

Although the bar is cool and has a rare view, it takes a lot of motivation to get to through from the door and does not allow people to mix as well as they could. I am no expert but they may have a Feng shui/layout issue.

Many places in Tacoma need music, at least on weekends, to infuse some energy and push them into the black...that would be my suggestion for Zaras.

Good luck Zara!

by Jake on 2/27/2012 @ 5:26pm
***Upscale Saturdays!!*** "Starting Saturday March 17TH!!"
Saturday, Mar 17 9:00p to Sunday, Mar 18 2:00a
at Zara Mediterranean Cuisine, Tacoma, WA
Price: $10
Age Suitability: 21 and up

Tacoma, Seattle, Bellevue - Get Ready For The Newest And Classiest Ultra Lounge in Tacoma! Join us at the Souhend's premier restaurant & lounge Club Zara Ultra Lounge @ 1498 Pacific Ave in Downtown Tacoma!! Starting Saturday March 17TH! And Every Saturday!! W/ DJ Mikki Z In The Mixx Playing All The Cutz!! For VIP Table Reservations on Saturday Night


by Jake on 10/25/2012 @ 10:02am
As of Monday Zara has been closed.

by cisserosmiley on 10/25/2012 @ 10:27am
Too bad, i love Med food. The old TacoTime building on 6th ave was supposed to be WigglingCactus, but it's not going to open now. Also, everyone should try Joy Terryaki on 6th n proctor because they got a facelift and are trying harder now. Any word on Mandolin Sushi opening ? 


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So far, so good... Funny how I build web tools for other people that are far better than the one's I have setup over on KFnet.


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