Wednesday, July 06, 2005

An Irish Doppelganger?

When the Dublin Pub opened in the old D’Arcy’s Pint location, I’d heard that the new establishment wouldn’t be straying too far from the winning formula of the previous tenant. Irish theme, horseshoes, fast and affordable fare. After reading Penny Zimmerman-Wills' review in the Illinois Times last week, it’s apparent that not only are they not distancing themselves from D’Arcy’s, they may even be attempting to pass as the original to those unwitting diners who wander in by habit.

It’s understandable if the owner’s of D’Arcy’s are a wee bit miffed, believing that an imposter has invaded their midst and is attempting to profit from their legacy. But their isn’t really anything patent-worthy about opening an Irish-themed pub (there may be more in America then there are in Grand Ol’ Eire) and serving horseshoes (in Springfield, as much a staple as salt shakers).

The question is, from a public relations standpoint, is it a good move for the Dublin Pub. Wills mentions in her review that it may soon become a favorite neighborhood watering whole, but their best chance for success may come from picking up D’Arcy’s overflow crowd. Jimmy and Johnny, AM Springfield’s resident restaurant reviewers and all-around madcaps, noted on Madonia’s broadcast this morning that D’Arcy’s is generating so much traffic that a stop sign should be placed in front of their location on Wabash.

While the Dublin Pub may have taken careful note of D’Arcy’s recipe for success, where they may have miscalculated is in underestimating the power of customer loyalty.

How many concessionaires that sell corn dogs at the fair sit idle while the line backs up in front of Bob Vose’s stand? Vose may or may not actually have the best tasting corn dog, but certainly the perception is that he does, a perception that is strong enough to keep many people waiting in line rather than trying out a competitor.

The same will likely hold true for those local sons and daughters of Erin who like to eat horseshoes and drink Bud Light at a place that offers shepherd’s pie and Guinness. For them, D’Arcy’s will always have the authentic air of a real fake Irish pub while the Dublin Pub will just be a pretender.

Several years back, a different restaurateur engaged in a little identity theft of a well-known name on the local restaurant scene. While the owners of the original Black Angus put their operation on hold while looking for a new location, another restaurant swooped in and starting serving under their banner. I mention this only because in the dispute that followed, reported to the masses on the pages of the SJ-R, the swindling proprietors of the new Black Angus committed one of the more obvious PR blunders I have witnessed locally.

Public opinion, as I recall, clearly came down on the side of the old Black Angus, much as it does on an established soap opera character when faced with the wreckage bestowed upon her by an evil twin. But unlike the evil twin who is damned to eternal scorn, the new Black Angus was given a golden opportunity to commit a good deed and put themselves in the favorable graces of the steer consuming population.

The unexpected closure of the old Black Angus left many of their customers holding unredeemed gift certificates. When operators of the new Angus were asked by reporters if they would honor said certificates, they were all too quick to disavow responsibility. Fools! Not only could they have won over those who were holding the meal tickets, most likely regulars of the original Angus, but they also could have played their selfless act of largess in the media to great effect and generated loads of positive publicity. All for the price of a few choice cuts of beef.

Back to the Dublin Pub, if they succeed it will be because they serve good food at a reasonable price. I doubt, as Zimmerman-Wills suggests, that they will experience D'Arcy-like crowds on a regular basis for the simple fact that D'Arcy's is still packing them in at their larger location and their are a finite number of diners in this town. If they had chosen a different way to define themselves, however, they may have avoided forever playing second fiddle to a Springfield favorite.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have been to the new Dublin Pub and I enjoyed the food. New D'Arcy's and Dublin Pub are about equidistant from my house but until/unless the crowd at new D'Arcy's ever dies down, Dublin Pub will get my business.