Oak Park restaurateur complains of slumping sales at Taste of Chicago

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

This summer was a tough one for Oak Park restaurant owner Charlie Robinson, who says he made about $100,000 less at the Taste of Chicago than the previous year.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that attendance was down by about 11 percent, year to year, at the food festival. Reasons for the slump, according to the newspaper, include reduced hours, the economy, and the lack of a fireworks show or big-name bands.

Robinson — an Oak Parker whose Robinson's No. 1 Ribs has locations in both Oak Park in Chicago — told the Sun-Times that his sales were down by 30 to 40 percent compared to last year. He earned some $200,000 at the Taste, compared to $300,000 the previous year.

"It's hard to be out there 10 days and not make any money," Robinson told the Sun-Times. "We're not out there just to get our name out, we're out there to make money. If we break even, we'll be lucky this year."

Robinson said he'd be in favor of the festival being taken over by a private company, and having the new operator charge an admission fee.

Reader Comments

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epic lulz  

Posted: July 9th, 2011 1:07 AM

Marty is writing for a general audience, not the WSJ. Outside of business jargon, "earnings" generally refers to total cash inflow. In any case, it was obvious from the context what was being described.

John McCarthy from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: July 8th, 2011 11:18 AM

Anyone who has visited Charlie's OP location in recent years won't be surprised that he took a major revenue hit this year at the Taste. The overall quality and attention to BBQ excellence has slipped so far that Robinson's ain't even close to being on my list anymore. As for the overall Taste experience, Rahm Emanuel (aka Mayor Sneaky) accomplished his mission. He advertised ultraviolent black flash mobs would be waiting for us middle aged white people if we ventured into the City. We believed.

Kurt from Oak Park  

Posted: July 8th, 2011 7:22 AM

I agree, this story needs some work. "... he made about $100,000 less..." indicates profit, not revenue. "He earned some $200,000..." also indicates earnings, not sales. Then later he is talking about breaking even?

Pat from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 11:31 PM

Had a great time at Taste again. A friend and I go every year around noon. At that time of day the crowds are friendly and the food is fresh. This year the weather was perfect too. Lots of police presence, which we liked. Lots of people employed keeping it clean. Many people we know won't go because of cost of food and fear of violence. Doesn't help that there are few places to sit in shade to eat. Listening to entertainment meant sitting in hot sun. Never get Robinson's Ribs, not our favorite.

epic lulz  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 8:33 PM

Tom, learn the difference between sales and profit.

Tom Gull from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 7:44 PM

What a minute. First it says "He earned some $200,000 at the Taste" That's $20,000 per day! Then Robinson is quoted "It's hard to be out there 10 days and not make any money." Where do I sign up to make $20,000 a day and think I didn't make any money?

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 5:36 PM

I don't see that kind of trouble associated with the local talent I suggested. Lollapolooza is bringing in some really big names for this summer's fest and I don't expect there are going to be any major security issues with those fans. The City needs to stand up and not allow a very small minority of bad actors to ruin the Taste and other fun events.

Ken from Oak Park  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 3:52 PM

The change in focus at this year's Taste was not designed to increase attendance -- just the opposite. The big name acts were pared down because of security concerns based on violence at the Taste in recent years. Same reason the big lakefront fireworks show has been cancelled.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 7th, 2011 3:20 PM

The Chicago Park District's plan was to focus on the food and less on entertainment. That proved to be a mistake. People will come downtown for a free concert if the act has a following. No one wants to deal with the hassle just to get a turkey drumstick or pizza slice. Forget about charging admission. That will reduce attendance. Make the music about and from Chicago. Buddy Guy, Billy Corgan. Cheap Trick, John Prine, Jennifer Hudson, etc.,. should be headlining next year. "If you build it,..."

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