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Reefmonkey

Harry's Kenya

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You aren't the only one. Fancy high-end fine dining restaurants with white table cloths have never lasted very long in Houston because the owners always overestimate the size of the clientele they hope to attract. There are exceptions of course. Kaphan's come to mind. The number one reason that more than half of all start-up restaurants fail within five years is under-capitalization. The rule of thumb is that a restaurant MUST have enough cash in reserve to keep the doors open for at least three years even if nobody shows up. How long was this place open? I was in and out of downtown Houston a lot in the 90s and I have no memory of it.

Edited by FilioScotia

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The Youtube video says this commercial is from 1992 (though I've found the dating of vintage commercials and other TV clips on Youtube to be somewhat unreliable), and I remember eating there in I wanna say late elementary or middle school, so mid to late 80s. I'm pretty sure it was not open by the time I moved away for college in 1994. I found a book on Google Books by Lowell C Douglas, and in the About the Author section, it says the author "partnered with several big businessmen to open Harry's Kenya restaurant in downtown Houston," and later says "After a successful stint of more than 15 years with Harry's Kenya in Houston, they sold their lease to a new high-rise building." There isn't enough context in the book to pin down opening and closing years, but between the book's info and my own recollection and the commercial, I'd say it was open roughly from the late 70s to early 90s.

 

Maxim's probably had the longest staying power of high end restaurants, at over 50 years, and then Tony's didn't do too shabby either.Cafe Annie, except for a brief ill-advised rebranding, has been going strong since the early 80s. Brenner's, Brennan's, Damian's, Rainbow Lodge, Charlie's 517, Mark's, etc., there are a lot of high end restaurants I could name that lasted for decades, and only the very last two no longer in operation. I don't think there is anything peculiar and intrinsic to Houston when it comes to high-end restaurants (or even restaurants in general), that isn't just the nature of the restaurant business. The only thing really significant to Houston was the mid 80s oil bust that was like a mass extinction event for a lot of venerable old Houston businesses, especially the high end ones. It wasn't just restaurants, places like Sakowitz, Jamail's also were killed off, but without oil company expense accounts for entertaining clients, the high end restaurants were especially vulnerable.

 

Of course now the nature of high-end dining has completely changed, the baby boomers who wanted to put on a jacket and tie and be served staid continental cuisine in a baroquely appointed dining room by black-tied waiters are long in the tooth and will be eating dinner at 4 PM soon enough, while the younger generation wants to put on their best dark rinse raw denim selfedge jeans and go to a place with sealed concrete floors and reclaimed wood beams, and eat farm-to-table food served by waiters in gingham shirts and dark rinse denim.

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2 hours ago, Reefmonkey said:

Of course now the nature of high-end dining has completely changed, the baby boomers who wanted to put on a jacket and tie and be served staid continental cuisine in a baroquely appointed dining room by black-tied waiters are long in the tooth and will be eating dinner at 4 PM soon enough, while the younger generation wants to put on their best dark rinse raw denim selfedge jeans and go to a place with sealed concrete floors and reclaimed wood beams, and eat farm-to-table food served by waiters in gingham shirts and dark rinse denim.

 

A fine summary, and one that makes me wonder once again if the "like" button is ever going to be fixed here. 

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"Like" worked fine for me. I think. Great summary Reef. But I think it's worth noting that fining dining establishments are vastly outnumbered by the franchise gimmicky eateries. There are thousands of restaurants in Houston, but only a small minority are fine dining. 

Edited by FilioScotia

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I think I do remember hearing that not only does Houston have more restaurants per capita, but more chain restaurants per capita. Probably doesn't help that we're the giant Landry's group's hometown, and Pappas chains, another Houston native, gives Landry's a pretty good run for their money around here.

 

I wonder if you compared Houston to the other top 10 cities, how they all compare in percentage of high end to casual chain to independent casual.

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Corporation Wiki says:

 

Quote

Harry's Kenya, Ltd. filed as a Domestic Limited Partnership (LP) in the State of Texas and is no longer active. This corporate entity was filed approximately thirty-eight years ago on Wednesday, March 26, 1980 , according to public records filed with Texas Secretary of State.

 

And then I found a Houston Press article from December, 1997, that talks about " the long-gone Harry's Kenya."

I'm thinking "a successful stint of more than 15 years" was a slight exaggeration on the part of Lowell Douglas.

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((((I'm thinking "a successful stint of more than 15 years" was a slight exaggeration}}}

 

I'm thinking the same thing. Why did it close if it was so successful? You noted that they sold their lease? Why? The only answer is that they weren't making enough money to pay their bills and make a profit. I don't call that "successful".
 

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23 hours ago, FilioScotia said:

"Like" worked fine for me. I think. 

 

The "Like" button appears to work when clicked on,  but any "Likes" given to a post are no longer visible to anyone else viewing that post.

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