The winner of this year's Indy
Best Of for Overall Restaurant and New Restaurant, TILL
, has ceased operation of its retail bakery arm and grab-and-go coffee shop.
TILL occupies quite a lot of space, captivating attention on a drive by the multifaceted structure.
But CEO/president/owner of TILL and Garden of the Gods Gourmet, Mitch Yellen
, says not to interpret that as a bad thing. Quite the contrary, he makes a case that it's quite natural for a restaurant to still be finding and defining itself in its early months, and adjusting around what's working and what's not.
Yellen, reached by phone Monday, says the Briargate area in which they positioned TILL didn't really embrace the coffee shop and retail bakery functions of the larger operation, though he says they've enthusiastically filled dining room, bar and especially private-dining-room seats to the tune of 400 to 500 covers a night, regularly, sometimes more.
"They're more into Kneaders for their baked goods," he says, "and I realized that we're more of a restaurant, not a bakery. ... A coffee drive-thru may have worked, but I nixed the plan. ... I think my vision got a little big. ... [But] we're not struggling or failing, we're being smart, like when a corporation says 'this department isn't making money.'"
That said, the bakery in-house won't cease operation in terms of feeding the dining rooms and wholesale accounts around town — it just won't host the retail front. And the sushi that was formerly offered in the retail market has moved into a dining room option now.
Most of all, Yellen says private-dining bookings have shown huge demand, not just around the holidays for parties, but for work meetings as well. He adds that the front-house space formerly occupied by the bakery and coffee counter will likely be utilized for more private-dining space soon.
"TILL is doing very well," he insists, noting that they own the building and land, and still have plans to add another, smaller location somewhere else in town, as well as possibly two more Garden of the Gods Gourmet models.
A handful of folks may not be doing so well, having been laid-off as part of the changes. Yellen says several people were repositioned elsewhere in the company, and that only five to seven (he didn't have exact numbers on hand) employees were cut outright. That's out of nearly 100 total employees on site.
"When I opened Garden of the Gods Gourmet's market, for the first year and half I didn't know what we were," he says. "We tweaked a lot of things, we have a high standard. ... It has taken us five months to discover what's working and what's not, here, and establish our footing. ... We're getting leaner because we want to be a big success. It's all positive."
Relatedly, newly launched happy hours started last week from 3 to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and you can see a menu here:
TILL/Garden of the Gods Gourmet president Mitch Yellen says Till's private-dining facilities have taken off to the degree of inspiring the addition of more meeting and event space.