Puttin' on the Ritz
Puttin' on the Ritz
Photo courtesy The Ritz Prime Seafood

How Restaurants Fail: The Ritz Prime Seafood And Anchor Hitch

UPDATE: 4/5/17 - It was brought to our attention that reasons for The Ritz closing went further than we imagined. According to feedback received, the landlord demanded over double the original rent after things started to look up for the restaurant. This led to their eventual closure.

ORIGINAL POST: 4/4/17 AT 7:23 A.M.

In the past week, two high-end seafood establishments called it quits. However, the similarities end there. Let's look at some of the facts to see what got them to this point.

October 2015: The Ritz, which left their old-school digs by Fashion Island, relocated to Pacific Coast Highway. Neighbors included Billy's at the Beach and The Winery. A sparking dining room overlooking the harbor, they were primed for a comeback.

May 2016: Anchor Hitch opened inside recently developed Union Market Mission Viejo. Found on the top level of Kaleidoscope, some would say that the Edwards Theater across from the market was the biggest draw.

How Restaurants Fail: The Ritz Prime Seafood And Anchor Hitch
Brian Feinzimer

In the months that followed, both restaurants struggled to find their footing. When you look at Anchor Hitch— well, unless you knew that it existed, locals were unaware of this new concept. Being at the far end of a plaza didn't help. Social and traditional media would eventually get the word out.

While Ritz was situated on excellent, visible real estate, they also had a legacy of Continental sophistication. Their loyal clientele was older, wiser and knew what they wanted. Ownership chose to retain their classy reputation, yet also hoped to attract a slightly younger crowd. Simply put, The Ritz needed a new generation of diners to continue their existence.

After realizing guest count wasn't meeting their expectations, both kitchens made changes. The Ritz made the greater of the two, switching out both management and chef for fresh faces. Bringing in a duo of businessmen from Vegas and a chef who previously worked for Michael Mina should've given them a needed reboot. We actually tried the food from the new kitchen leader, and it was noticeably better.

Abalone and uni with your panna cotta
Abalone and uni with your panna cotta
Anne Marie Panoringan

Anchor Hitch, on the other hand, retained Chef Pham and updated their menu to introduce more affordable dishes. Pricing at both places played a huge factor for customers. Those used to paying big bucks at Ritz didn't believe the cost matched the quality of their dining experience. What made it worse for Anchor was their neighbor, Riptide Sushi. Seafood steps away from seafood meant locals would choose more affordable pricing in an already familiar setting over the new joint.

Were changes made too late? Or were The Ritz Prime Seafood and Anchor Hitch cursed from the start? If you ask us, Mission Viejo wasn't ready for uni-adorned pasta and abalone panna cotta. The Ritz toed the line of pushing to uphold a previous reputation while wooing newer guests. Good intentions with less-than-stellar results led to their demise. Let's hope their eventual replacements (a new concept in Mission Viejo is already in the works) understand their audiences better.

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