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Alta. Atla. Where Did We Make That Restaurant Reservation?

December 11, 2017
By: Wall Street Journal

Atla, a Mexican-inspired tapas newcomer in Manhattan’s NoHo neighborhood, is often confused with Alta, a Mediterranean small-plates restaurant in the West Village.

Alex Daniel was eager to try the ceviche verde at Atla, a Mexican-inspired tapas newcomer in Manhattan’s NoHo neighborhood. But when the 25 year old venture-capitalist arrived in an Uber to meet a friend for dinner recently he quickly realized he was at Alta, a Mediterranean small-plates restaurant in the West Village.

“It was a simple mistake, the names are so similar,” said Mr. Daniel, noting that he entered the wrong restaurant name in the Uber app. “It could happen to anyone.” He ended up walking about 15 minutes to Atla.

Customers are mixing up Alta, a West Village staple for 15 years, with trendy Atla, which opened in the spring. The spellings are different, but easily can be misread.

The Alta vs. Atla confusion is the latest dining dilemma where a slew of similarly named New York City restaurants have experienced mix-ups.

Earlier this year, a lawyer representing Little Italy pastry-shop owner John “Baby John” Delutro of Caffé Palermo sent a cease-and-desist letter asking the Broadway show “A Bronx Tale” to remove a sign from its stage set that referred to another pastry shop as “The Cannoli King,” infringing on his trademark registration. The show complied.

The most eater confusion in New York City food history goes to Ray’s Pizza. The original, at 27 Prince St., inspired dozens of independently owned outposts such as “Ray’s Original Pizza,” “Famous Ray’s Pizza” and “World-Famous Original Ray’s Pizza.” Customers wondered who the real Ray was. The original location closed in 2011. By then, there were nearly 50 restaurants with some variation of the Ray’s Pizza name in New York City including a place called Not Ray’s Pizza in Brooklyn.

“People tend to use a similar restaurant name to one with a good reputation on purpose because they know they can capitalize on it. They want to be able to associate with another brand, but you end up just confusing the customer,” restaurant consultant Jason Kaplan said.

Both the Alta and Atla restaurants have been caught up in the customer confusion. On another recent evening, two women approached the hostess at Alta’s rustic Hacienda-inspired dining room asking if their party had arrived, only to be told there was no reservation.

“We get guests showing up when they don’t have a reservation,“ said Ian Nal, a manager at the West Village restaurant. ”Sometimes they’re half here, and half there. They leave, or people show up with no reservation. It is confusing.”

Alta, a Mediterranean small-plates restaurant in Manhattan’s West Village, has been a neighborhood staple for 15 years.

PHOTO: CLAUDIO PAPAPIETRO FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Atla, a casual NoHo venture from the Mexican-food chef Enrique Olvera and Daniela Soto-Innes, also has diners arriving at the wrong restaurant. They usually end up staying, but sometimes must wait until a table opens up, owner Santiago Gomez said.

“I don’t think we’ll put a disclaimer up on the site. Our name is in all capital letters,” Mr. Gomez said. He said he and Alta’s owners have agreed to redirect confused patrons to the correct restaurant.

Mr. Nal, who runs Alta in the West Village, said he lost some business when Atla opened, but he declined to say how much. “It is water under the bridge,” he said.

Changing the name of a neighborhood restaurant in New York City can cost between $10,000 to $50,000, according to creative agency Brandfire.

Family-owned Selena Rosa, formerly Selena Rosa Mexicana on the Upper East Side, paid $50,000 after international chain Rosa Mexicano threatened to sue if it didn’t change its name and logo. Owner Sammy Musovic said he had little choice. His family already had spent more than $100,000 to establish the brand and market it.

“I had a trademark, but there was really nothing we could do; it was a big company trying to take a small guy down,” said Mr. Musovic, who had to put a disclaimer on his menu and website saying Selena Rosa isn’t affiliated with Rosa Mexicano. Rosa Mexicano didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Customers, however, seem to be the ones ultimately paying the price. “I wasted 15 minutes; that’s an eternity in New York,” said Mr. Daniel, the venture-capitalist who recently hoofed it to Atla.

By Jeanette Settembre

REPOSTED FROM WSJ.COM – READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

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JK Consulting is a New York-based international restaurant & hospitality consulting firm. We specialize in restaurant & bar openings along with turnaround programs. Our expertise is in developing highly effective operational systems, management procedures, hospitality services, staff training, beverage, menu and mystery shopping programs.
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