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Is ZIO’S Restaurant of Albuquerque hitting the financial skids?

ZIOS
ZIOS
Broaderbund

I’ve frequented ZIO’S over the last few years and dropped coin for their casual Italian cuisine that, at this time, I ought to own stock. My second child was incubated for nine months on oranges and ZIO’S manicotti. Having dined in some of the finest establishments in the nation, I don’t test with a pedestrian pallet, but I *do* consider each restaurant I try upon its own independent merits. And for what ZIO’S was aiming for: comfortable, heavy-handed, affordable fare, they originally succeeded.

At least until now.

Yesterday, I sat down at ZIO’S, tucked away in a far quiet corner where the kids could kick up some dust, the husband could rest, and I could observe, undisturbed and non-obtrusive. What I typically enjoy about this establishment is its family-friendly environment; a person of any age can dissolve amongst the myriad distractions of faux-stucco architecture mimicking a countryside villa experience, ethnic music piping through the air, and smells of oil marinating finely cut cloves of garlic. Relax and Mangia.

And that’s what patrons come to expect, especially of restaurants, and the calling card of chains: the branding experience—that is, all the sensory, psychological, and emotional elements of a service that recall its unique familiarity each and every time you go there. Particularly in turbulent times…say, a national economic crisis with no conclusive relief, people depend upon certain areas of dependability: the home, the favorite sitcom on Thursday evenings, and decidedly, the relaxing family restaurant of quality. Should that routine be disrupted by a shock out of synch with the brand (perhaps an incredibly disagreeably meal all around), rest assured the consumer will be rather distressed. After all, a measure of his security has been erased without his consent and beyond his control. And he will air his grievances about it.

Complication number two: according to the Consumer Price Index, and this should come as no surprise to any in business, the sheer number of restaurant closings across America in 2010 is a staggering sum, well above the 90% median (although, like any issue, this tabulation has been debated recently, so feel free to take your own count). Despite number disputes, suffering sales across the board is undeniable—it comes with the territory of families tightening their belts and eating at home more frequently as a means to cut costs and ride out the recession.

That said, common restaurant marketing relies upon greater income per customer via two means: inflated price per item and inflated numbers of items sold. Especially when liquor licenses aren’t pulling in what they used to, par result, drinks are escalated in price as well with midday “specials” aimed at segueing into other, more expensive alcoholic selections as the pallet dulls over one-flavored drinks. Price inflation would be appropriate should a particular restaurant be incredibly hip, over-booked, favorably indulged by the press, and most importantly, dispensing an impeccable brand of superior service, delectable cuisine, and multi-star environ. Lacking the attempt at such specifics, the business has no basis to increase any costs for the public to bear. Furthermore, should those costs increase and the quality of service, food, or environment go down, as stated earlier, customer indignation will rightfully ensue.

Back to the story at hand: I sat down *expecting* my typical ZIO’S experience; that is not however what I received. A creature of habit, I tend to order by rote: a melted, three-cheese dip to start, Italian chicken salad with house dressing and a lobster bisque on the side. My boys had pizzas, my baby, grilled cheese. Simple. Facile. Yet, the dishes served weren’t even a poor mimic of their former selves. Practically everything looked (and tasted) as if it were purchased and thawed from the freezers of the local Dollar Store. The dip, obviously microwaved as it hardened two minutes post-plating. My salad? Soured greens topped with high-school cafeteria-style tomato cubes and freezer-burned chicken. It didn’t even fit the description in the menu, let alone come close to any pictures. We simply left, food untouched, considering the experience a $50 misadventure. DailyFinance.com claims for every 1 customer that makes a rightful complaint, 24 will just leave, vowing never to return, which is ultimately more damaging to the establishment’s bottom line.

Count me as #25.

Curiously enough, my less than wild opinion is peppered around the country, as ZIO’S—a chain operation, appears to be cutting costs by shearing its quality menu into the ground across the board. After a quick peek at median stock numbers over the last twelve months, I’m willing to conjecture that ZIO’S just may be suffering some considerable financial loss. It certainly happens. (The skeleton of New Orleans-themed Copeland’s restaurant looms poignantly across the selfsame parking lot, closing its doors without so much a nod from the rest of us.) However, the means by which this once quite lovely establishment is attempting to remain financially buoyant is, frankly, tasteless.

Here’s a quick glance at some other opinions regarding ZIO’S restaurants across the country: are these indicative of a larger issue or simply typical isolated incidences? Do you have any opinions to share that can steer Albuquerque readers to quality restaurant accommodations? What places are you currently avoiding and why?

mobile review
by El Venable, Shreveport (89 reviews)
April 29, 2011 - Doesn't like it

This place stinks! Literally. Overpriced, smelly, slow service, and mediocre food.$6 for a small mug of beer. Might have been at least ok if I didn't have to endure wafts of sex panther cologne the whole time. Eat somewhere else!

what used to be...
by Berglan (9 reviews)
June 18, 2011 - Doesn't like it

Used to be our absolute favorite! Quality has been going down over the past year or two. They changed recipes with cheap, canned tasting sauces. The last time I was there, the food was practically inedible. Sadly, I won't be going back.

mobile review
by YnZ (2 reviews)
July 03, 2011 - Doesn't like it

Zio's on the canal in OKC's Bricktown has been here for years. It used to be a great place to come, but it has passed its prime. The building has that old stale food smell, the olive oil set out for the bread was rancid, the bread was cold... I won't go on. And I won't be back.

Terrible
by Mundy, Cleveland (10 reviews)
May 22, 2011 - Doesn't like it

$9.00 for 2 light beers. I had the spaghetti and meatballs. The spaghetti was mush and the sauce is obviously canned. My buddy had Shrimp Scampi, he sent it back. The shrimp was deep fried and he said it was the worst plate of food he had in a long time. The restaurant, I’m sure started out real well with a passionate founding staff, but its really the pits now. Cost vs. product is sickening

mobile review
by CASEY (260 reviews)
February 02, 2010 - Doesn't like it

The wait was too long for this terrible meal. The salmon was murdered - overcooked and tasteless. The pasta was rubbery and the Alfredo tasted like paste. But the manager comped the entire meal and gave us GC for future meal. Oh well.

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