“The Canteen has been a challenge,” said a statement Johnson provided to the AJC. “We always enjoyed tremendous weekday support. Being in a business-heavy area, nights and weekends never developed the traffic that we hoped they would.”
The food hall was affected by seasonality and operated on a thin profit margin, especially after Georgia Tech and surrounding businesses closed in March due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“We decided to close temporarily in mid-March, hoping to cut all expenses to the bone in the hope that we could come out of this intact,” the statement said. “Closing only cuts the variable expenses like payroll and inventory. It is the fixed costs, like rent and utilities, that remained. We recognize that our landlord was under no obligation to help – we had signed a lease – but the unwillingness to consider any rent relief during the past two months changed the path forward from uncertain to impossible.”
When former AJC food critic Wyatt Williams reviewed the Canteen in late 2017, he gave a nod to chef and co-owner Todd Ginsberg's consistency.
“He’s more of a behind-the-scenes guy, apparently less interested in reinventing the wheel than building a very good wheel,” Williams wrote. “It seems like an ambition unique to this moment that he didn’t aspire to have some stalls in a food hall, but the entire food hall itself. Will it be the restaurant that defines his career? We’ll just have to see.”
The Canteen, which opened in 2017 at 75 5th St. NW in Tech Square in the space previously occupied by The Spence, was part of Rye Restaurants. The name encompasses the restaurants owned by Shelley Sweet, Todd Ginsberg and Jennifer and Ben Johnson and also includes The General Muir and TGM Bread at Emory Point, Yalla and Fred's Meat and Bread at Krog Street Market and Wood's Chapel BBQ in Summerhill. Sweet and the Johnsons are also partners in West Egg Café. All of the restaurants are currently open for takeout.
A second location of The General Muir is still slated to open in Sandy Springs, though the original target of a fall debut is unlikely as the project is still in the permitting phase.
The Canteen is the latest in a growing list of food and beverage establishments to close their doors amid the coronavirus pandemic. Other recent closures include Simon's Restaurant and Public School 404 in West Midtown and the Roswell location of C&S Seafood and Oyster Bar.
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