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Round Table Pizza bites the dust in downtown Palo Alto

Uploaded: Aug 23, 2019
A longtime Round Table Pizza outpost in downtown Palo Alto has closed for good.

The 263 University Ave. restaurant closed on Sunday, Aug. 19, according to an employee. The Round Table Pizza signage was quickly replaced by large "for lease" signs.

Darkened windows and for-rent signs at the former Round Table Pizza in downtown Palo Alto. Photo by Elena Kadvany.

An employee at Bayside Realty Partners -- which has listed the whole building for rent at a base rate of $18 to $36 per square foot per year, not including operating expenses like taxes, property insurance and maintenance -- declined to provide further information about the closure. It advertises the ground-level Round Table space as "perfect location for a boutique restaurant; plenty of foot traffic from high-income community and tourists."

Locals who had dined at the Round Table or worked there as teenagers lamented the loss of another longtime local business on Facebook group Our Town Palo Alto this week. A post publicizing the closure (including an intention to "organize a reunion of everyone who ever streaked through this Round Table back in the day and reenact as a group") has gathered more than 200 comments.

Joel Johnson called Round Table Pizza "one of the last bastions for blue collar lunch in downtown PA."

"I'm wondering if the future of Palo Alto will reflect an absence of small businesses such as cafes, pizza parlors, hardware stores, bakeries, ice cream shops and the like such that residents will need to drive to surrounding cities to buy gasoline, get a duplicate key made, get a pizza or an ice cream cone," Geoffrey Michael Kronick posted.

"Seems like the future is already here," Will Watchtel responded.

Round Table is now a franchised chain, but got its start locally. Bill Larson opened the first location in Menlo Park in 1959. Global Franchise Group, brand acquisition and management firm based in Georgia, acquired Round Table in 2017, according to the company's website. The management firm plans to open more than 20 Round Table locations this year.

For those who need their Round Table Pizza fix, head to locations close by in Midtown Palo Alto, Menlo Park (at the original location at 1225 El Camino Real), Mountain View and Los Altos.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by pearl, a resident of another community,
on Aug 23, 2019 at 3:12 pm

pearl is a registered user.

Yes, sadly, the future of Palo Alto and many nearby towns will reflect an absence of small businesses, thanks to greedy landlords who have been steadily buying up properties and pushing small businesses out by raising rents impossibly high. I propose people boycott these greedy landlords who are ruining the ambiance of the SF Peninsula we have known and loved for generations.

Posted by PaloAlter, a resident of Ventura,
on Aug 23, 2019 at 3:59 pm

Landlords have to hike rent to keep up with expenses like tax, insurance and utility rates. If the property was acquired at a premium, then the landlord is entitled to charge appropriate rent to justify investment.
So, blame first the rising tax, insurance and utility rates and the former landlord of the property demanding a premium price.

Posted by Alvin, a resident of Professorville,
on Aug 23, 2019 at 4:06 pm

Alvin is a registered user.

Round Table was always overpriced and the pizza was average. Dominoes pizza is just as good now and they charge a lot less with faster service. NY Pizza on Hamilton is good too and is also cheaper than Round Table.

As far as local vs non-local businesses, whatever the hell that means, who cares? The employees in both types of businesses are local - not that it matters also - and boycotts are horrible in my opinion. Too much collateral damage, because you punish employees, suppliers, etc., who are not responsible for anything.

Blame the increase in the minimum wage, labor laws, zoning, environmental and a whole host of other government regulations and taxes as the main reasons why some businesses are struggling.

Posted by charles reilly, a resident of another community,
on Aug 24, 2019 at 5:12 am

Indeed, the loss of Roundtable is not a harbinger of the Apocalypse. Here on the Peninsula, there is no shortage of pizza places - Mountain Mike's has been expanding. SOME restaurants have been relying heavily on recession-level cheap, low wages to squeeze employees. This lack of foresight is not the fault of their landlords ....

Posted by Eater, a resident of Mountain View,
on Aug 24, 2019 at 10:06 am

Alvin, a resident of Professorville: "Round Table was always overpriced and the pizza was average."

First, those comments imply someone who doesn't know Round Table well. It's one of those businesses whose "rack-rate" or menu list prices no one actually pays (or almost no one): discount offers deluge customers on take-out boxes, register receipts, coupon mailings, etc.

Second, when RT's chain grew so rapidly here in the 1970s, it was a genuinely novel concept. The whole chain-pizzeria industry got going around 1960 nationwide, originally commanding the very bottom end of commercial pizzas (Little Caesar's, Pizza Hut, Domino's). Chains like Amici's, Pizza My Heart, or CPK didn't exist yet -- RT was their prototype, offering higher ingredient quality and range, more like an independent pizzeria. RT is now, yes, "average" exactly because it inspired even better competitors and elevated the average for pizzeria chains.

Third, this isn't really news anyway. RT locations routinely close from time to time as markets or leases warrant; it's not as if this were the only one around (Yelp shows about 30 others in PA and adjacent towns). Probably it's worth mention mainly because (a) many people with Bay-Area roots have memories connected with their local Round Table locations, and (b) like the blogger here, it was born and raised nearby, in Menlo Park.

Posted by That MV Guy, a resident of Mountain View,
on Aug 24, 2019 at 12:05 pm

Once again the unchecked ride in land value has killed another popular business. Soon it will all be office buildings and overpriced housing. I've watched that happen to my hometown of MV ever since Google set up shop here and started to grow. Terrible.

Posted by right the first time, a resident of Bailey Park,
on Aug 24, 2019 at 12:13 pm

Eater, a resident of mountain view: that take is "Max-imally" wrong, no surprise. I know Round Table well. It was and is overpriced, even with the coupons.

Posted by Judy, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 24, 2019 at 12:42 pm

Just the other day, when walking down University Ave. with a friend, I pointed out that Round Table Pizza was the only restaurant or shop still on University Ave. since I moved to Palo Alto in 1973 when I was 11 years old. Nothing else has survived that long, except perhaps Mills Florist.

Back in the 70s University Ave. was dead after dark and Round Table Pizza was one of the few establishments open. It's where my family went for pizza before the competition - like Ramona's (now gone) - moved in.

If prices were high it's because they didn't skimp on ingredients.

I'm in Menlo Park now, so at least I can still visit the Round Table Pizza on El Camino. I love their gourmet veggie pizza. Yum!

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 24, 2019 at 2:18 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

The minimum wage increase will likely see similar things happen in Palo Alto. You can only raise your prices so much before people stop frequenting your restaurant.

Posted by Donna, a resident of Egan Middle School (Los Altos),
on Aug 24, 2019 at 4:13 pm

Raise the minimum wage and you lose small business. So simple. Economics 101.

An anology is that if you raise the price of something, you reduce the number of buyers. Maybe the item still sells, but to a smaller buyer set. Thus the inventory turn slows, and it may take longer but the business will go under.

On Round Table. I think it has the best Pizza going. They they are flexible about adding ingredients. There is another popular pizza place in Los Altos and the menu is what you get. Want diced fresh tomatoes on top? No! Want extra olives? No!

I am happy I live near a Round Table. I love the Guinevere's Garden Delight the most. With extra olives, please

Posted by Resident, a resident of another community,
on Aug 24, 2019 at 4:40 pm

The Feds and states need to raise the earned income credit and provide universal health and dental care. Raising minimum wage may do little and hurt some businesses and consumers.

Posted by Chris, a resident of University South,
on Aug 24, 2019 at 7:48 pm

There were few restaurants downtown before the late 70's because alcohol was banned.

Why are people bemoaning the loss of a chain restauant, like Round Table or Cheesecake Factory? I thought small local business was the Holy Grail.

The minimum wage is a non-factor in Palo Alto. Actual wages were already above $15. Offering $15 would not get you any employees.

Posted by DC, a resident of Mountain View,
on Aug 24, 2019 at 9:29 pm

As others have said, high rent cost, added to high labor cost and an noncompetitive business model(national fix price). Meant an end to this chain. Sunnyvale / Mtn View has lost a Burger King and a McDonald's. Trying to switch to part time workers or mid day shutdowns are only temp gap fillers. Unless everyone wants to spend $10 up for lunch this is becoming a common site. Ice cream in PA was $6 a cone

Posted by Really?, a resident of Atherton: other,
on Aug 24, 2019 at 10:49 pm

You sure University Avenue rent is $36 per square foot per YEAR?

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 25, 2019 at 12:04 am

Landlords who buy a building at today's inflated prices should not expect businesses to lease their properties to people who want to work hard to open businesses only to have all their hard work go to a landlord with no business sense.

It would be good to know what buildings are owned by what companies, and the rents they are charging. I would be in favor of some kind of boycott. Look at a place like the Stanford theater whose prices have not changed as long I can even remember. That property did not change hands and they are a great asset to Palo Alto,

All these places where the rents are too high, mean they cannot hire competent people - even at higher rates. We used to have tons of restaurants on University and in this city, and now most of them are closed, or not worth going to.

It's not even that prices are too high, but that you cannot find a good value with good food. We understand that Palo Alto restaurants are going to have higher prices, but the thing is they keep squeezing more and more profit until the ultimate product is not worth buying. Even if you spend more money you do not necessarily get better food, you get a more status conscious place to eat with some gimmick like buffalo gelato.

Never much of a cook the first few times I said screw it and eschewed going out to eat and cooked my own food made me realize how good fresh home cooked food is, even if you don't know what you are doing, compared to so much of what Palo Alto has to offer now. Way too greasy and too salty and not fresh served by people who hate the average Palo Altan anyway ... why do that ... and pay double for it on top of that?

The best pizza place in Palo Alto used to be Pizza-A-Go-Go. Does anyone remember that from the 1980's with the surfer theme? God that pizza was great, and you could go in and get an immediate piece of pizza and a fresh beer on tap if you wanted to eat right away. It was packed almost every night ... whatever happened to that place?

The city should exercise some kind of eminent doman and reserve ground level properties for retail and set reasonable rates so that the whole city can benefit instead of being dogged by restaurants that really cannot work.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 25, 2019 at 12:08 am

By the way, does anyone know what happened to the Mountain View Happi House
near Jack In The Box off Calderon? Way back I used to eat there every once in a
while and still used to stop in a couple times a year until it closed for remodel ....
except it has not been remodeled and it has been maybe almost a year.

Are they gone too now?

Posted by Steven A., a resident of Mountain View,
on Aug 25, 2019 at 2:14 am

It's a big deal because Rount Table was just a few locations then (not a "chain"), and this was the place the high school kids hung out.

Posted by Jeff, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Aug 25, 2019 at 7:24 am

Round Table was bought by a private equity company in 2017. On April 1st, 2019 RT began serving a new menu that included vastly different pizza and toppings. For everyone complaining about this location closing, I'm wondering when was the last time they ate a pizza from Round Table?

I believe they have ruined their pizza. The ingredients are not the same quality resulting in a pizza that tastes nothing like it used to. The appearance of the pizza has also changed- it looks like a frozen pizza from the grocery store. To add insult to injury, the prices have gone way up.

As I had already decided not to eat at Round Table until and unless they changed back to the original recipe (not an easy decision- my family had patronized RT for 40+ years), this closure doesn't mean as much to me as it once would have. I expect many other Round Table locations in the Bay Area to struggle in the next few years; the combination of mediocre pizza and much higher prices will not be an easy sell. I feel bad for all the franchisees and employees.

There's a reason they dropped 'the last honest pizza' tagline. RIP, Round Table. You will be missed.

Posted by HonestDave, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Aug 25, 2019 at 4:03 pm

I did the math. If you want to rent the space that RT occupied (ground floor, upstairs, and basement) it's $30k a month, just for rent.

It's just $20k a month if you don't need the upstairs and the basement, but the basement is actually needed for food storage and prep, so....

Posted by Julie Armitano, a resident of Palo Alto High School,
on Aug 26, 2019 at 10:35 am

My fiancé and I loved going to Road table pizza a lot.
I will miss the nice people there.
Good luck.
I loved going there a lot.

Posted by Truth Teller, a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto),
on Aug 26, 2019 at 11:48 am

Everything is Set up now in Serving The Massive Tech Companies and Others.
There are Foreign Entities that are steering the Market.
Everything in America is a "Free For All".
I remember all the Little Business in Downtown Palo Alto. Those were the Good Old Days.
But Progress Wins For the New Generation of HIGH END!

Posted by Ray, a resident of Professorville,
on Aug 26, 2019 at 2:31 pm

Posted by Donna

Raise the minimum wage and you lose small business. So simple. Economics 101.

An anology is that if you raise the price of something, you reduce the number of buyers. Maybe the item still sells, but to a smaller buyer set.

Economics 101 part B: Not necessarily. It depends on the elasticity of the product. Raising the price of gasoline has little effect on reducing the quantity sold. Reducing the price of salt has little effect on generating sales of salt.

But I nitpick but only to touch on how complex the downward slope of demand can be with respect to changes in price. I am not nit-picking the demise of small business in Palo Alto. Pizza is one of those businesses that seem to come and go and we are fortunate that there are still many good pizza places.

Posted by Don Keedick, a resident of Cuesta Park,
on Aug 26, 2019 at 2:34 pm

Don Keedick is a registered user.

University Avenue is morphing in odd ways. Similar thing is happening on Castro in Mountain View. The combination of high real estate prices, high wages, mediocre food are not a good one mix

Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 26, 2019 at 4:27 pm

"So, blame first the rising tax, insurance and utility rates and the former landlord of the property demanding a premium price."

I prefer to blame the landlord who bought at the premium price, thereby contributing to the real estate inflation that underlies the decline in local quality of life.

Posted by Pam, a resident of Charleston Gardens,
on Aug 26, 2019 at 5:51 pm

The real loss here is not about pizza, or whether you liked this particular one, but the steady loss of choices in where to eat, shop and generally use services in Palo Alto.

As an owner of a very long-term small business in Palo Alto, we are really trying to keep offering our customers [many of them 30 year's running!] a decent quality service for a reasonable price. Our rent is astonishingly high, wages, just to stay competitive, are unaffordable at our current service prices and our employees all - literally all - travel daily from either the east bay or San Jose.

Small business owners really care about their employees, their customers and on the terms that they do business. When we all get pushed out - and that is a fact, it's happening every day - what will be left are chains. I think many chains bring a lot to the table for our community, but they are limited in what they can serve and their ability to serve fully.

There are no easy answers here and many, many valid questions and comments, but at the end of the day, our community is, and will continue to be, diminished by the disappearance and lack of choices we have created for ourselves.

Posted by Historic?, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Aug 26, 2019 at 6:04 pm

Can't this location be declared historic and the owners forced to run it? Karen?????

Posted by Sarah, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Aug 27, 2019 at 11:31 am

It's sad. Round table is gone. Prolific Oven is going in a week.....

Posted by Mountain Mikes Is Better Than RT, a resident of University South,
on Aug 27, 2019 at 6:24 pm

> "Round Table was always overpriced and the pizza was average."

When RT went corporate, quality went down. MBA/bean counter types typically strive to keep food costs down & this incentive is usually reflective in loss of quality.

Besides, the old Ramona's made better pizza than Round Table and their closure was more of a loss.

RTs are big deal, no big loss.

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 28, 2019 at 10:09 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

There's a Mountain Mike's coming in Menlo Park. (When I was at Gunn, Mountain Mike's at El Camino and Stanford Ave was our gathering place after basketball games).
I grab a slice at Pizza My Heart more often that I should admit or take out a whole pie from Patxi or sometimes Howie's. Our basketball team had several reunions recently at PIzza Chicago, which has rebooted.
There are so many pizza places in Palo Alto that it's hard to keep track of them!
(I also grab from the freezer section the odd Vicolo pie).

Posted by DTNResident, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 29, 2019 at 1:37 pm

Wah! I want to virtue signal with my high minimum wage requirements, while bemoaning the loss of affordable restaurants. This will now turn into some overpriced foofy Chateau st. Dollerz Restaurant for which substitution with a $7 frozen pizza in place of a dine in $110 pizza@25 min wage isn't possible. I'll still pay $110 for two to eat here, but the dough and cheese will be turned into Tortellini and the mushrooms served on the side, so that I don't think I'm getting ripped off. And thus I'll get my high minimum wage, while paying 6x the price for a meal, which I'll seem to eat less and less of, while believing the minimum wage didn't really make much of a difference. Yay me!

Posted by Chez Whitey, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 29, 2019 at 2:30 pm

How long until only two options for dining downtown will remain: Chez Whitey Restaurant and vending machines?

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 30, 2019 at 2:44 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

I have to say that we like Round Table Pizza. We've visited the location in midtown on and off since moving to Palo Alto. It is an old building, but the pizza is good and the staff is nice.

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