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uWink restaurant chain struggles financially

Original post made on Mar 10, 2009

Suffering from "serious liquidity issues," according to analysts, uWink has officially removed itself from the stock market after its share price hovered around zero for months.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 11:36 AM


Posted by GSB
a resident of Castro City
on Mar 10, 2009 at 2:21 pm

That corner of Castro and California is cursed!

I really hope that uWink can stick it out, though.

Posted by Jesse
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 10, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Maybe they should try to serve better food than Denny's and cut their prices in half. I still wouldn't eat there but it'd be a start!

Posted by SP Phil
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 10, 2009 at 2:28 pm

For a long time, I didn't know uWink was a restaurant! Note there is nothing visible on the facade that would indicate that it is a place to eat.

Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2009 at 2:49 pm

A bad concept poorly executed.

Is anyone familiar with their other locations? Are they all in locations like the MV one? I think that this concept could possibly work if they picked their locations to suit their customer base-- uWink should be in Valley Fair, not downtown!

Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 10, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Jesse, Phil, & Eric -- Yeah that pretty much nails it. Nothing for me to add other than I hope they could bring back the Roadhouse or something else that had the feel of a neighborhood bar up front with decent food in the back.

Posted by TJ
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 10, 2009 at 4:09 pm

It's not the location, it's the food, the experience, and the hours.

The food is bar food at best, the vaunted interactive video games aren't even as good as some of the lamest casual internet games, and the place isn't even open during much of the day.

Try making the food something more than frozen stuff heated up. Try making some decent interactive games (BW3's had better trivia and interactive games in 1995).

And remember, you can't make money if you aren't open. It's one of the best places to watch sports with all those TV screens, but it often isn't open when East Coast games are on.

Posted by wage slave
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 10, 2009 at 4:27 pm

Close that worthless place down and replace it with a Buffalo Wild Wings.

Posted by Adam
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 10, 2009 at 4:32 pm

I hope the folks at uWink pay very careful attention to all this priceless feedback and make the necessary changes.

Posted by Krista
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 10, 2009 at 6:25 pm

Food is okay, but WAY overpriced - especially for our current economic times. I had friends also remark about the hours being limited. The monitors should be embedded in the table and not sticking up, invading your view of the people across from you. The games weren't functioning very well (alot of glitches) when I was there and the wait staff or whatever they are called are pretty sterile people. A one time experience just for the novelty but nothing compelling to draw me back for a second time, unless I had out of town company and wanted to show them something different. I agree with someone else who posted that the location is the worst. Westfield Valley Fair or Santana Row would have been great locations - even Vallco, which seems to be an interesting draw for that sort of thing.

Posted by Malone
a resident of Castro City
on Mar 10, 2009 at 7:58 pm

Just nothing special about the place, went their with some friends and wasted a night, the food is better at Applebee's, some of the games were cute, but honestly you could find most Flashgames for free on the internet. Prices are too high and the atmosphere got boring after 30 minutes.

I thought this was supposed to be the place done by Bushnell, I'd have been more impressed with a row of arcade games around the place, better food and more reasonable prices, this place just isn't worth it, leave this kind of stuff to Dave & Busters.

Posted by Catherine
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 10, 2009 at 9:45 pm

I disagree with most of the comments here. We love going there with our kids (5 and 7). We all have fun playing the games together (yes, they are simple, but simple can still be fun), the kids are actually occupied the whole time so we can eat at a reasonable pace, and the food is priced around the same as Chili's food (and IMHO, better!), so I don't know why people are complaining.

And why is downtown Mountain View the "wrong place" for this restaurant? It adds some great diversity to downtown's dining options and we've seen a lot of people having fun with the group games, and having fun is what downtown Mountain View is all about.

We will be crushed if this restaurant doesn't succeed here.

Posted by Justin
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 10, 2009 at 11:29 pm

I agree with the poster Catherine that it's a great place for kids cause the games are simple and will keep the young ones occupied. But the older, more savvy gamer will be bored in a nanosecond (I was - there didn't seem to be anything new about the games, sort of rehashed copied stuff that I've seen in bartop games around town). And I can't see most families with small kids spending a long time there. Who spends a long time ANYWHERE out with small kids? To me, the key seems to be the bar crowd. That seems to be the demographic they need to nail cause there is money in booze and especially in repetitive drinking. Maybe lose the tables after 9 p.m., get someone in there to spin and have more of a club and munchies after hours nightclub. There's potential, but it appears no one is home in the idea generation department to keep this thing afloat. So many no brainer ideas that just aren't being implemented. Right now, they are a C minus venue, but maybe they want it to fail for a tax write off. Maybe that's why nothing is being done to correct the errors. This corner has spelled nothing but death to businesses for some time. Apparently someone at Uwink didn't do their location due diligence either or they would have known that. At the very least, improve the hours, improve the signage so that people even have a clue what the place is when driving by. It's invisible. They need to figure out a way to be more in your face about what they are. When I say Uwink to people, they say U-what??? They just look like some hi tech company. Nothing restraunty about it. The food is pretty good though, so no complaints there.

Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2009 at 11:32 pm

I went to the ploace in Jan, i found rhe food to be good, not great the service was ok but it was not bad, games were good, not a date place, good beer selection, clean. Like all new places give it time, but then again we are in some strange times

Posted by Drew
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2009 at 5:29 am

Went there a few times and food has gotten noticeably worse each time, they are cutting corners and it shows, get better food or close the doors. Games are boring and if that is the pull to get people in then its not worth the over-prices.

Posted by Marv
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2009 at 9:31 am

Turn it into a "Hooters". That'll bring in the male-dominated tech industry crowd...

Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2009 at 10:25 am

Catherine, while I do think that uWink is a bad fit for downtown, my real point was that downtown is a bad fit for uWink-- they are in a high-priced building that they dumped a bucket of money into. They appear to have limited appeal to the existing downtown crowd, which in most cities (MV included) expect more interesting dining choices. Their more likely customer base just doesnt go downtown. You dont see well established smart operators like Chilis, Olive Garden, Applebees, Dennys going into locations like this (I mention those because that is what uWink's food has been compared to by others), because they know that the fast-dining model wont work there.

uWink's model makes no sense to me-- first, I dont know if they're a bar or the current iteration of the obnoxious "family" restaurant (a la Chuck E Cheese...). I dont think uWink knows, either. I dont know how you make money in a restaurant by encouraging your customers to stay for hours and do something that doesnt involve eating or drinking. I dont know how you expect to survive with fair-to-bad food when surrounded by a wide variety of dining fare-- much of it good, much of it cheap, most of it better AND cheaper than uWink. I dont know how you excite people in the most tech-savvy spot in the known universe with games that are less compelling than what most of us have on our cell phones.

Wall St seems to agree with me.

Posted by Nick Perry
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2009 at 11:15 am

Hmmm. Tried UWink a couple weeks ago. Just for drinks and appetizers with some friends - so I can't comment on the food. It's perfectly suited for large groups (so easy to split the bill on those consoles), trivia nights, and hyped-up broadcasts of major sporting events. In concept I think having a place that serves standard American-fare is a good idea in Downtown Mountain View because it's one of the only cuisines missing on Castro. Too bad it sounds like UWink's food isn't worth the price.

On a somewhat related note - I keep waiting for some savvy restaurateur to open an American-style diner that serves a reasonably priced breakfast/brunch/lunch and stays open late dishing up burgers and shakes in Downtown Mountain View. Comfort food for these uncertain times. Families with kids would flock there during the day and bar-hoppers could sober up there at night. Almost every successful Main Street seems to have at least one of these places. If any of you have been to Noe Valley up in San Francisco - there's a new diner called "Toast" that's always packed and now has two locations here. Something like that would probably do great business in Downtown MV.

Web Link

I never tried it and only vaguely remember it, but too bad a place like Meryvn's (the restaurant, not the store, not the lounge) didn't survive into the modern-era.

Posted by Nick
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 11, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Some of these comments are harsh. I've eaten at uWink multiple times and I keep going back for their tasty burgers. WAY better than the Roadhouse which previously used that site. Downtown Mountain View is hurting and the uWink location is a bit of a curse. I hope uWink stays unless they plan to replace it with a Peninsula Creamery, I think that would do well in Mountain View.

Posted by Frances
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 11, 2009 at 3:01 pm

We tried it once, it was OK. The screens are so huge and awkward being right in front of your face. Food was just OK (but MUCH better than the Roadhouse). I wouldn't take my family back.

But I think Nick has a great idea. A Peninsula Creamery would rock. Or whatever they are called nowadays.

Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Downtown MV is hardly hurting, Nick! There is barely an empty storefront anywhere on Castro, and a whole bunch of new places have opened recently!

Posted by Nick
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 12, 2009 at 1:24 pm

There are plenty of empty storefronts on Castro. Try walking the entire length of the street and you'll see what I mean.

Posted by USA
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 12, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Peninsula Creamery is a good idea.

Posted by Nick Perry
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Agreed. Let's start a movement to get Peninsula Creamery in Downtown Mountain View. If they build it - I will go. A lot. Mmmm...oreo cookie mint milkshakes.

Posted by Zane P
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 12, 2009 at 2:26 pm

I'm going to have to agree with the person who stated so eloquently, "Close that worthless place down and replace it with a Buffalo Wild Wings."

Posted by Nick
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 12, 2009 at 2:44 pm

I was tempted to agree with the Buffalo Wild Wings comment too, but I remembered how ridiculous their franchise requirements are. See them here...

Web Link

Besides, the closest BWW to Mtn. View is in Henderson, NV according to their website. I think the Peninsula Creamery is much more doable. Good to see others supporting the idea too. Now if we could only make them open one :D

Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2009 at 2:48 pm

Nick, I was on Castro a few hours ago. Very few vacant shops-- a few, but not an abnormal number, and most of them in the oldest most rundown buildings on the block

Posted by kanan
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 12, 2009 at 4:13 pm

i never heard of this restaurant. i stopped visiting downtown. it has gotten too big. it used nice and quiet 5 some years back. now too many night clubs,pubs,restaurants,parking hassles and too many people,noisy and crowded cafes, too many thai restaurants, has completely spoiled the small downtown peacefulness. i hope more restaurants and pubs close so that it becomes what it used to be. i do feel sorry for the emps who are losing their jobs.

Posted by tommygee
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 12, 2009 at 8:44 pm

This location used to be a vietnamese noodle house. They lasted for many years and were extremely busy all day long, but closed due to losing their lease. BUT they did open up again a few years later a few yards down the block. Then The Roadhouse openned up. I went there once with my neice. And we did not go back. Now UWink is there. As one said that corner is cursed. That corner has not been to kind to restaurants since the noodle house left. Perhaps we can get a Carls, Jr. at that corner.

Posted by Lisa
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 13, 2009 at 2:41 pm

For what I imagine they charge for rent in that location, you'll have to sell a whole lot of oreo-mint shakes to stay in business. The rents are over-inflated like everything else which makes it a problem to get the right business there. Calscal does very well across the street and I've had good and bad experiences there. The new Indian restaurant Shiva's is barely hanging in there. The other med. restaurant across California St. is also barely hanging in. I have a feeling that if UWink goes out of business, that corner will sit empty for a while, at least until the economy turns around.
I too, would love a Peninsula Creamery but they have to be reasonable about how much they charge for rent.

Posted by Frances
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 13, 2009 at 11:19 pm

I think if Peninsula Creamery can afford rent at the Stanford Shopping Center (and even downtown Palo Alto) they can afford downtown Mountain View rents.

Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2009 at 11:29 pm

The foot traffic at Stanford Shopping Center is WAY higher than Castro, so they can spend more at that site. No way that a place like Peninsula Creamery could do the volume in MV to support a place as large as uRetch. Whatever ends up there after uZombie dies will have to be a draw on its own, a la Cascal or even the Tied House.

Silly to say that spot is 'cursed'. Two inferior operators have failed there (well, one has, one is working on it). If a stong concept with good management fails too, well...

Posted by some dude
a resident of another community
on Mar 14, 2009 at 2:01 am

eric you're a buzzkill.

Posted by Nick Perry
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2009 at 11:16 am

Peninsula Creamery would be a great fit for the old Weilheimer Building (124-126 Castro) if they ever finish its restoration. What's going on with that, anyway?

Posted by S
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 17, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Jesus, I read this article a week ago and I still didn't identify uWink as a restaurant when I drove up Castro this afternoon. I was thinking: "uWink? uWink? Is that one of those social networking sites? I know loopt is around the corner." Ahahahahahaha!!!!

Posted by Yvette
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 15, 2009 at 3:51 pm

UWink was a decent idea, the economy slumped and it fell. But did you guys remember the service you got from the bar lead who sometimes waited tables, what was his name? has a tatted sleeve on one arm and a dagger-like thing on the other, he was like shift manager or something. Yeah Deegan that's his name. He was always eager to serve very pleasant and took pride in his job and staff. These are the type of people we want serving us if they could keep a location open. The food is very overpriced and the quality is more of a bar atmosphere I agree as a serious gamer I was disappointed about simple games however it did keep the attention of my 12yr old every time we were there. If UWINK goes i would hate to see it leave especially since the employees are young and have have families to support :(. Goodluck to all!

Posted by Anita
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 17, 2009 at 1:16 am

I liked the place ALOT! I thought the prices were fair and the veggie menu was great! I liked the games. I thought they were a throw back to games that I grew up with. I think if you don't have an inner kid than yeah you want like it. But I do and I had a blast. They did need longer hours of operation. I am really sad they closed.

Posted by John
a resident of another community
on Apr 19, 2009 at 11:36 pm

I'm not too surprised that uwink failed at the castro location. A lot of the places to eat in Mountain View are geared towards family dining... or at least dining with friends. Having displays in the middle of the table really distracted from interacting with the people you actually were there with.
I'm not sure the creamery would do well at that location even though I enjoy eating at the one in Palo Alto. It would take a lot of work to bring it to the feel of the soda fountain I like about the creamery.
I think the place needs something lively, brighter, that can take advantage of the openness all the windows provide. Mtn View restauraunts do much better with outdoor seating. Something with a good vegitarian menu as well as meat menu might be good.

Posted by Joe K
a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 23, 2009 at 3:57 pm

I would like to see a good breakfast restaurant take over U-wink. Downtown Mountain View doesn't have a really good breakfast restaurant; it would really be nice to have one in the downtown area, walking distance from my home.