By Rachel Pritchett
Angel’s Homestyle Buffet has closed.
The news caught some by surprise Wednesday, who pasted napkins on the restaurant’s shuttered door telling friends they’d meet them them at China Buffet instead, or impromptu notices of clubs’ hastily made arrangements used to coming to this modest and aging eatery for eyars.
The all-you-can-eat restaurant, in a rambling 7,200-square-foot building behind Family Pancake House on Wheaton Way, also was a popular meeting spot for clubs, community groups, celebrations and even a memorial service or two.
The building at 4111 Wheaton has been an all-you-can-eat joint for three decades, at one time a Royal Fork and a King’s Table. The Angel’s name came from a customer contest back when Wayne Turner owned the business, according to one of the current owners, Mike Mathwig.
Mathwig conceded it’s rough to run a restaurant during a recession, especially when there are about 15 of them in the immediate area.
And located behind Family Pancake House, out of immediate view, didn’t help.
But the hardest part of making money was controlling food costs. Waste among customers was rampant, and food theft was common. Customers routinely brought in little bags or plastic containers for their own free take-out.
“You think that it’s not that prevalent, but it is,” Mathwig said.
“They just throw the whole plate away and start over again.”
Those uncontrollable costs mean an all-you-can-eat restaurant has to have a lot more customer volume as a regular restaurant, maybe three times as much, to make money.
“It just wasn’t getting the volume,” he said.
Raising prices was difficult, because then you were hurting some elderly, mainstay customers who were only taking what they needed.
“I almost felt like you’d make more money by charging how little you wasted,” said Mathwig, who worked for many years in his dad’s restaurant.
There were other problems.
“That place was old, needed some work,” Mathwig said.
Mathwig and his partners, which include other Mathwig family members and others, owned the building for some time, and inherited the business a couple of years ago.
So now, the building and business is for sale, as community members look for other places to meet.
“They can have a good deal on it,” he said.