Hey Jack in downtown Camas recently closed after less than a year in business. Its name was meant as an invitation to a casual but elegant dining experience in downtown Camas. The response was mixed.
The restaurant initially received attention because co-owner and chef Peter Rudolph is a Michelin star chef. Don Riedthaler (the remaining owner) said that ended up being “a double edged sword.”
“People came in with this idea of a Michelin star chef in a bone silent room, and the world’s most comfortable chairs, and waiters with napkins draped over their arms,” Riedthaler said. “They had these expectations far beyond what we were trying to do.”
The partners discovered that the business could only support one family, so Riedthaler became the sole owner. But after Rudolph left, people didn’t consider Hey Jack a casual neighborhood restaurant but more of a special occasion or date-night spot. People weren’t sure how to dress. Some diners arrived dressed formally, some in jeans. Those who dressed up felt their experience was ruined by other customers’ more casual dress.
Another problem was customer flow — everyone showed up on weekends at 6 p.m. In response, weekends were reservation only. People who arrived on Friday or Saturday without a reservation felt slighted that they couldn’t get a table. On weeknights, though, the room was mostly empty.