“Every day we had a line out the door,” says Makoto Kimoto, owner of Broadway’s Rondo, as he described the first couple of months of regular business in 2020.
Now, a year later, the lines have changed. Delivery drivers line up to pick up to-go orders instead of customers waiting to dine in.
The restaurant opened last January as a Broadway “daytime” counterpart in the Suika Capitol Hill restaurant family has instead become the center of Kimoto’s efforts in the neighborhood as restaurants and bars do what they can to keep employees and patrons safe while trying to outlast months of COVID-19 restrictions.
Along the way, his Suika original lost its E Pine lease. But the hard work on Broadway has paid off. CHS readers voted Rondo as their favorite new restaurant of the year in 2020.
A year after its debut, Rondo still has a patio, and you can still sit down and eat and drink there, but the indoor tables are now mostly used to prepare to-go orders. Kimoto tells CHS that he “can’t complain, because everyone is experiencing the same issues” but notes his sales have dropped but take out “doesn’t compare”. Like most restaurants, alcohol sales are a primary contributor to profit, and although Rondo sells to-go drinks, they can’t compete with people drinking while eating at the restaurant.
“I’m not depending on alcohol sales right now” Kimoto says, “We’re concentrating on making customers happy.”
With a focus on sushi bowls, noodles, and appetizers at opening, Kimoto and the team at Rondo have changed the way their food is presented. Now a large portion of their sales comes from bento boxes filled with rice and chicken and fish and bowls of rice topped with seafood. While speaking with CHS, Kimoto sounded proud of his no-waste, from scratch, “Japanese Fusion” and when pressed, couldn’t come up with just one favorite dish. He did say the ramen with udon noodles is quite popular.
The skeleton crew is busy with lunch and dinner orders but Rondo has lost at least 40% of its staff because of the pandemic. The PPP loans Kimoto has gotten have helped him keep what staff he has, but it’s not enough to keep everyone on payroll. That assistance from the Federal government is helpful, and so is the extension of outside dining permits by the city, but Kimoto thinks the state could be better at communication.
“They announce to us a few days before the phase changes, but there are so many rumors.” It’s becoming a challenge not only in regards to staffing, but food prep and ordering. “It would be helpful if they gave us a week’s notice before changing phases, and I know everyone is in the same situation, but it is tough.”
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Kimoto still owns both Tamari Bar on E Pine and Rondo and wants his customers to check for updates on the ever changing menu. Rondo has an early bird special with a discount on orders made before 11am and Tamari Bar has a daily happy hour and a heated patio. It’s also important to note that while Kimoto has made several attempts to contact Google, their hours are still listed as closed on Tuesday, when in fact they are open every day. “The staff is working hard to serve our customers, please come over and say hi!”
Rondo is located at 224 Broadway E. You can learn more at @rondoseattle.
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