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ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Springfield Diner owner Omer Onder talks improvements at the restaurant with Longitude’s Dustin Myers and Jeremy Wells as he adjusts new artwork on display.
SBJ photo by Jessica Rosa
ARTISTIC IMPRESSION: Springfield Diner owner Omer Onder talks improvements at the restaurant with Longitude’s Dustin Myers and Jeremy Wells as he adjusts new artwork on display.

Made to Order Chapter Seventeen: Wrapping Up

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As the year comes to a close, Springfield Diner LLC owner Omer Onder has a to-do list with more on it than he’d like.

Onder’s been on a rebranding journey this year under the guidance of Longitude LLC. Springfield Business Journal’s editors paired the parties earlier this year for its Made to Order series, covering every step of the restaurant’s rebranding.

“This is a final meeting to kind of recap the last year, see where we’re going from here and discuss the future moving forward,” said Longitude agency co-owner Jeremy Wells.

Yet to complete at Springfield Diner is signage for the new name, Klasik Diner, new interior lighting, painting and furniture, and redesigned menus. Those items were covered again in the last meeting, with Onder setting a completion goal in January.

The new name represents completion of the rebrand. But it comes with a cost the restaurant owner has struggled to meet. The estimate from Pinnacle Sign Group Inc. is around $4,000 for an exterior wooden sign, he said, and the purchase has been delayed by around $5,000 in unexpected expenses, including replacement of an air conditioner. To keep the costs down, Onder said window decals are not expected to be part of the package with Pinnacle.

Wells said the signage is a key piece that if not completed could hinder the rebranding effort.

“Once the sign is in place, you can start doing the digital stuff; your social media can start promoting it,” Wells said.

Prior estimates of the furniture projects put the cost at roughly $3,000. Onder was originally hoping to keep the renovation budget at $5,000-$7,000 – a total the furniture, lights and signage will exceed. He’s been holding off on several of the renovations until early next year as sales haven’t boosted savings enough to cover all the expenses.

As the diner’s first full calendar year wraps up, Onder said he’s optimistic heading into 2020. Open since March 2018, he referred to the first year of business as “rough.” The diner finished 2018 in the red by roughly $50,000, after accounting for some $30,000 in startup costs.

However, the diner is set to finish 2019 with roughly $107,000 in revenue. Expenses should be around $90,000, Onder said, leaving him with an annual profit of $17,000.

“I was expecting to at least break even,” he said of sales projections heading into 2019. “I’m planning to grow 50% more, at least.”

More renovation expenses are coming, as Onder is still in the midst of a lighting plan to replace the fluorescent lights with 10-15 pendant lights.

“We need lots of light here,” he said.

Indecision on wall colors among Onder and staff members had the diner owner asking for Longitude’s advice. Both Myers and Wells favor off-white as the primary color with an orange accent across the top.

Wells advocated for plants, real or fake, to add visual appeal inside.

“The walls being white, adding some nice lighting and artwork along with plants will look real nice,” he said. “That’ll go a long way.”

As for the menu changes, the two parties don’t eye to eye on the size.

Wells advises to trim the menu.

“As pared down as you can get it, the better,” he said.

However, Onder said he’s adding around 15 items with a Mediterranean emphasis, mostly salads, burgers and kebabs. New additions are expected to include shakshuka, an egg dish with tomato sauce, as well as shepherd’s salad, a side dish with cucumbers and tomatoes. He said the cold salad is popular at the diner’s weekly Turkish dinner on Friday nights.

He’s also excited to start serving the Alexander kebab, first made in Bursa, the Turkish city where Onder was born.

“They’ve been making that dish for over 500 years in Turkey,” he said, adding it includes gyro meat, pita, tomato sauce, yogurt, grilled tomatoes, green peppers and butter.

As the menu is finalized this month, Wells and Myers expect to review the design to be sure it stays on brand.

Noticing the diner’s candy display of Turkish delights, chocolate-covered chickpeas and walnut rolls, Wells pushed for more promotion of the products on social media. It’s gift-giving season, after all.

“It’s mostly customers wanting Turkish delights on their plates after their meal as a dessert. But some of them give them as gifts,” Onder said of the $3.95-$6.95 prepackaged candies.

Onder and business partner Mel Yalin started selling the sweets at a Battlefield Mall kiosk in October. Operating under the name Well Street Gourmet, the kiosk did around $6,000 in sales for November, Onder said.

He’s hopeful for a bigger boost in December, which could help offset the planned $4,000 sign purchase.

His operations in the Southgate Center will be impacted one way or another from the arrival of Sugarfire Smokehouse, a St. Louis-based barbecue restaurant making its Springfield debut this month. Longitude and Onder believe Sugarfire will be a net benefit for the diner.

“It’ll be good to get people used to coming (to Southgate Center) for food, used to this parking lot being for restaurants,” Myers said. “It’s going to help.”

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