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Chez Franc calls it quits in Palo Alto

Uploaded: May 11, 2015
Palo Alto's only high-end hot dog eatery, Chez Franc, closed its doors for good after dinner on Saturday evening, owner Jacquetta Lannan announced in an email to the restaurant's Kickstarter backers on Monday.

"I'm writing today to tell you that Chez Franc has sold its final hot dog," Lannan wrote. "Chef Dan (Sung) and I decided last week that things weren't working out as well as we hoped, and closed our doors permanently after dinner on Saturday. Even though we served thousands of customers and doubled our sales from our opening in January, the restaurant continued to struggle."

Lannan, a former attorney and culinary school graduate, opened Chez Franc at 415 California Ave. this January after months of unanticipated delays and funding challenges.

Chez Franc at 415 California Ave. closed after four months of business on Saturday, May 9. Photo by Veronica Weber.

She had landed the lease for the space (the former home of Know Knew Books) back in September 2013, aiming to open in December or January, she said at the time. Along the way, she snagged Dan Sung, a longtime sous chef at Michelin-starred The Village Pub in Woodside, to be Chez Franc's chef. (Lannan interned at The Village Pub after graduating from the International Culinary Center in Campbell.)

In August 2014, Lannan opened a food truck to get her artisan hot dog concept out to the masses earlier than the brick-and-mortar opening process would allow. (The truck was later retired after the restaurant opened.) She launched a $37,000 Kickstarter campaign the same month, successfully securing the money needed to purchase a new meat chopper, sausage stuffer and smoker.

Just two months ago, Chez Franc slashed its prices by several dollars, from $6 to $13 per dog instead of $12 to $15. Other menu items' prices also went down. Lannan said this was both in response to negative feedback that prices were too high and a result of making their own dogs in house rather than buying.

The Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce recognized Lannan this year as one of Palo Alto's most influential businesswomen, naming her the first recipient of the new Athena Young Professional Leadership Award. The Young Professional Leadership Award honors emerging leaders who demonstrated excellence, creativity and initiative in their business or profession while contributing time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community.

"We are all sad that this restaurant didn't succeed in the way we hoped," Lannnan wrote in her email to Kickstarter backers. "However, please be proud of us for taking a bold leap and following our dream; I know that I am."

Lannan did not return requests for comment.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by foodie, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 11, 2015 at 2:20 pm

Hey, I'm sad to see them close, too, before I even got to go there! Frankly (no pun intended), I think they would have done better if they had some good vegetarian options that were advertised with the reviews (which were good). Also gluten-free. Regardless of how people feel about vegetarians and gf-eaters, they go out and they have friends, too. These days, any new foodie business has to know how to hit those markets, too. Just a thought. Sorry to see them leave.

Posted by Slow Down, a resident of Community Center,
on May 11, 2015 at 2:32 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

The food was good and the staff friendly, but they launched with prices that were too high, the space was probably too large for the concept, and they opened in the midst of all the construction. I would seek out a Chez Franc food truck...

Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown,
on May 11, 2015 at 3:14 pm

California Ave is the family-friendly part of Palo Alto. $15 for a hot dog is not family-friendly. I don't mind paying more money for quality food, but to paraphrase Sarah Palin, a hotdog with lipstick is still a hotdog. There are plenty of other restaurants on California Ave where your $15 is much better spent.

Posted by Reader, a resident of another community,
on May 11, 2015 at 3:45 pm

Well, that's why she reduced the top-end dog from $15 to $13 and the low-end dog from $12 to $6.

In any case, it's moot. Your $6 can only be spent at other California Avenue restaurants. You can't spend it at Chez Franc anymore, it's closed.

Posted by too bad, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on May 11, 2015 at 4:05 pm

This is unfortunate, but predictable. As others have noted, the prices were just too high, even with the reductions. Their salad was outstanding, but $11 for a small salad seemed exorbitant, as did $13 for an (admittedly tasty) hot dog. The waitstaff could probably also see the writing on the wall. The tip was included in the food price, which may have resulted in poor service (i.e. noisy cleaning, including sweeping under the table half an hour before closing time). Perhaps the owner will succeed with a food truck that has lower overhead.

Posted by captain howdy, a resident of Crescent Park,
on May 11, 2015 at 4:18 pm

You could see it wasn't well planned out from the start. If its still up you can see original blueprints on the Facebook page. Industrial dishwasher right next to the charcuterie station? I hope the sous chef wasn't part of that

Posted by Palo Alto Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on May 11, 2015 at 4:51 pm

The business model showed a classic misunderstanding of Palo Alto. Many people think that because people pay huge amounts of money to buy a house here, that the residents will pay anything for anything. We won't. We want great food and great ambiance for the price of a $15 hot dog. I went there the first month they were open and I was appalled. I thought to myself there was no way they were going to make it. Maybe if the hot dogs were in a charming pub environment, the menu descriptions would have worked. Even after the prices dropped I didn't go back because it felt a little sterile and fast-food like inside.

Posted by Wish we could have tried it, a resident of Midtown,
on May 11, 2015 at 8:13 pm

I was really excited to try this place, especially once they reduced their prices. But I found out that they put milk powder in the hot dogs so we weren't able to go due to dietary restrictions. I don't know why such a high end product would need milk powder.

Posted by Reader, a resident of another community,
on May 11, 2015 at 8:41 pm

Milk powder is a highly effective and reliable binder and also helps the sausage stay moist (water retention).

There are soy alternatives to milk powder, but they can impart a less-than-desirable flavor profile to the end product. There are several other common sausage additives.

In the end, it's really about convenience and product quality. Having milk powder in a beef frank isn't a big deal. it's the same animal. A lot of buns have milk or dairy products in them anyhow, so clearly the restaurant owner didn't think that milk powder in the sausage was a big deal.

Posted by Hindsight, a resident of Greenmeadow,
on May 12, 2015 at 4:20 am

They should definitely resume the truck business with refreshed offerings and pricing.

Would have loved a cozier, french environment, lower prices, dietary transparency/options, bunless dog option and definitely a spiraled hotdog!

Web Link

The permit process and other build out mishaps for over a year and a half may have been the real culprit.

Posted by Chuck Reilly , a resident of another community,
on May 12, 2015 at 6:26 am

Here in Redwood City, it's easy to pay $50.00 for a pitcher of Margaritas. Does this mean people will pay $15.00 for a Hot Dog ? Not necessarily.

I was raised in the Restaurant Business and know how tricky it can be. Customers are EXTREMELY fickle and demanding (see above) . Opening a small restaurant in this area can be very expensive - tons of permits, extra expenses, crazy demands from Health and Fire Departments.

Answer: FOOD TRUCKS ! :)

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of another community,
on May 12, 2015 at 9:18 am

Man I'm bummed. It's sad to see a hip restaurant with a fresh concept that made such a strong effort not work out. I enjoyed their food and was looking forward to going back. They mailed our neighborhood a postcard coupon and I think made a nice effort to engage the community.

Posted by CrescentParkResident, a resident of another community,
on May 12, 2015 at 9:56 am

Sorry. $15. for a hot dog just seems unimaginable. Especially when they're priced at $1.50 at Costco, and that includes a large drink of your choice.

Posted by Reader, a resident of another community,
on May 12, 2015 at 10:14 am

Hard to compare a $1.50 hot dog from Costco to that of a housemade sausage. Everyone seems to fixate on the most expensive offering that Chez Franc had, whereas a more accurate comparison would have been the $6 entry-level dog from Chez Franc.

For sure, the $15 Chez Franc hot dog was a premium, load-to-the-gills offering, not a plain hot dog. It's like comparing a Honda Fit with a Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan.

Costco debuted their $1.50 hot dog in 1985 and the price has never changed, although they switched from Hebrew National to their in-house Kirkland brand meat around 2009.

It is likely that Costco's $1.50 hot dog is a loss-leader. They don't need to pay the rent by selling these, they're really just a fun tradition, it can be subsidized by store revenue of thousands of other items. For Chez Franc, they needed to pay bills by selling hot dogs, that was their business.

Posted by Marie, a resident of Midtown,
on May 12, 2015 at 10:31 am

Marie is a registered user.

Offering Fois Gras on their hot dogs probably turned off a lot of people, including me. Although it is legal again, the fact the initiative to ban fois gras passed shows a lot of resistance.

I think there is demand for a Top Dog type diner (in Berkeley since 1966) but this was not it. There was not much variety in the actual sausages - mostly it was in the add ons.

Also, rents are so high on CA Avenue, that I don't think a hot dog place can make it there. Combined with the delay in completing the construction, it didn't have much of a chance. I hope they can revive their food truck - that might be more economically viable.

Posted by Norman, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on May 12, 2015 at 10:31 am

Chicago is said to be the hot dog capital of America. I don't think there is one sit-down hot dog joint there. Also, the second most Googled search is for the word 'pizza'. Business Rule: If you are going against the grain you better be a really great marketing person.

Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on May 12, 2015 at 10:45 am

My comment from Elena's previous post on Chez Franc:
"It's hard to beat a hot dog or a polish and a drink at Redwood City Costco for $1.50+tax, one-tenth the price."

I could see this idea succeeding in a food truck format, especially if the prices were half of what the brick-and-mortar location was charging.

Posted by food frenzy in PA, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on May 12, 2015 at 10:45 am

Palo Alto needs a place like Martin's West in Redwood City: a moderate scale Gastropub with good food (a fine balance between nutritious and indulgent), a creative wine and cocktail list, an interactive atmosphere with an open concept layout, and an interior comprised of reclaimed or recycled furnishings. Just haven't seen it here.....

Posted by Pete, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on May 12, 2015 at 11:37 am

In this day and age No restaurant business should exist without offering vegan/ vegetarian options particularly when the State is going through a severe drought. It takes over 1800 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef from animals who live in misery in factory farms spread all over central valley and suffer a horrifying death in meat processing facilities. Choosing to eat a beef hot dog is choosing to eat the flesh of a sentient being who suffered immensely during its lifetime in an animal farm and choosing to partake in the destruction to the environment and waterways animal agriculture causes.

All restaurants should consider providing options for those of us who have evolved to a higher level of consciousness and refuse to partake in the murder of animals in masses. I am happy that another venue for flesh eaters has closed.

Posted by Roland, a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road,
on May 12, 2015 at 11:57 am

My wife and I and our 3 kids ended up starving in this restaurant when we met friends there a few months ago. Starving because there were no vegan hotdogs. Echoing Pete, I am glad another "flesh eaters'" paradise is out of business.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Barron Park,
on May 12, 2015 at 11:58 am

At least we flesh eaters still have Belcampo (and Schaub's, and Dittmer's).

And The Counter, and Jin Sho...

Posted by Common sense, a resident of Mountain View,
on May 12, 2015 at 12:03 pm

In 2013, Palo Alto restaurateur Frank Klein (Asian Box restaurants, Roastshop) remarked about restaurants opening in the peninsula's tight rental market with unrealistic budgeting: "A place I would've paid $5,500 to $6,500 a month (for) in San Francisco went for $14,500 a month on University Avenue. No experienced restaurateur would pay that kind of overhead in the Bay Area. So what you were seeing were inexperienced restaurateurs going in and then going out of business within two years." Full article: Web Link

Posted by Reader, a resident of another community,
on May 12, 2015 at 12:52 pm

It's a tough market and even experienced restaurateurs don't bat 1.000.

One of Frank's own Palo Alto projects mentioned in the article Roastshop failed. His Asian Box stores are still around. One of his early projects, the Duck Club at the Stanford Park Hotel shuttered and re-emerged as Menlo Grill Bistro. Oren's Hummus, another Frank Klein project, appears to be surviving with two locations.

Scott's Seafood, Ming's, Palo Alto Grill/Alkymysts are other recent examples of high-profile failures by experienced restaurateurs in Palo Alto.

Oh well, best to Lannan in her future endeavors.

Posted by Common sense, a resident of Mountain View,
on May 12, 2015 at 3:56 pm

Neither Klein nor anyone else claims that experienced restaurateurs don't fail. His point, rather, was that IN-experienced restaurateurs opening with unrealistically high overheads tend to doom themselves.

I've now witnessed many real examples like what Frank Klein predicted. There's been an accelerated flurry of new-restaurant experiments lasting 1-2 years in downtown Mountain View's Castro Street lately (partial list: Barracuda Sushi, Bella Vita, B'Zu, Café Déjà Vu, Cijjo, Diyar Bistro, HoneyCreek, K-Pop Korean, Mamaya, Minh's, Nichole's, Pho Garden, Temptations, 3TA, Ristorante Toscana, Villa 08 Buffet, W. G. Grinders, Workshop Burgers). Many had both inexperienced owners and historically exceptional rents. One address alone had five failing "novel" restaurants in as many years, until a veteran restaurant family came in, and now thrives there.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on May 12, 2015 at 5:49 pm

Military intelligence, Jumbo Shrimp, Gourmet Hotdogs ... ugh, what do they have in common - oxymoronicism. Sorry for the people who wasted time and money on this idea, but I called it from beginning, this is not a something that was every going to be more than a short term think if that ... and then only if it hit just right. In a health conscious state and a health conscious town, just a bad idea from the get go.

Many of the places in Palo Alto survive because the bar is so low and there is not much new, really good to have to compete with, and anything that does try to fit that bill always prices itself out of reach of most people, or out of interest.

I keep wishing something as innovative and mass-market as the old Pizza-A-Go-Go or Macheesmo Mouse would come along. I still have a great memory of the Pizza-gogo Super-veggie pizza! I've never had another slice of pizza that good since they went out of business. I think surely I must be leaving something out ... our salad places are pretty decent, but so overly had to navigate and impersonal.

Posted by Slow Down, a resident of Community Center,
on May 12, 2015 at 6:25 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

Gourmet hot dog concepts can work, there are several good examples in SF like Show Dogs. The reality is a lot of people in Palo Alto still have their taste grounded in the 70's. They might say they want innovative, but they want cheap plain safe food - chain restaurants like Pizza-a-go-go and Macheezmo Mouse.

Posted by Speed up!, a resident of another community,
on May 12, 2015 at 6:59 pm

"Gourmet hot dog concepts can work, there are several good examples in SF like Show Dogs. "

You could serve slug sorbet and if you place it in the right location (the low density area of California Ave is not it), it can be quite successful. Doesn't mean the concept is good...just that it "can work", which could be said about anything.

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 12, 2015 at 7:24 pm

Au revoir mon ami lez chez-francs.

It's a bit omenous, but having a late lunch, for around $10 and sitting with a stack of paperwork for an hour was almost a bargain there.

Jacquetta is a class act and we will, I'm certain, see her around with Take Two.

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 12, 2015 at 7:27 pm

omenuis i mean.

As in, Oh, the menu is reacting to the customer feedback on pricing.

Posted by Reader, a resident of another community,
on May 12, 2015 at 8:02 pm

Ignore CrescentParkAnon.

Gourmet sausages are sold in many grocery stores. There are plenty of people on the Peninsula who enjoy high-quality meat dishes.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Barron Park,
on May 12, 2015 at 8:48 pm

Gourmet sausages was a poor concept as the anchor for a Palo Alto restaurant. The bigger problem though was Chez Franc's execution. Not nearly good enough.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on May 13, 2015 at 1:23 pm

Reader, buying gourmet hot-dogs in the supermarket is quite different from trying to base a restaurant on them. Even Der Weinerschnitzel went out of business. Read a bit about the ingredients of hot-dogs and the health effects of nitrates, the sodium content, etc. This is the old way of doing business, put a nice shiny sign up and make a lot of psychologically postivie marketing comments and bright colors, especially red, and get'em when they are young and impressionable.

The same thing with hamburgers now ... piling on the bacon, cheese and grease .. foix grau as someone mentioned ... is not the draw it used to be. The only reason people go to any of these types of places is early life experience with marketing and emotional programming. Talk to them when they hit their 50's and find out they have colon cancer.

This kind of food is one of the main reasons lifespan in the US is starting to take a dive.

By the way reader, you can express your own opinion without telling people to ignore me or in general attacking others ... it kind of sounds desperate of you ... I get it, you love your hot dogs, enjoy.

Posted by Don, a resident of Los Altos,
on May 13, 2015 at 2:23 pm

> I keep wishing something as innovative and mass-market as the old Pizza-A-Go-Go ... would come along

You might like Pizza Studio, on California Ave. or Pieology, coming soon to the Freebirds World Burrito location (now closed).

Posted by Sparty, a resident of another community,
on May 14, 2015 at 12:58 am

Sparty is a registered user.

>The same thing with hamburgers now ... piling on the bacon, cheese and grease .. foix grau as someone mentioned ... is not the draw it used to be

That would be news to the burger place down the street from where Chez Franc used to be...

And the even more crowded Mountain View location....and to The Habit, and In n Out, and the other In n Out, and Five Guys and the other Five Guys, and Bierhaus...

...and Umami, and Sliderbar, and Gotts, and ....

Posted by foodie, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 14, 2015 at 7:43 am

My sausage-frank-foodie spouse never ate there either yet and was bummed - but thought it looked pretty uninviting (goes to Cal Ave at least once a week).

I wanted to add to the GF/veg issue. If Chez Franc had made an effort to have interesting veggie franks in addition, with GF buns, they would have hit a much bigger market and in fact made themselves sought out.

When doing market research, they can't assume the audience is carnivores, the audience is carnivores without veg or GF friends. People with dietary restrictions such as vegetarians and GF-eaters quickly learn where they can go and get a good meal, so in a group situation, the party tends to choose from that list. Thankfully, in this area, there is some good competition there. So opening a carnivore-centric restaurant with no attention to ingredient transparency or dietary restrictions during the renovations and without any attention to even ambiance... it was taking a lot of unnecessary risks.

Posted by senor blogger, a resident of Palo Verde,
on May 14, 2015 at 10:32 am

Soooo, $12 to $15 per hot dog.

Its no wonder they're closing.

We're Palo Alto, but we're not Stupid.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park,
on May 14, 2015 at 12:41 pm

foodie ... have you ever tried the vegetarian fare at non-vegetarian restaurants? In this area the vegetarian fare at vegetarian restaurants is not very good ... small and very expensive portions. Hard to find good vegetarian meals that will meet your nutritional needs, not just your image as a vegetarian needs. That has always surprised me in this area.

Although not having totally eschewed meat, no pun intended, I usually eat vegetable heavy and limit my meat intake so I will try, at least once the veggie burgers or in this case veggie franks. To my taste they are all terrible. The only burger I have found that is reasonably like a burger is the Morningstar Grillers Prime veggie burgers. They are quite good, and a lot better than what you get at most burger places that serve a veggie burger. Get them at Safeway, though not the Palo Alto Middlefield one. Although if you have any vegetarian suggestions please let me know.

Vegetarians have a real problem because we, or they, will pay as much or more for a plate of food that satisfies hunger for about 1/2 or 1/3 of the time, if at all, meaning that besides vegetarian food being expensive at restaurants it is 2 to 3 times more expensive if you wanted to survive of vegetarian food. The vegetarian meals I think work are the Chinese veggie fried rice or chow mein, but not all Chinese places will execute well on that.

Posted by Common sense, a resident of Mountain View,
on May 14, 2015 at 1:01 pm

C-P-A, the strength of this region's vegetarian restaurant cooking isn't measured by afterthought items in meat-centric menus (veggie "burgers" or "sausages") -- I agree that many of them are disappointing! -- but rather, by restaurants and cuisines focusing, or naturally strong, in vegetarian specialties.

INDIAN restaurants stand out dramatically for this (Santa Clara County has superb examples, concentrated somewhat south of Palo Alto). There are also Chinese vegetarian restaurants, and specialty places with unique popular menus (like Yam Leaf Bistro near downtown MV). Italian (as opposed to Italian-American) cooking also is naturally strong on both vegetarian and low-meat-content cooking, reflecting the long history of that region in which meat and fish were luxuries if available at all. For example, in a typical Italian tradition, pork, instead of being served up in big meaty portions like roasts and sausages (as in meat-rich countries like the US), would be made into smoked or pickled products, and small amounts of those used to flavor grain-based foods; in that way a given amount of meat fed several times as many people. Chinese cooking as practiced in China followed a similar economy, by necessity; however most Chinese cooking as seen in US restaurants reflects the relative abundance and customer taste for meaty ingredients, and ends up with far more meat than was traditional in China.

Posted by foodie, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 14, 2015 at 1:38 pm

I am in complete agreement with you that meat substitutes are terrible. A frank business that wanted to capture the veggie side would have had to come up with imaginative veggie sausages that weren't poor imitations of meat: sausages with curried potatoes and peas, etc. No mean feat, but would have earned customers. Mind you, I am not a vegan, so I probably don't pay enough attn to vegan options.

Places where you can get good, inexpensive vegetarian options:
-Veggie Grill (great place to stuff yourself with filling, tasty veggie variety for not too much $$)
-Lyfe Kitchen (incl heavenly salads, and don't miss the brussell sprouts/squash dish, skip the sauce)
-Veggie Garden (IMHO, avoid the meat substitutes!)
-Estrellita's (not a great selection for veg but what they have is delicious, even their simple bean and cheese burrito - check to be sure the beans are veg, I think they are though - they used to have more veg options, but if you can get a veg special, they're always fabulous. Also, get veg enchiladas and tamales from their catering menus - one of the best kept takeout secrets in the area, yumm!)
-Homma's brown rice sushi (inexpensive veg sushi tray, and more)
-Hobee's - despite the surroundings that could maybe use a face lift, so, not for food snobs, but the veg options are surprisingly, consistently decent and affordable, especially the specials.
-Bistro Maxine (crepes - my experience has been inconsistent here, but have done well sometimes)
-Loving Hut (moved out of PA but still in San Jose)
-Max's Opera Cafe (surprisingly - not many veg options, but what they do serve like salads are great - only the Palo Alto location which seems to get better all the time, the one in SF I don't mind saying is one of the worst restaurants and hard to say how they can stay open)

(Great places for veg over the hill in SC: Saturn Cafe - best pancakes ever - and Gayle's Bakery, which is equally loved by carnivores and veggivores)

Place you can get good albeit expensive veg options:
-Flea Street Cafe
-Tai Pan (they have very little veg, but the veg dim sum that they do have is the only great veg dim sum I've ever found and rivals their meat dishes in quality, unlike every other dim sum place I've ever tried)

I'm sure there are many more, that's just off the top of my head. You can tell I don't go out to the more $$ places much!

Posted by foodie, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 14, 2015 at 1:39 pm

Oh, also,
Mandarin Roots has the best veggie mooshoo bar none. Also has some imaginative veggie dishes you won't find anywhere else. Menu changes.

Posted by foodie, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 14, 2015 at 1:46 pm

One more (with both meat and great veg):

Calafia has some great veg options. (My own experience has been inconsistent, but the good stuff was very good.)

Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford,
on May 14, 2015 at 3:01 pm

Crescent Park Anon,

Great comments. Posts like yours make me long for a "like" option.

I'd love to see a Greens-type restaurant here, all veggie in pleasant surroundings. So often veggie places are small, joyless places sans liquor or good wine. May such a place open in Palo Alto soon, as I'm sure they'd be a market for it.

Posted by Don, a resident of Los Altos,
on May 14, 2015 at 3:18 pm

Not a restaurant, but... the Good Eggs site/ delivery service is fabulous, for both meat eaters and vegetarians:

Web Link

Posted by foodie, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 14, 2015 at 6:41 pm

Another one I forgot to add:

Nora, if you are after ambiance, try Bumble in Los Altos. Not a large menu, but excellent food for veg and non-veg. Go in the afternoon when it's not busy, sit in the room with the big room-long fish tank and have a leisurely afternoon meal. Lovely. Heavenly for people with kids.

Posted by Kathy, a resident of Sylvan Park,
on May 14, 2015 at 9:47 pm

Don't think I have ever seen a topic get this many comments, guess people like their hotdogs. I guess the owners of the old Wienerschnitzel on Castro Street MV should have kept the business.

Posted by Common sense, a resident of Mountain View,
on May 15, 2015 at 8:20 am

The owners of the old Wienerschnitzel on Castro Street MV (I'm told through a mutual acquaintance) actually did want to keep the business, but were prevented from doing so when City staff imposed very expensive architectural requirements as a condition for some needed remodeling and updates.

But that point is moot for us consumers anyway: the location's current restaurant tenant, Bierhaus (formerly called SteakOut), is hugely popular for its own HOUSE-MADE sausages as well as creative hamburgers and German-style comfort-food plates. Web Link Bierhaus also stands as a case study of a restaurant financially successful with upscale hamburger and sausage fare, and despite a location with very high rent.

Posted by Michael O., a resident of Gunn High School,
on May 15, 2015 at 8:22 am

Michael O. is a registered user.

They got off on the wrong foot by only selling their hot dogs bundled with fries and salad. Unbundling the sides led to the lower prices, primarily. But judging by the article and the (uninformed) responses, the notion it had high prices stuck. My son and I each had a dog, split their wonderful fries, each had an artisanal soda and our bill was about $22, including tax and tip. More than McDonalds, but half the price the same meal would have been at The Counter. Half the price.

It was obvious, though, that the place was going to close. It was empty while The Counter was bustling. People (and almost all the posters about this article) never ate there and didn't know what a good thing Chez Franc was selling. (Sorry, Vegetarians. Don't go to a hot dog shop for vegetarian food -- and don't bother flaming me because it's not an argument worth having.) They never recovered from their initial bad press and it's too bad. I would have chosen it over any of the quick bite places on Cal Ave.

Nice idea, excellent food, but terrible rollout and implementation, and now they're gone. To Jacquetta Lannan: rebrand and come back for a fresh start. The concept and food are sustainable as a business on Cal Ave, just not the way you did it.

Posted by Common sense, a resident of Mountain View,
on May 15, 2015 at 8:38 am

Note to Michael O.: Regular readers of these Embarcadero forum comments know that for restaurants, armchair criticism by people who haven't tried the place is the rule, not the exception. The _impulse_ to make uninformed comments brings out much of the online commentary about restaurants in general, and is also why no one with much experience relies on online self-selected "reviews:" Web Link

Posted by resident, a resident of College Terrace,
on May 15, 2015 at 12:14 pm

It was exceptionally bad idea. How about nice pho style noodle shop? Just not at $20 a bowl.

Posted by Anon, a resident of another community,
on May 15, 2015 at 12:27 pm

To Pete from Menlo Park:

Your self-righteous attitude is what turns people off about vegetarianism. I am a vegetarian, but don't feel the need to preach to people. I'm guessing you don't get many invitations to dinner.

"All restaurants should consider providing options for those of us who have evolved to a higher level of consciousness and refuse to partake in the murder of animals in masses. I am happy that another venue for flesh eaters has closed," said Insufferable Pete.

Posted by foodie, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 15, 2015 at 5:22 pm

@Michael O.,

No flaming here. The point is that market research should incorporate the reality that people eat out in groups. Making a restaurant with no options for vegetarians is always going to lose out to a restaurant that has at least something, is going to lose out to a restaurant that serves many groups well. Especially in this area with so many vegetarians.

Take the Counter, for instance. Bustling despite not always the fastest service. They have options for everyone: meat eaters, vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free, low-carb, you name it. And it's all in the way they have their menu set up. No one has to compromise. If you're in a group of 4 people, even if only 1 of them has a dietary restriction, and you are choosing between the Counter and a place nearby that has nothing at all for that one person, which will you choose?

That's exactly the problem, if you tell vegetarians to go eat somewhere else, they will, and they'll take their meat eater friends. If you restrict your market to just the people who eat meat and don't eat out with vegetarians or people who are just in the mood to eat veg, you start out with a smaller market from the getgo. I don't see how anyone could stay competitive with that attitude.

Posted by Downtowner, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on May 15, 2015 at 6:32 pm

@ Reader - The proprietress here limited her customer base by using milk powder as a binder. Do you understand that Kosher food regulations prevent the use of dairy & meat together? That's why Hebrew National hot dogs don't use milk powder. Mollie Stone carries a lot of kosher foods, so might one not suppose that some of those shoppers patronize Cal Ave restaurants?

And vegetarian food at a hot dog restaurant is an oxymoron, so people who expect veggie dogs deserve to go hungry. I feel sorry for the financial backers of this culinary experiment. No matter how "talented" Lannan might be in some ways, her diner concept was doomed to failure from the beginning.

Posted by Veggie idea, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on May 15, 2015 at 6:42 pm

For those vegetarians who want a new place, try Rojoz near Piazzas. They do many burritos and wraps which are vegetarian, their fillings are Indian, Mediterranean as well as Mexican in style and a good place to go for a quick bite when some want meat and others want veggie.

Posted by Don, a resident of Los Altos,
on May 15, 2015 at 8:54 pm

Rojos is awful. Web Link

"The proprietress here limited her customer base by using milk powder as a binder."

Not much of an exclusion.

Posted by ndn, a resident of Downtown North,
on May 16, 2015 at 9:01 am

Pete, since my level of consciousness is sky high I only eat meat from cows killed by lightning, chicken who perish in road accidents will crossing , goat who fall in ravine accidents, fish who commit suicide, sheep who died of exhaustion while pursued by criminal border collies and pork who drown in mud. I feel virtuous in my recycling.

Posted by foodie, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 16, 2015 at 8:18 pm

"And vegetarian food at a hot dog restaurant is an oxymoron, so people who expect veggie dogs deserve to go hungry. "

au contraire - vegetarian food at a hot dog restaurant is only an oxymoron if the owners want to go out of business because they limit their customer base only to meat eaters who have no vegetarian friends, i.e., dumb idea in Northern California

I have already pointed out that meat substitutes are just bad. If you were a gourmet restaurant offering a veg option, it's usually something creative/original, not a meat substitute. Restaurants don't usually have to offer a lot of variety, but they usually have to offer something. Even very good salads can make up for a lot.

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Barron Park,
on May 16, 2015 at 9:47 pm

Others have commented on a lack of vegetarian options at Chez Franc, but having tried both their vegetarian salads and sandwich, I was quite pleased. Although I'm a non-meat eater, I never went hungry on my few occasions dining there. Sad to see them go!

Posted by Gordon, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on May 17, 2015 at 7:01 am

I'm very sorry it closed. I was the very first cash customer through the door and I loved the place. Had I know how little time it had left I would have eaten there more often.

Posted by foodie, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on May 17, 2015 at 2:46 pm

Wow, I am sorry we didn't try it. I didn't realize there was something for everyone. When I read the reviews, it wasn't clear, or maybe I just didn't read through.

Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on May 18, 2015 at 11:16 am

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

The world has a range of prices for EVERYTHING. Burgers range in price from those $1 sliders at White Castle, to in-n out, five guys, shake shack, to the AWESOME Daniel Boulud $35 Burger with Truffles and Foie Gras.

Chez Franc had a range of products and prices. Their quality was superior to most other hot dogs you can get Germany & Austria there are better!

Sad to see ANY buiness fail.


Posted by julie, a resident of Woodside,
on Jun 30, 2015 at 2:00 am

So sorry they didn't make it. We tried the hot dog on their food truck and loved it. I would have paid a premium for their hot dogs...they are delicious. I hope they re-emerge as a food truck. I'll be watching thier twitter.

Posted by Postino, a resident of Barron Park,
on Sep 17, 2015 at 12:04 pm

I did not know they are gone! Anyway on our way to breakfast (somewhat) next door, I noticed the-soon-to-be-opened banner which implied wannabe high end hot dogs and I say to myself as a former restaurateur for many "moons" and now retired and without even visiting the Franc's place: "no way ain't gonna fly" I am very sorry for everyone involved in the venture and I take no pleasure whatsoever but I proved myself right, usually.

Posted by Steph, a resident of another community,
on May 30, 2016 at 4:58 am

WOW. I just stumbled on this article, no I never went to Chez Franc but I was a patron of Know Knew Books since the very early 1990s, maybe 80s? I knew they had closed but I missed this whole fiasco. What was that lady thinking, turning a hot dog cart into a high end restaurant?? That space isn't even appropriate for such a niche concept. I've been to fancy hot dog places, I've liked them, but nothing in a huge space like that. Stupid. And she used Kickstarter to do this? Those poor people! This disaster reeks of someone's inflated expectation of themselves and underestimating the reality of running a restaurant. Village Pub internship? I remember the Pub when Ralph and Barbara owned it, it's been established for centuries. I would have liked to try the hot dog cart though, too bad she got greedy. Oh, and the whole vegetarian side thread that got started...maybe you should start your own vegetarian comment forum because this story was about hot dogs. Your dietary needs or lack of ability to eat them are not relevant to this, it's like a priest evaluating a brothel. From someone who was raised here, sometimes I wonder if people realize how insulated they are in this crazy self-absorbed bubble of a town.

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