Buz and Ned’s Real Barbecue has been smoked out of its original location.
The longtime city barbecue joint closed its spot at 1119 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd. last week. The Buz and Ned’s on West Broad Street in Henrico remains in business and plans to reopen its dining room in mid-March.
Owner Buz Grossberg chalked up the shutdown of his city outpost to an impending redevelopment of the block that includes the property the restaurant leases, as well as staffing shortages at both locations.
“We have to eventually get out anyway and staff is nonexistent. The staff we had could not manage,” he said. “I’m stuck at the other location filling in for three different people and cooking again full-time. There just weren’t enough hours in the day to maintain business over there on the boulevard. It was just impossible.”
Grossberg said he would like to find a new location in the area to replace the boulevard restaurant. But there aren’t immediate plans to do so, and Grossberg cited continued staff shortages amid the disruptions to the industry caused by the pandemic as the reason why.
“If I could find staff, I would do it. I would hate to invest a lot of money in another location only to find I couldn’t staff it,” he said. “The interest is definitely there. I have offers on several locations.
“It’s endemic all over the industry. I happened to go to a food show one of my vendors puts on, and I ran into people I know very well in the restaurant business and a friend of mine who has multiple restaurants in Williamsburg, he’s about my age, and he’s working the line five days a week.”
The Buz and Ned’s at 8205 W. Broad St. plans to reopen its dining room for the first time in two years in mid-March. It has remained open for to-go and delivery orders during the pandemic. Grossberg said those sales have been consistent over the past two years.
Being shorthanded, Grossberg is betting on a model in which diners would order and pay for their food using QR codes accessed via their mobile phones. The food would either be brought to their tables, or the diners would be hailed over a speaker to pick up their orders at a counter.
“Unfortunately, that will hurt the older population who isn’t phone savvy. But we’ll have someone there to guide them,” Grossberg said.
Grossberg said it was critical to reopen the dining room given that he was unable to maximize sales over the last two summers. He said warmer months are normally the boom times for barbecue restaurants that help them weather colder months when business is slower.
“Barbecue is very, and I still haven’t figured it out, very seasonal. It’s heavy in warm weather and dies in the winter,” he said. “Before I even went into the business 30 years ago, someone said you have to deal with the seasonality and I was like, ‘What seasonality?’”
The last day for the boulevard restaurant was Feb. 27. The restaurant was Buz and Ned’s first permanent location and opened in 1995, following the launch of the company as a food cart in 1992. The West Broad restaurant opened in 2012.
The boulevard restaurant’s space will be demolished to make way for a mixed-use development by D.C.-based Level 2 Development and SJG Properties. Entities tied to the firms bought 1117-1209 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd. from Ed Lacy in July for $12.5 million.
The project, dubbed initially as Leigh Addition, is planned to include 14,000 square feet of retail space and 300 apartments, is expected to break ground in August.