Whatever did Bill Knapps restaurants do that was so horrible?

I frequently listen to Detroit radio (WJR) even though I live in Cleveland…just love Mitch Albom, and it makes the traffic reports so much more challenging!

Anyhow, lately there have been these apologetic commercials for the Bill Knapps (hope that’s spelled right) restaurant chain, saying they are really sorry they changed their decor and they have changed it back now, so would everyone please come back and eat there again. They allude to TV sets in the dining area, but no other specifics. Since this chain is not in the Cleveland area, I have no idea what they could have done that was so offensive that their customers stayed away in droves.

Don’t even know what they used to look like.

So could any Michigan Dopers enlighten me? Did they add erotic art? Paintings of big-eyed children? Op-art designs on the walls? Teeny tiny little ice cream shop seats?. Pictures of Alice Cooper on the walls? (ooops, sorry, that restaurant’s now in Cleveland)

Dying of curiousity here!

I’m from around Detroit, but I wish I could help ya. I’ve never actually been to Bill Knapps, but I suspect maybe they tried to make it more like a sports bar instead of a family restaurant.

Here’s the apology text, with some detail.


Snookie’s a card carryin’ Knapper, my sister lives next door to some one high up in the company, and Snookie once wrote a letter to them that Jamie Brown (their CEO IIRC) handed out at meetings, and I live in MI, so I feel well qualified to answer.

Some time ago, they began a ‘new campaign’ you may remember commercials “That was then this is WOW”, they changed their menu, dropping off certain long time favorites, and changed their decor from traditional style tables/booths and chairs to ‘hip’ things where some of the tables and charis were barroom height, they installed tv’s in the corners to add a ‘sports bar’ kind of theme.

I believe the rationale was that, well, gosh, geezers (the traditional KNapper), were dying off like, um, geezers, and they wanted to attract a younger crowd. The ads played up the ‘new seniors’ (ie high school and college looking people) and so on.

Results were absolutely disastrous. The changes drove away (at walker speed) the geezers, and the kids still thought of it as old folk city and stayed away. Futhermore, the other ‘core group’ of steady customers (families w/small kids) now found some of their favorite meals gone and the atmosphere way too loud.

I have to give the Knapp chain credit, tho’ for recognizing an absolute mess quickly and dealing with it up front.

(all references to geezers and old folk are purely sentimental in nature, since Snookie is well on the way to geezerdom - he’s getting carded these days 'cause they think he might be eligible for a senior discount. We’ve got enough AARP literature coming to our household to fill a mid sized landfill…)

I can vouch for the fact that Bill Knapps never stopped being an “Old People’s Resteraunt” in the minds of every human being I know, young and old alike.

Thanks for all your assistance…I read the menu at the website you so kindly pointed out and now I feel like driving to Toledo for dinner! I was very impressed by the radio apology…shades of New Coke, but handled much better.

I’m not a geezer, but my family did eat at Knapps fairly regularly until it tried to make it self over in the image of god knows what.

Before: You knew what you were getting, decent food that every picky eater in the family could get without too much whining, reasonable quiet, no smoking, old geezer decor.

After: Nightmare. Think of McDonalds trying to emulate both Applebees and the Disney store at the same time. Not what we wanted.

Glad to hear they’re going back.

(Though I have to admit, the chalkboard wall and colored chalk deal was fun the one time we ate there.)