New owner of Hermann’s European Cafe eyes big changes as restaurant continues to struggle | News

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CADILLAC – Over the next few months, Mike Blackmer expects to make some very tough decisions regarding one of Cadillac’s most iconic restaurants – Hermann’s European Cafe.

Since Blackmer and his business partner, John Kulhavi, bought the restaurant from chef Hermann Suhs in early 2021, the road has been bumpy, strewn with failures, mistakes and missed opportunities.

The once successful business has seen a huge drop in customer base over the past year, and it’s a painful reality that Blackmer said he has to live with every day.

It is particularly difficult for Blackmer to bear the failure of the business, as he recalls going to the restaurant as a child, before it was owned by Suhs, when it was a buffet style called Ursula’s.

“I didn’t do it right,” Blackmer said. “I took one of the best restaurants in town and ruined everything. I have to live with what happened here and it’s not easy…I can’t turn back time.

Looking back, Blackmer said his biggest mistake with the restaurant was trying to make too many changes, too soon.

One of those ill-advised changes was to rename the restaurant and drastically alter the menu months after he took office – a decision he quickly reversed in light of the negative feedback he received – but at this then the damage was done.

“We made changes to the installation, but Cadillac did not accept them,” Blackmer said. “It backfired on me.”

With Suhs retired, Blackmer said much of the chef’s old clientele had disappeared. Although his name is still on the marquee, Blackmer said people realize that Suhs is no longer with the company.

Blackmer tried a number of strategies to turn things around at Hermann, including bringing in a new chef, Sean Frawley, whose culinary expertise contributed to the success of the Dockside Inn (also owned by Blackmer).

Frawley said the new menu focuses primarily on lunchtime, which is their peak time of day.

“But we still take the European approach to our entrees,” Frawley said. “Everything is fresh…We make everything from scratch and can modify everything to suit a customer’s needs.”

Despite the new chef and new menu, however, Blackmer said Hermann’s continued to struggle and he wasn’t sure how long he could keep the doors open.

“I don’t think any other business owner would be able to sustain the losses we suffered,” said Blackmer, who added that he had to rely on revenue generated by his other businesses to maintain Hermann’s. afloat.

“We should have closed it otherwise.”

Blackmer has put the company up for sale, but he’s not hoping anyone will make him an offer anytime soon, so he’s trying to find a way to right the ship. The way Blackmer sees it, he doesn’t have much time left to do this, because everything he’s tried so far hasn’t worked, and it’s becoming an increasingly expensive project.

“I have one more chance here,” Blackmer said. “We better take our time and get it right.”

To turn things around, Blackmer is considering completely transforming the restaurant and giving it a new name.

Although he hasn’t made a decision one way or the other yet, Blackmer said he’s leaning heavily towards the idea of ​​opening a Brazilian steak house, which features servers walking around with a variety of meats from which customers can choose.

Blackmer said he’s also considering reducing the interior lighting and changing the decor a bit to make it a “romantic place,” which Cadillac doesn’t currently have.

The idea is to find a new niche for the restaurant and make it a destination. By the end of the summer, Blackmer said he hopes to unveil the restaurant’s new concept.

“It will be a tough decision, but a good decision,” Blackmer said. “I don’t want to give up.”

While Blackmer predicts big changes are on the horizon for Hermann’s, some aspects of the business will remain the same, including the butcher shop and wine cellar run by Icelandic Lalli Einarsson for the past 25 years.

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