Two Restaurants Combine In Tough Economy A breakfast joint and pizzeria in Springfield, Mo., share restaurant space to cut costs. At lunchtime, the aromas of frying bacon and bubbling pizza sauce mingle.

Two Restaurants Combine In Tough Economy

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OK, so opening a new restaurant is a risky business venture at any time. In Springfield, Missouri, two restaurants in the middle of this bad economy have found an unusual arrangement that's allowed one restaurant to stay afloat, and made it possible for a new restaurant to open. Missy Shelton of member station KSMU has their story.

MISSY SHELTON: When you pull off the busy expressway near downtown Springfield and turn into the parking lot, you see two signs on the front of a beige building. One says: Scramblers Downtown. The other says: Andoro's Pizzeria. Timothy Williams manages the breakfast diner, Scramblers, and he says the signage has been a source of confusion for customers.

Mr. TIMOTHY WILLIAMS (Manager, Scramblers Downtown): For a while, people thought we were closing because we had signs up that said Andoro's coming soon. They thought, you know, we're closing; a pizza place is going to come in.

SHELTON: A pizza place did move in last June, but Scramblers is still open. The two restaurants share a physical space and many costs, even though they have separate owners, menus and employees. In the morning, customers can order only from the Scramblers menu, and in the evening they can only order from Andoro's. But it's a bit more confusing at lunchtime.

Even though inside the restaurant it looks and sounds more like a pizzeria, with posters of Italy on the wall and the sound of soft Italian music in the background, I'm sitting here at the counter eating eggs, bacon, hash browns and pancakes. Customers say they enjoy having the option to eat either Italian food or breakfast during lunch.

Mr. DON DILLARD: Well, variety is the spice of life, and I think that it's a good idea.

SHELTON: Don Dillard eats lunch here with a large group of friends every Monday. He says having pizza, pasta and salad available on Andoro's menu gives the group more options.

Mr. DILLARD: A lot of people like that, too. We do have people here that eat off their menu. But I'm a breakfast person. I like their breakfast.

SHELTON: It's not just customers who have found there are perks with this set-up. There's a benefit for the cooks, too. If one restaurant is running low on an ingredient that the other restaurant has, they'll share. The tricky part is keeping the finances separate. To help with that, each restaurant has its own credit card machine, and the computers for the wait staff allow them to ring up split tickets when customers at the same table order from both menus during lunch.

Server Shervon Liston says it's easy to keep the orders for the two restaurants straight. The hard part is the timing.

Ms. SHERVON LISTON (Server): You have to let the kitchen know that you're having a split ticket. Sometimes they kind of mistime it. And so breakfast kind of cooks a lot quicker than like, lunch.

SHELTON: Even though there are still some kinks to work out, both restaurants are embracing the upside. For Andoro's owner, Tony Magliaro, being able to share costs with Scramblers allowed him to break into the Springfield market.

Mr. TONY MAGLIARO (Owner, Andoro's Pizzeria): The reason why we did it is because of the way the economy's going. And it's a lot lower, you know, start-up money. As far as going by yourself, it probably would've been triple the money.

SHELTON: Carl Riegel teaches restaurant marketing and management at Missouri State University. He says this approach is certainly unusual.

Professor CARL RIEGEL (Restaurant Marketing, Management, Missouri State University): When I first heard about it, I said: This is crazy. But then the more I thought about it, I said, well, no, it can work. But there are some pitfalls. There's accounting issues that have to be dealt with; a problem of the confused image in the public's mind about the place.

SHELTON: The owners of both restaurants say they don't know how long this arrangement will last, but both are willing to tough it out until the economy looks better for independent restaurants. But both are hoping at lunchtime, customers won't be too confused by the aroma of scrambled eggs mingling with the smell of fresh-baked pizza.

For NPR News, I'm Missy Shelton in Springfield, Missouri.

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