It’s harder than ever to run a restaurant in Baton Rouge. The 225 team dug into why

Sameer Abudyak only has about 30 minutes to talk.

It’s a warm May morning, and the lunch rush is about to begin at his newly debuted Jefferson Highway restaurant, Chicky Sandos. The buzzed-about first brick-and-mortar for the Nashville-inspired fried chicken food truck just opened a few days ago. The polite 25-year-old has been so busy working on the launch, he’s been hard to get ahold of for our story. But with finally a few moments to spare, he tells me it’s been going great so far.

I jump into my first interview question. “Can you tell me about the decision to open a brick-and-mortar?”

“I mainly decided…” Abudyak starts. “OK, I actually have a delivery that just popped up at the worst time ever. Could I put you on hold for one second?”

A minute or so later, he returns, apologizing—though the apology is unnecessary. After years of covering the local restaurant scene, the 225 team is used to the chaos.

A few weeks prior, across town at Mason’s Grill, we had been greeted by a drywall crew as the restaurant snuck in renovations during off hours. And this story’s photo shoot at Zeeland Street was scrapped due to an unexpected, week-long closure.


In fact, it’s this culture of twists and turns that led to our line of questioning with Abudyak in the first place. Our team wanted to know: What’s it like to run a restaurant in Baton Rouge right now? As the cost of everything climbs, the turnover rate of new openings and subsequent closures seems to have reached new heights. Meanwhile, diner preferences have changed post-pandemic. How are restaurants making it work?

For Abudyak, it’s looked like getting all the details right.

“Running into problems that we wouldn’t expect, like a drive-thru menu had a couple of issues that we had to fix and intercoms and stuff like that. … It wasn’t the worst thing, but all those little things definitely (are) a learning experience,” he says.

For institutions like Mason’s, those little things are largely in place by now. But the restaurant is turning to other ways to boost business—like a six-figure remodel.

“Everyone loves something new,” says owner Rober Alamirie, who purchased the 26-year-old eatery in 2022 from longtime owners Mike and Shirlee Alfandre.

And across the board, each of the 12 restaurateurs interviewed for this story—some of them fresh faces, some of them industry veterans—say their reality has recently been reshaped by mounting costs and consumer discretion.

“Folks love it,” Brett Jones says of his 18-month-old Barracuda Taco Stand. “But maybe they’re not coming twice a week. Maybe they’re coming twice a month, and maybe they’re not buying a second Margarita.”

All this considered, we found it no better time—or place, in our annual issue that honors the “best” of Baton Rouge, no less—to ask: What does it take for a restaurant to survive in the Capital Region?

These days, is good food good enough?

Balancing Act

Some of the city’s most notable restaurants have shuttered recently. Why? Operators say business is tough, thanks to a perfect storm of factors

Photo by Collin Richie

The real deal

How real estate and community are shaping Capital Region restaurants

Barracuda Taco Stand. File photo by Sean Gasser

Social Pressure

 When Instagram and TikTok run the world, how do local restaurateurs and business owners respond?

SoLou. File photo by Collin Richie

From the diners’ POV

A 225 survey shows how locals feel about mounting costs and changes in BR’s dining scene

Zeeland Street. File photo by Collin Richie

This article was originally published in the July 2024 issue of 225 Magazine.