Over the weekend, we learned that Jack Perkins’ Mockingbird Diner was closing after a short run. GuideLive and Eater picked up that coverage today. A year and a half ago, the all-day restaurant opened on the edge of Love Field, peddling comfort food in a high-ceilinged, A-frame building with the grace of a prairie church. Our executive editor, Kathy Wise, reviewed it last May and called it the answer to morning prayers.
At the time, Jeana Johnson, who is now at the former NYLO (now Canvas) in The Cedars, was making breakfast tacos reminiscent of her former spot, Good 2 Go. In the last year, her departure has not been the only change. In March, GuideLive reported that Mockingbird was letting go its servers and switching to a cafeteria-style serving line, where, certainly, you could get your thick bone-in ham steaks with red-eye gravy and biscuits, but allowed the restaurant to skirt what was already a staffing dilemma that played a large part in the closing. In the piece published on GuideLive today, Perkins cites turnover that hovered around 25 percent per month. This is a perennial, acute problem in Dallas’ dining landscape.
I’m reminded of an interview with Perkins that Nancy Nichols ran on SideDish in the fall before The Mockingbird Diner opened (the post ran in October 2017). Her last question directs Perkins to comment on the labor pool and chefs and other staff shifting positions with great frequency. His answer:
Labor costs are a challenge. We’ve insulated ourselves from that for the most part. I’ve always paid a premium for talent and tried to lift everyone that works for me into a comfortable place. That doesn’t always happen, but the line at [Maple & Motor] today will have three people on it that have been there since the first week. Our marketing and PR budget is zero dollars. That money goes toward employee salaries. If you’re not paying someone to write press releases (these are, after all, restaurants), then there is more money in the pot to pay for production. The job hopping is interesting to me. It’s hard for me to understand. Some of it comes from a run and hide mentality. I’m more of a stand and fight guy. No one benefits from it, least of all the job hopper. The kind of adoration that comes from being pursued is addictive. A lot of people in our society are slaves to their addictions.
So now it’s just Maple and Motor. What’s next? Perkins told GuideLive he wasn’t done. We’re waiting on an interview with Perkins later today. We’ll update soon.