Ryan Braun’s restaurant trying to come off the DL

Located on Milwaukee's riverfront, Ryan Braun's Waterfront Grill is undergoing renovations and will reopen sometime in December. Photo by Brittany McGrail / Brittany.mcgrail@marquette.edu

In four seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, left fielder Ryan Braun has played 579 games, scored 397 runs, and hit 128 home runs. He even licensed his name to a restaurant — the Ryan Braun Waterfront Grill. Although his success in the major league shows no sign of slowing, the outlook for his restaurant’s future is a bit hazy.

Last April, the Ryan Braun Waterfront Grill, located in the Historic Third Ward, shared its opening day with Major League Baseball’s 2010 season. On November 30th, less than eight months later, the restaurant closed temporarily.

According to a statement by the restaurant’s management, it closed to make changes to the menu, management team and interior. The statement also said they wanted to take advantage of the slower months, seeing that the restaurant’s location and outdoor appeal are not ideal for winter.

“We received wonderful feedback on the restaurant and are excited for our current and new customers to enjoy the new product we are about to unveil in the coming weeks,” a representative of the restaurant said.

Although the statement mentioned “wonderful feedback,” Jeff Sherman, president of OnMilwaukee.com, which highlights entertainment events in the area, said the restaurant succeeded in the summer, but should restructure its interior.

“It has an amazing patio overlooking the water, the outdoor deck is awesome and it’s in a very nice neighborhood,” Sherman said. “But the reality is, the restaurant business is a tough one and it’s important to find a niche.”

The missing “niche” Sherman referred to was that the restaurant is not “totally high-end, but not totally casual either.” He said it is a place that customers might not know how to dress or what type of occasion it is best for.

He also said the restaurant needs to do something incredible to move past its initial “super-star baseball player” appeal.

“Obviously the name helps,” Sherman said. “But they need to do something to build loyalty and get people to come back … although that’s never easy.”

The restaurant’s fate is not likely to affect Braun’s career, as he is not the owner. Instead, RB Hospitality Group LLC, a firm operated out of Neenah, WI, holds the license.

Dennis Garrett, an associate professor of marketing, said many professional athletes license their names to products in order to make profits. He said outcomes are generally good, but quality management is always a concern.

“Sometimes these restaurants aren’t very reputable,” Garrett said. “Although they’re a good way to make money, it can backfire and actually harm one’s name.”

Garrett also said professional athletes have poor track records in money management and some eventually declare bankruptcy. Well known in Milwaukee, Brett Favre’s Steakhouse in the Button Block Building downtown closed after two years.

“A lot make poor financial judgments and yield themselves to the unknowledgeable,” Garrett said. “It’s very likely that people take advantage of them.”

Joel Maurice, a 2010 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, addressed the idea of businesses taking advantage of athletes.

“The restaurant closing really doesn’t surprise me,” Maurice said. “Restaurants have high start-up costs and if the investors aren’t getting their money they will change things up.”

According to a statement issued by its management, the Ryan Braun Waterfront Grill could re-open sometime this month.