Last year Pat introduced me to Kemp’s Seafood House near RTP, and I subsequently took my family there to eat, despite the long drive from Pittsboro. I was impressed by their excellent service; my experiences there were literally perfect, with nothing to complain about. Indeed, Pat and I half-seriously joked that Kemp’s should set up a consulting service to teach other restaurants how to do it right.

So I was rather appalled when we ate there last week and found that Kemp’s has completely changed. The interior has been gutted and reconstructed, the menu has been downsized, and worst of all, they’ve discontinued table service. Now you order from a counter and receive your food in a plastic take-out container, fast-food style, and seat yourself.

The only explanation I’ve found for this transformation was in a brief item from the News & Observer:

Table service has been replaced by an order counter, a change that owner Kemp Pendergrass implemented in order to lower prices.

This strikes me as an idiotic move. If Kemp’s wasn’t making enough money, wouldn’t it have made more sense to raise prices? Before the transformation, Kemp’s was a ridiculously good deal — actually underpriced, in my opinion. I wouldn’t have hesitated to pay more for such a pleasant dining experience.

Now it’s even cheaper, but they’ve also done away with everything that made the place worth going to. Kemp’s used to be one of our “special-occasion” restaurants; now it has become an oversized Captain D’s, and I very much doubt we’ll ever eat there again. And judging by how many empty tables I saw last week (on a Friday evening), I suspect we’re not alone.

I acknowledge that I know nothing about running a restaurant, but I suspect there’s a lesson in economics in here somewhere.