A bakery with a chain of cafes in New York and New Jersey offering kosher food prescribed by Jewish dietary rules attracted a diverse clientele. But now the kosher cafe chain Patis Bakery is in dire straits and has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

No one is blaming its troubles on the war in Gaza, which has the Israelis at loggerheads with the Palestinians and their supporters.

But the Jewish community has to rally around Jewish-owned businesses, says Elon Korblum, the self-styled Kosher Restaurant Guy.

Patis, “a place for pastry enthusiasts”, according to its website, wanted to be patronised not only by Jews.

Mainstream cafe

It presented itself as a mainstream café.

The Patis chain of 14 cafes includes outlets in Jewish neighbourhoods as well as diverse areas such as the Theater District in Manhattan.

Unlike other kosher bakery chains in Manhattan that offer only non-dairy- and meat-free “pareve” fare, Patis uses milk products to bake more sophisticated items such as flaky tarts, baguettes, cheesecakes and danishes.

The fare attracted a diverse crowd. Patis estimated last year that half to three-quarters of the customers at some of its outlets ate non-kosher food.

Rapid expansion

The kosher cafe chain, expanding rapidly since 2018, was on a roll.

As recently as September last year, Patis planned to open two more outlets, including one in lower Manhattan.

But then the problems began, coinciding with the war in Gaza that erupted in October last year.

Patis’ plight is not being linked to the war, however. Observers trace its woes to COVID-19’s toll on the restaurant business. Office workers working from home deserted eateries and watering holes, and though employees are now going to work at least some days a week, the restaurant industry has not fully recovered.

Patis has closed three of its 14 cafes, but the others remain open.

That’s normal in such cases. During a Chapter 11 proceeding, the court will help a business restructure its debts and assets. In most cases, the company can continue to operate.

Call for support

Elon Kornblum, the Kosher Restaurant Guy, was moved by the plight of Patis, describing it as “the first kosher café chain of its size in the U.S.”

On the Great Kosher Restaurants Foodies Facebook page, he wrote: “Patis took a bold step to bring high-quality kosher cafés to areas that traditionally lack kosher options, including the heart of Times Square.”

Patis’ filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy is a “move designed to help them continue to serve our community”,  he wrote. “Despite the challenges, 11 of their locations remain open, ready to serve you artisan quality sandwiches and pastries you’ve grown to love.”

“This is a critical time for Patis, and they need our support more than ever,” he added. “ By standing behind this Jewish-owned business, we can help it continue to grow and thrive. Without our support, they could close their doors, and I, for one, do not want that!

Not unexpected problem

A  Patis fan commented, “It’s kind of upsetting, given its really good food — but not entirely surprising.”

“I’m honestly not entirely surprised, given they were expanding very rapidly,” he added.

This is not the first time a fast-growing café chain has hit the skids.

A Los Angeles-based chain called the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf closed all 12 of its Manhattan locations in 2016.

The cash-strapped Patis has another problem looming. Court documents revealed that Patis has 21,000 unredeemed gift cards valued at an estimated $851,000.

“It’s going to be tough because if everyone starts using the gift cards, and there’s no money coming in, that’s going to be even worse,” said Kornblum.

However, others have survived Chapter 11. General Motors emerged leaner, and United Airlines grew bigger. Patis may have downsized, but who can say it won’t upsize again?

Sources: The Street, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

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