Isla Vista restaurant SocialEats permanently closed in mid-February 2024 after five months of business. The eatery shut down due to financial difficulties that resulted in staff not being paid and neglect by ownership, according to staff.

The financial difficulties and miscommunication by the owners persisted for a month and a half since January, staff observed. During this period, ownership delayed sending paychecks to staff. 

SocialEats staff reported that establishing consistent communication with ownership through text was difficult. Josh Rhodes / Daily Nexus

SocialEats staff reported that establishing consistent communication with ownership through text was difficult. 

They remained unpaid up to three weeks after SocialEats’ closure until ownership allegedly took out a loan, the amount of which is currently unknown. They then allegedly began to compensate staff slowly through a series of Zelle payments over a week; legal action was not deemed to be necessary by staff.

Originally performing well during its first few months of business, difficulties began shortly after winter break when the proprietors — John and Kat Kolaski — moved to New York City. 

Founders and CEOs of K2 Restaurants, a firm behind several restaurant chains including SocialEats, the Kolaskis moved after John Kolaski accepted a position as President of Patina Restaurant Group, owned by private hospitality firm Delaware North. Patina notably manages restaurants within Walt Disney World and other high-end restaurants across the United States, according to its website.

The Kolaskis promoted three student-staff workers to managerial positions after the move, expecting that they would supervise and run the restaurant.

“I think [Kat] kind of thought it could be student-run but looking at it now, she kind of just left us high and dry,” second-year environmental studies major and former SocialEats barista Charlotte Theut said. “We definitely needed some kind of adult there to help us out.” 

John Kolaski did not reply for comment.

According to Yelp, other K2 restaurant eateries, including the original SocialEats locations in Los Angeles and New York City, have permanently closed their doors. Additionally, both SocialEats’and K2 restaurant’s websites have been deactivated for unspecified reasons.

“They definitely could’ve done more to communicate to us what was going on, because that was what we wanted,” a former SocialEats supervisor, who requested anonymity for privacy reasons, said. “If we’re not getting paid, okay, that’s one thing. But it was the lack of communication I think that really frustrated all of us.”

These difficulties also forced ownership to cut back on essential ingredients necessary for the restaurant to continue operation. Theut said that the lack of ingredients resulted in food shortages and a constant lack of menu items.

“It totally confused me why we weren’t getting some of the things we needed because we would tell her what we needed,” an anonymous former SocialEats supervisor said. “We would only get sent some of the things that we were on the [grocery] list and the things that we did get sent were only enough for a few days, so then we would just run out of it again.”

Theut said she believes the ingredient shortages “sealed the fate” of SocialEats as the degradation in food quality drove away customers.

“People started becoming really dissatisfied with SocialEats. Even some of my friends towards the end would text me and be like, ‘I just ordered the Greek salad which I used to get all the time and I loved, and all they gave me was a plate of cabbage and two cherry tomatoes,’” Theut said. 

The restaurant’s closure was “really unexpected” for Theut who, along with most other staff, found out through a co-worker group chat that the eatery had shut down instead of through ownership.

“I texted our co-worker group chat and I asked them if we had closed, and one of them said that Kat had texted them not to come in and that it was closed down,” Theut said.“She nor her husband John never informed me that it closed, I just eventually stopped getting scheduled.”

All that remains of the former SocialEats restaurant are the stacked chairs outside the restaurant and the abandoned interior decorations.

“It’s kind of a bummer for the students here just because we don’t have a ton of food options here in Isla Vista and so having a place like SocialEats, at least in the beginning, was really great because it had so many options and it just added one more social setting people could go and meet friends,” Theut said.

 “Hopefully something will come back in and fill that void where SocialEats used to be.”