No Nachos, No Starr, No Dice: The Deets On Bankroll’s Quick Collapse

Bankroll had EVERYTHING going for it except, apparently, an experienced CEO.

For foodies, Stephen Starr’s abrupt departure from Bankroll was the first sign of its impending doom. Ali Morsen’s article for Billy Pen at WHYY, however, offers the deets on what went wrong at Bankroll.  Which apparently was – everything.

If you forgot about Bankroll or you had your head (justifiably) under a rock, Bankroll was billed as a luxury sports betting bar.  Launching in the vacant and dilapidated Boyd’s Theater on Chestnut between 19th and 20th streets, it was a welcome addition to the area, boasting of 400 seats, three bars, event spaces and tons of screens, coming from an original FanDuel investor but more importantly, with Stephen Starr at its head.  Depending on who you spoke to, either the gambling or the food was going to make Bankroll a bonafide hit.  In the end, it couldn’t fulfill either of those visions.

Morsen’s article is a great deep dive into the “mismanagement and hubris” that were mentioned in parting until Bankroll’s unexpected announcement that it was shutting down for the summer with the exception of fulfilling event requests.  The announcement also came as a surprise to its employees.  The staff found out they were flat out of a job the same time the world found out Bankroll rolled up in less time than its two years of construction.  

The email, unsigned and sent June 19 from what she said was an unfamiliar HR account, had gone out to most of Bankroll’s approximately 50 employees, from managers to front-of-house and kitchen staff to members of the small corporate team, which Mazza joined late last November.  

“Finding out in that way was pretty frustrating, as you can imagine,” she told Billy Penn

Bill Penn

Morsen interviewed a number of employees, both named and anonymous, who watched the collapse unfold in real-time.  One thing that stands out is how much power was given to Padma Rao, Bankroll’s CEO. According to her LinkedIn profile Rao is a New Yorker who makes a big deal about being a former GrubHub marketer. However, she has no notable experience in hospitality and it’s not clear if she even knows the Philly market.  You’d think she’d want Starr to hang around yet she was the one person who, according to former staff members, was dictating “extravagant changes” to the menu, uniforms that were dumped because “she didn’t like the color,” and a dislike of nachos.

“Padma was like ‘No, fuck that. We shouldn’t have nachos. We’re too good for nachos,’” Kim said. “But if you’re selling nachos and you’re making $5,000 a month on nachos, why not?”

Billy Penn

If someone could guarantee I can make $5,000 a month casually serving nachos as a side hustle you bet I’d sign up. Oh, and apparently Bankroll never ended up having gambling!

Did the app ever exist? Unclear. Former GM Jones told Billy Penn it was never developed. Another former manager said it was, but as a reduced web-based version. Another described the whole premise as “very, very confusing.

Billy Penn