Monday, December 21, 2009

'Restaurant Of The Future' A Little Bit Starr And A Little Bit Garces

the bazaar by jose andres at the sls hotel in beverly hills
One area of The Bazaar by Jose Andres in Beverly Hills — the restaurant of the future? | Photo via

The Wall Street Journal recently published an insightful article about how The Bazaar by Jose Andres at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills may be a harbinger of the future of dining.

The piece cites key aspects about the restaurant that correspond with strong overall trends in the restaurant industry, such as:

- Snacks Replace the Meal
- The Bar Is the Focus
- The Open Floor Plan
- Rejecting Traditional Fine Dining
- It's in a Hotel

It also provides counterpoints so as to never paint itself too far into a corner. E.g.
Snacks Replace the Meal

THE BAZAAR: Serves only tapas, or small plates, which can be ordered a la carte or as part of a multicourse menu.

THE FUTURE? Small-plates restaurants have been growing throughout the decade, but in the past year have made a quantum leap in popularity as restaurateurs look for ways to offer customers cheaper food without appearing to discount.
OR A FAD? Tapas are a Spanish tradition but not all food works tapas-style, and some diners will be reluctant to give up the familiar appetizer-entrée-dessert approach to a nice dinner out.
Anecdotal evidence supports the theory. While, The Bazaar has grossed more than $13 million in its first year, putting it in the top 50 highest earning restaurants in the country, other fine dining restaurants have been hit hard by the economy.
The $8 billion fine-dining business — the category of meals costing $70 and up — has been the hardest-hit sector of the struggling restaurant industry. Nearly every city has lost one of its most famous restaurants in the past two years, from the Striped Bass and Susanna Foo in Philadelphia to D'Amico Cucina in Minneapolis to Boston's Icarus and New York's Chanterelle.
Also interesting: the successes of both Stephen Starr and Jose Garces are referenced in the article.

For his part, Stephen Starr is quoted for what the restaurant of the future will not be. And that is, as he's said before, a restaurant like his Buddakan or Morimoto in New York City, which required inordinate amounts of raised capital to finance.
Three years ago, restaurateur Stephen Starr raised $15 million to build Buddakan and $11 million for Morimoto, both non-hotel restaurants in New York. "Getting that kind of money today for restaurants is impossible. It'll never happen in our lifetime again," Mr. Starr says.
While Chef Jose Garces is cited for his tapas prowess.
Over the past four years, Philadelphia chef Jose Garces has built a small empire of five small-plates restaurants and plans to open three more next year.

The small-plates format is a clever way around consumers' psychological barriers to restaurant spending. Consumer research shows that patrons order more when individual dishes are priced fairly low, and they don't spend time adding up the costs. Especially while the economy is soft, many fine-dining restaurants will offer a small-plates menu, either as a bar menu or instead of a traditional menu.
Meanwhile, both Starr and Garces seem to be affirming several of the article's theses in their own pursuits.

They both like the idea of hotel restaurants. Starr has Steak 954 at the W in Ft. Lauderdale and is currently pursuing another hotel restaurant in New York City. Before the recession killed (or at least severely wounded) them, Garces was looking at projects at new hotel properties in both Las Vegas (Fontainebleau) and Atlantic City (Revel).

And Starr's pull out from the Chelsea Hotel was more of a critical assessment of Atlantic City's prospects than it was about his interest in hotel ventures in general.

Garces obviously likes small plates. But as can be seen with the Cantina at Distito, he's willing to go even more accessible with it.

Starr's pushing casual too. Pizzeria Stella. Mexico City. Bar menu at Barclay Prime. Et cetera.

Overall, if these trends are, in fact, indicative of the big-time restaurants of the future, at least they sound relatively more fun and social.

Restaurant of the Future? A new model is changing the dining landscape across the country. The rise of small plates, big bars and hotel restaurants. [ Wall Street Journal ]


C said...

I stayed at the SLS, formerly Le Meridien Beverly Hills, last spring. If you're from Philly -- like, really from Philly? -- you don't want to go here. I'd rather give my business to Joey Vento.

lavienouveau said...

I love the rise of small plates. It's nice to try a bit of everything and not feel (or actually have) like you've eaten an entire cow upon exiting a restaurant.
As for hotel-restaurants I think I actually prefer not having to walk through some hotel just to get there.

What I'd love to see? more casual-fine dining.