'restaurant business' on Serious Eats

'Top Chef' Finale Is Serious Business

I'll admit it. Unlike Serious Eats's Harold Check (who will shortly give you his blow-by-blow, cut-by-cut take on the finale), Anthony Bourdain, and almost everyone else I know, I've never gotten hooked on Top Chef. But after reading Frank Bruni's piece in the New York Times yesterday, in which he compared the celebrity chef judges on the show to Charo and the other has-been show business types appearing as regulars on Hollywood Squares, I resolved to watch the Top Chef finale last night with a clear eye and a relatively clean food reality television palate (full disclosure: I do watch Iron Chef occasionally and have appeared on the show a few times as a judge). [Note: There are no spoilers... More

How to Make Fancy-pants Restaurants Cheaper: One Critic's Radical Ideas

London restaurant critic Nicholas Lander has some provocative suggestions in the Financial Times about how to cut prices or keep them down in high-end eateries as restaurateurs deal with higher food costs: First the bad news. There is no doubt that menu prices in restaurants across the world are likely to rise quite significantly and, most probably, quite soon. Even those restaurateurs and chefs with harmonious working relationships with farmers and growers will be unable to escape the steep rises in a number of basic foodstuffs.But the scale of the price rise will depend not just on how restaurateurs respond to this challenge but also how quickly they are prepared to jettison some of their practices, that have become costly... More

Sorry 'Top Chef' Fans, No Sam Talbot Food for You

Top Chef heartthrob and eventual winner Harold Dieterle's restaurant Perilla opened recently in New York City's West Village, and Season Two hottie Sam Talbot was supposed to follow suit on the Lower East Side in the middle of June with a gastropub called Spitzer's Corner. But according to Eater, he and his business partners have called it quits—they're still opening the restaurant, but he's no longer involved with the operation. Too bad, the place sounds great, and I was really looking forward to checking him, er, it, out. (Dieterle is still the only contestant with a restaurant in Manhattan, but Season Two's Josie Malave opened her own place, Island Cafe Bar and Lounge, in Queens back in March.) Related:... More

Restaurants Need to Put Menus Online

I've always been annoyed by restaurants that can't be bothered to put their menus online, and I always knew I wasn't alone. From a recent letter to Eater LA's Complaints Dept: "I can't tell you how many restaurants I wanted to go to that have opened and closed before an online menu ever appeared on their website. I really think restaurants are stupidly missing a wonderful opportunity to sell themselves and their food by providing and up-to-date and complete menu. And don't just say the name of the item, describe it in detail. Sell your food, don't leave us guessing. I won't drive 20 miles to take a chance." But do you know what's worse than a restaurant that doesn't... More

Bad Review = Time to Fire The Chef?

Andrea Strong wonders in Time Out New York if firing a chef is the appropriate response to receiving a bad restaurant review: "Just tweaking the food with the same chef takes time, and it’s tough to get that sense of change out there," says Stephen Loffredo, who brought in a new chef after Jovia, his Upper East Side Italian restaurant, suffered negative press. "When you say you fired the chef or the chef has left, that’s great news, because the public hears there’s been a change and wants to go back, and the media writes about it."... More

The Economics of Small Plates

Kathryn Matthews in Portfolio discusses how small plates mean big business for restaurants: "At first glance, the concept seems customer-friendly: With these appetizer-esque portions, you can mix and match and taste and graze, and each serving costs less than a main course. But there’s a little secret: Serving less can mean selling more, thereby boosting a restaurant’s bottom line." I love small plates, but only when I'm eating in a group of four or more (three if everyone likes to eat as much as I do), otherwise as the piece points out, the tab can get surprisingly huge if you've ordered what I consider to be a reasonable variety of tasty things. [via The Food Section]... More

Where Are All the Black Chefs?

Maureen Jenkins of the Chicago Sun-Times wants to know, where are all the black chefs? "In an age where chefs are celebrities and a regular TV gig turns the classically trained and mere personalities alike into culinary rock stars, the shortage of chefs of African descent is noteworthy if only by their striking absence."... More

The Making of a Restaurant

Ever thought about opening your own restaurant? Brett is, and he's blogging about it on In Praise of Sardines. His most recent post on his reaction to his architect's open kitchen design is a fantastic insight into the process and Brett's food and cooking philosophy: "This is exactly what I want Olallie to represent. Honesty. Truth. Openness. The restaurant exposed, transparent. Letting everyone know 'we're not hiding anything.' "... More

Online Bake Shops, A Leap Of Faith For Customers

Kelly DiNardo in the Washington Post today, on the troubles of selling cupcakes online: "There are challenges besides shipping logistics and growing a business too quickly. Getting customers to make the leap of faith about buying an item they haven't seen or smelled might be the biggest hurdle for an online bakery. In fact, Forrester Research found that the main reason people don't like to shop for food online is that they like to see or touch food items before they buy them (the report didn't mention taste)." Except for having groceries delivered by FreshDirect, which delivers my purchases to my front door in their own truck instead of through the mail, I don't really buy food online without... More

Alinea's Grant Achatz Will Read Your Blog

Chicagoist has a really fantastic interview with Grant Achatz of Chicago's highly-acclaimed Alinea, talking about all sorts of things like his philosophy as a chef and restauranteur, and how his creative process works in his kitchen and with his colleagues. This was my favorite thing to read: C: What food-related websites or media do you keep an eye on, for ideas and feedback?GA: I do it a lot less now, but I used to be really into all the blogs, like eGullet, LTHForum, all of those. I don’t read them so much anymore, I don’t know why. I feel that some of it is that they’re losing some credibility. There’s a lot of good, honest material there, then there’s a... More

Danny Meyer On Fixing Mistakes

The Washington Post's Joe Yonan has a short but great Q&A with NYC restauranteur extraordinaire Danny Meyer up today: "Let's say I get a salmon dish at Union Square Cafe, and it's not too salty, it's not under- or over-cooked. There's nothing particularly wrong with it, but I'm disappointed with how it all comes together, and I think, "eh." What should I do?" "Tell me. Please tell me. And have the confidence to accept my suggestion for a solution. I have a choice. If it's a $25 entree, I have $8 or $9 invested in it. Would I rather save that $8 or $9 and have you go tell the world "eh"? Or do I make sure you leave the... More

Danny Meyer And the Importance of Hospitality

Restauranteur Danny Meyer is best known for running eleven of the best places to eat in Manhattan, including Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, The Modern and the Shake Shack; his latest is Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business. 37 Signals has a great post up, Danny Meyert: Hospitality Is King, with excerpts from the book, an interview and a speech he gave at NYU recently: "The customer is not always right. While the customer is not always right, he/she must always feel heard." Meyer said his business strategy is built on both good service, defined as the technical delivery of a product, and "enlightened hospitality," which is how the delivery of that product makes its recipient... More

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