I don’t think people go to a restaurant because of the food; I think people go because of the kind of attention that’s given to them. We pay a lot of attention to people; we give them whatever they want. There are a lot of people here that never see a menu. ... I remember many, many years ago, maybe twenty years ago, Mick Jagger came in for lunch, and he was not wearing a jacket. Everybody said, Are we going to let Mick Jagger in without a jacket? I mean, come on. Of course! What seems to be the problem? Well, everybody’s got a jacket on. So what? So what. So what. He came in, he wasn’t wearing a jacket, end of the story. We sat him.
Penny pinchers will be forgiven for skipping the shrimp scampi this season. … Prices for shrimp have jumped to a 14-year high in recent months, spurred by a disease that’s ravaging the crustacean’s population. At Noodles & Co., a chain with locations across the country, it costs 29 percent more to add the shellfish to pastas this year, and shrimp-heavy dishes at places like the Cheesecake Factory Inc. are going up as well. … Restaurant chains, already struggling with shaky U.S. consumer confidence, are taking a profit hit as prices climb. Even worse, the surge is happening during the season of Lent, when eateries rely on seafood to lure Christian diners who abstain from chicken, beef and pork on certain days. … At Noodles, it now costs $3.34 to add the shellfish to a meal of pasta or pad thai, compared with $2.59 last year.
Such “foo-foo coffee,” as he calls espresso and its variants, is partly why he bailed: He loves the taste, but the complexities of making it came to epitomize his disillusionment with McD’s. “The service times went up because of the expansion of the menu,” he says. “I think they went a little overboard. It was difficult in the kitchen. When I would come down Apple Street behind the restaurant and see cars backed up at the drive-thru, my stomach would just knot up. The people were different, the company was different. It became very frustrating.” ... There are 5,000 McDonald’s franchisees around the world. They run 82 percent of the chain’s 36,000-plus restaurants and generate a third of its $27.4 billion in annual revenue. ... it’s not like people are tired of burgers. Smashburger, In-N-Out Burger, BurgerFi, and Five Guys Burgers & Fries are all expanding. ... McDonald’s is also trying to compete with Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, and Jamba Juice. Rare is the food trend that the company won’t try to prefix with Mc.
It took only 105 years for Michelin to reach the United States. Founded by the Michelin brothers, André and Edouard, the guide was first published in August of 1900 during the Exposition Universelle, in Paris. An engineer (André) and an artist (Edouard), the two brothers were also competitive auto racers who created the first detachable automobile tires. The little book with its red cover started out as a free guide for motorists, and it quickly became Europe’s most popular travel guide. ... When you start as a Michelin inspector, your first weeks of training are abroad, she says. “You go to the mother ship in France. Depending on your language skills, maybe you go to another European country and train with an inspector there.” There’s no prescribed path to becoming a food inspector, “though inspectors are all lifers in one way or another,” she explained, and they usually come from families devoted to food and the table. “One inspector was a chef at a very well-known, three-star restaurant, another came from a hotel…. I think you’re either built for this or you’re not,” she added. “You have to really be an independent personality. You have to be somewhat solitary but also work as part of a team. You have to be comfortable dining alone. Most of the time, I think, inspectors all live in a perpetual state of paranoia. That’s the job: the C.I.A. but with better food.”
New Dave is doing everything he can to keep himself under control. Because these days, Chang is reaching for something bigger: He wants to turn his boundary-pushing restaurants into a global culinary brand. As Momofuku continues to move beyond its New York origins, it will further spread a distinctive aesthetic that has already seeped into the American food scene in ways that diners might not even realize. That tiny, undecorated, no-reservation spot that just opened near you, serving fancy versions of lowbrow dishes made with top-quality ingredients and high-end technique? You can probably thank Chang. Over the past decade, he has helped transform food culture—and especially a certain kind of gritty, back-of-the-house chef sensibility—into a genuine social phenomenon. ... Chang’s empire had started modestly. Built with a $100,000 loan from his father and a family friend, along with $27,000 of his own savings, Momofuku Noodle Bar, which opened in 2004, was a tiny East Village space that eventually earned a big reputation for its umami-rich takes on Asian cuisine. Chang—then a 26-year-old graduate of New York’s French Culinary Institute who’d worked at Tom Colicchio’s Craft and spent a year studying Japanese food in Tokyo—was an irresistible character, mixing serious food skills with a screw-you irreverent charm, blending the elite culinary ambition of such chefs as Wylie Dufresne with the sodium-soaked pleasures of high-American junk food.
Cooking, as a physical activity, doesn’t come naturally to me. It never has. To compensate for my lack of dexterity, speed, and technique, I think about food constantly. In fact, I’m much stronger at thinking about food than I am at cooking it. And recently I started seeing patterns in our most successful dishes that suggested our hits weren’t entirely random; there’s a set of underlying laws that links them together. I’ve struggled to put this into words, and I haven’t talked to my fellow chefs about it, because I worry they’ll think I’m crazy. But I think there’s something to it, and so I’m sharing it now for the first time. I call it the Unified Theory of Deliciousness. ... A chef can go crazy figuring out how much salt to add to a dish. But I believe there is an objectively correct amount of salt, and it is rooted in a counterintuitive idea. Normally we think of a balanced dish as being neither too salty nor undersalted. I think that’s wrong. When a dish is perfectly seasoned, it will taste simultaneously like it has too much salt and too little salt. It is fully committed to being both at the same time.
But in my underwriting of the investment I priced much too high the perks of being Mr. One-Forty-Second. Which wouldn’t have been so bad had I understood anything about how the restaurant business in New York City works. ... That business, more or less, stinks. New York restaurants are at the intersection of the low-margin world of food businesses like grocery stores (low margin because so many compete in the all-out war to sell food) and taste-predicting nobody-knows-anything businesses like Hollywood. I spoke to one of the two owners of the restaurant, who wished to remain anonymous in case he decided to keep his hand in the restaurant business. He provided me with the Manhattan math, from the seven-year profit-and-loss statement. If you as a customer generated a hundred-dollar tab, about thirty-seven dollars went to the staff (plus the twenty or so dollars you tipped); twenty-nine dollars went to buying the food and beverages that became your meal; fifteen dollars went to the landlord; six dollars went for supplies (such as new forks) and maintenance (hello, plumber); five dollars went to bank fees, insurance, and workers’ comp; five dollars went to other costs (utilities, permits); and just under three dollars (two dollars and eighty cents, to be exact) was left over for operating income. For the record, that is less than was paid in credit-card fees.
This story is more about comfort than you might imagine. It's also about restlessness, and safety, and complacency. Tuna rolls are familiar, but they don't do a lot for the environment. ... Instead of tuna and salmon we'd eat weeds, jellyfish, crisped wax worms—the plants and animals currently demolishing our local ecosystems. After a trip to Louisiana, he even incorporated nutria, a large swamp rodent, into his sashimi repertoire. Early on, customers simply walked out, unable to recognize his inventions as sushi, or even as food.
The restaurant wasn't the first Brazilian steakhouse chain in the U.S. — Rodizio Grill, which debuted in 1995, takes credit for that — but it was Fogo de Chão's aggressive expansion that introduced Americans to a new way to eat meat — an unlimited way, so to speak. In the last 20 years, the "Brazilian steakhouse" category has grown and gathered even more chain concepts (besides Fogo de Chão and Rodizio Grill, there's the Dallas-based Texas de Brazil and Tucanos) which, together, have 92 units spread all over the U.S. And that's not to mention the independently owned Brazilian steakhouses that don't belong to chains. ... The Fogo de Chão story started in 1979, when brothers Arri and Jair Coser bought, with two partners (Aleixo and Jorge Ongaratto, also brothers), an old and rustic churrascaria (or "steakhouse") called Fogo de Chão in the city of Porto Alegre. The act of churrasco (Portuguese for "barbecue") is an integral part of Brazilian culture: More than a meal, it's a celebration, whether Brazilians are hanging out with friends during the hot weekends or celebrating a birthday or even a wedding. The appeal of churrascarias permeates the country. ... GP Investments, made its initial investment in Fogo de Chão in 2006. GP acquired the brand outright in 2011, then sold its shares to American private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners in 2012 for $400 million.
Thompson has spent more than two decades in a notoriously punishing business, rolling the dice on one "eatertainment" experience after another. The high school dropout-turned-busboy-turned-restaurateur's highs have included a Cuban supper club and an upscale pool hall, while his lows involved a French brasserie and the loss of a successful bar due to poor financial decisions. But in 2010, Punch Bowl came to him with such clarity it made his previous ventures seem like practice runs. Seven years prior, he had hit financial and personal rock bottom, almost abandoning an industry that sees 60 percent of new ventures fail within their first year. ... While Dave & Buster's earns, on average, some $245 per square foot, Punch Bowl is ringing up $340 per square foot. The chain's 2016 revenue is on track to exceed $49 million. And in the next two years, Thompson is slated to more than double Punch Bowl's footprint with 10 new locations. Each will cost roughly $5 million, colonizing audacious spaces like part of a former airport in Colorado, a historic boxing arena in Southern California, and 30,000 square feet of warehouse space in the achingly hip precinct of Bushwick in Brooklyn, New York.
At forty, he is the head chef and one of the owners of Eleven Madison Park, a restaurant in Manhattan that is celebrated around the world for a casual clockwork opulence. Symbolically, Eleven Madison Park also serves as a sort of Buckingham Palace: the heart and focal point of an aggressively expanding empire. Humm and his business partner, Will Guidara—the two men work so closely that they're always talked about in tandem, like the Glimmer Twins of gastronomy—oversee a renowned restaurant, the NoMad, in the eponymous Manhattan hotel, and a warren of bars and nooks in the same space. They're planning to open a branch of the NoMad in Los Angeles in the coming year, as well as a new fine-dining sanctuary in a luxury tower at 425 Park Avenue. They also intend to roll out a group of fast-casual spots under the rubric Made Nice. To observers who murmur enviously about the duo's seemingly effortless march to power, it can all be a bit much to bear—the money, the air-kissy acclaim, the unsinkable Disney smiles. Theirs is the kind of success that makes mortals smirk.
In the fancier precincts of the food-service world, where watching a barista spend four minutes prepping a pour-over coffee is a customer’s idea of a good time, robots might not seem like the future of food culture. But spend some time at the restaurants where the majority of Americans eat every day, and you’ll catch a distinct whiff of automation in the air. ... Given job creators’ distaste for organic employees, it’s easy to see how automation might play out in Quick-Service Restaurants, or QSRs—the industry term for both fast-food operations like Hardee’s and slightly more upscale “fast casual” restaurants, like Chipotle. You already have to stand in line, order your own food, and then (in most cases) pick your order up at the counter when it’s ready. Pop a couple kiosks up front, maybe let people order on their phones, and bingo, you’ve automated away all the cashiers. ... More than 14 million people—almost 10 percent of the American workforce—work in restaurants, and almost 2 million of those work for casual-dining chains. ... Besides bumping check averages, the tablets can generate revenue with game fees and display ads, which the restaurants split with the tablet companies. And once the platform is in place, it becomes a powerful tool for data collection.