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Old 01-04-2017, 02:06 AM   #26
amoeba
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Re: Restaurant industry

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I agree with the general sentiment that the restaurant industry is bubbly. no data to back that up, just personal observation and my guesses for things moving forward. the tail end of this 'foodie' run is going to coincide with a lot of things that will give the spoils to a select few. sites like yelp, opentable, thrillist all do separate things that will contribute. for example, when I get neopolitan pizza in chicago, it's almost always at this one restaurant. they do it perfectly, even if it's only marginally better than the 2nd best. (and it's generally recommended as the best on yelp and food critic sites). Opentable allows me to cherry pick times, so as long it isn't a last second crave, our group has no problems. not coincidentally, imo, this place is always packed, and many other great competitors (with better prices) are empty. so combine the spoils to the victors phenomenon with the issues the article highlights
The winner takes all phenomenom definitely contributes to the demise of 2nd best restaurants.

At the same time, there is so much sameness in the $50 to $80 per person restaurant bracket that i am not surprised at all that some of these restaurants go out of business.

I am tired of yet another local, seasonal new american restaurant with the same charcuterie, crudo, oysters, pork belly dish, seared scallop dish, brussel sprouts/cauliflower/carrots side, salty dessert with hot and cold elements. Also chefs need to quit it with the radish garnishes, micro herbs, and nasturtium garnishes. Not every dish need to have 5 ****ing textures and crazy weird flavors on top.

What is largely missing in American dining is the idea of the shokunin. The craftsman who perfects one single thing and strives to improve his product even when he is widely lauded as the best. Tempura guys just do tempura and dont do tonkatsu even though both are fried. Ramen guys dont so udon or soba. Patisseries and boulangeries are separate shops. You do see this happen occasionally in the US (the closest geographical example for me would be Texas BBQ). The practitioners of this spirit are rewarded. Guys that dont put in as much work are punished.

Last edited by amoeba; 01-04-2017 at 02:12 AM.
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Old 01-04-2017, 10:47 AM   #27
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Re: Restaurant industry

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What is largely missing in American dining is the idea of the shokunin. The craftsman who perfects one single thing and strives to improve his product even when he is widely lauded as the best. Tempura guys just do tempura and dont do tonkatsu even though both are fried. Ramen guys dont so udon or soba. Patisseries and boulangeries are separate shops. You do see this happen occasionally in the US (the closest geographical example for me would be Texas BBQ). The practitioners of this spirit are rewarded. Guys that dont put in as much work are punished.
It is kinda crazy that this doesn't catch on more in cities. Maybe the american spirit is just to be more horizontally inclined? Once an american perfects one thing they will want to see how that can go into other stuff. I'm obviously speaking in very broad tones.

Also I guess there's more risk, so whatever you specialize in has to have enough consistent broad appeal. If your dish becomes a fad or less popular you insta-die unless your rent is crazy cheap but even then you still probably are toast.

I would love to go to more places that specialize in just one thing.
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Old 01-04-2017, 10:56 AM   #28
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Re: Restaurant industry

It's the same thing with new microbreweries. They all have 30 beers as soon as they open and they all suck.
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Old 01-04-2017, 10:57 AM   #29
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Re: Restaurant industry

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Hmmm I think in most major US cities this is pretty off base. The white gloves are coming off at a lot of the best places these days. Younger people tend to want world class food and drink without all the stuffiness. There will always be a market for 2-3 michelin star dining but fine dining is really moving away from that (thank god). The main issue with these places is that they struggle to make it work even while they are very busy. Ultimately a lot of places will go under and the ones who weather the storm will have to raise prices, and we will likely see tipping done away with in states that are drastically hiking up minimum wages.
It's natural to think that the 1%ers will want places which make them feel even farther removed from the great unwashed. At the same time, Joe Sixpack won't be inclined to drop $60 for dinner for his wife and two kids when he could land closer to $40 or even less via a quick serve or non-sitdown option.
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Old 01-04-2017, 12:46 PM   #30
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Re: Restaurant industry

so I actually think the microbrewery example doesn't totally apply (at least from an Brick and Mortar perspective but maybe you only meant distribution in which case, agreed). My parents live in a large county with a pretty small population and the brewery there has like 14 beers that are all not very good. the environment is fantastic though so it keeps me going back (even though I'm normally extremely particular on my beer). the nature of an alcohol-first business is just so different.


Having said all that, this is absolutely spot on, IMO:
Quote:
What is largely missing in American dining is the idea of the shokunin. The craftsman who perfects one single thing and strives to improve his product even when he is widely lauded as the best. Tempura guys just do tempura and dont do tonkatsu even though both are fried. Ramen guys dont so udon or soba. Patisseries and boulangeries are separate shops. You do see this happen occasionally in the US (the closest geographical example for me would be Texas BBQ). The practitioners of this spirit are rewarded. Guys that dont put in as much work are punished.
I actually don't think it's anything in the american spirit that dictates our way, but that might need more thought. I much, much prefer the Japanese concept though. I actually remember the moment I made the same conclusion as you. it was at this tonkatsu place (tonkatsu is fried pork cutlet to those who don't know) in Tokyo and they had it down to an absolute system. one guy doing the breading, one guy doing the frying, the plating, etc. On top of that, the restaurant was huge, and packed. I think there were two things on the menu - with fat or trimmed. like you said it sort of sounds like an Texas BBQ place but it isn't entirely the same. the tonkatsu place was actually a sit down restaurant. I had three beers and a long conversation over an hour or so watching them just pump out fried pork. of course, it was absolutely fantastic
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Old 01-04-2017, 01:17 PM   #31
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Re: Restaurant industry

I think a lot of people forget that it is indeed people making your food, not a brand. I can get an incredible meal at a nothing American restaurant near my apartment, just a burger and fries but they are seasoned and cooked perfectly. If I go off-hours or whoever's day off it's below average.

It's fairly rare in my experience that you get a seasoned restaurateur that can consistently deliver but if you can find those, those can be your staples. There's another specialty burger place run by a well known, talented guy. Open long hours and you can get a perfect meal any time. He has 4 completely different restaurants in my city and every single one of them is consistently great. Consistently good food takes a quality manager who cares, discipline and caring from employees.

You can also get better food by showing up at more normal times, ordering the most popular items on the menu and generally showing up earlier (best ingredients tend to get used first).
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Old 01-04-2017, 04:45 PM   #32
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Re: Restaurant industry

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Recommendations for NYC/Chicago/DC then?
Not to derail this thread too much, but places that have really impressed me:

NYC:
Le Coucou
Semilla
Contra/Wildair
Blanca
Tori Shin
Olmsted
Chef Nakajima's counter at Jado
Four Horsemen


I don't spend much time in Chicago or DC but

Chicago:
Parachute
Boeufhaus

Also had great experiences at Formento's, The Bristol, and Lena Brava but was being taken care of by friends (who know their ****) so I won't include them.

Have heard great things about Smyth and 42 grams from a friend of mine but haven't been.

DC:
Rose's Luxury
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Old 01-04-2017, 05:00 PM   #33
amoeba
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Re: Restaurant industry

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It is kinda crazy that this doesn't catch on more in cities. Maybe the american spirit is just to be more horizontally inclined? Once an american perfects one thing they will want to see how that can go into other stuff. I'm obviously speaking in very broad tones.

Also I guess there's more risk, so whatever you specialize in has to have enough consistent broad appeal. If your dish becomes a fad or less popular you insta-die unless your rent is crazy cheap but even then you still probably are toast.

I would love to go to more places that specialize in just one thing.
It doesnt catch on because it is a lot of work. The problem is many chefs now stage for a few months or a year at the restaurant du jour and come out thinking they got it all figured out and chase the current fad.

Back when molecular gastronomy was in, every restaurant had a dish with a foam. Now that the model for haute cuisine is a place like Noma, foraging and local products along with the eating of wild flowers and greens is seen everywhere.

When there was a cronut craze, a bunch of places popped out with facsimiles but none of these copycats can even bake a good regular croissant or fry a good donut.

The problem isnt that American chefs are horizontally inclined, the problem is many of them arrogantly think they have a dish or even worse a cuisine mastered when they really haven't.

Add to that the increased public awareness of what good food is and the bar for survival is set so much higher. Just look at the oot steak cooking thread. A steakhouse that would have done fine in 2005 will get killed in 2016.

I have faith though. In the aggregate, the level of American dining has improved tremendously. Just looking at say Pizza, which is my other example of American shokunin spirit. In most major american cities, you can find a pie that will rival what you get in Italy. It might not match the best of Naples but it will be pretty damn good and thats something that we didnt have say 15 years ago.

Last edited by amoeba; 01-04-2017 at 05:09 PM.
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Old 01-04-2017, 05:37 PM   #34
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Re: Restaurant industry

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It doesnt catch on because it is a lot of work. The problem is many chefs now stage for a few months or a year at the restaurant du jour and come out thinking they got it all figured out and chase the current fad.

Back when molecular gastronomy was in, every restaurant had a dish with a foam. Now that the model for haute cuisine is a place like Noma, foraging and local products along with the eating of wild flowers and greens is seen everywhere.

When there was a cronut craze, a bunch of places popped out with facsimiles but none of these copycats can even bake a good regular croissant or fry a good donut.

The problem isnt that American chefs are horizontally inclined, the problem is many of them arrogantly think they have a dish or even worse a cuisine mastered when they really haven't.

Add to that the increased public awareness of what good food is and the bar for survival is set so much higher. Just look at the oot steak cooking thread. A steakhouse that would have done fine in 2005 will get killed in 2016.

I have faith though. In the aggregate, the level of American dining has improved tremendously. Just looking at say Pizza, which is my other example of American shokunin spirit. In most major american cities, you can find a pie that will rival what you get in Italy. It might not match the best of Naples but it will be pretty damn good and thats something that we didnt have say 15 years ago.
Good post
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Old 01-05-2017, 12:54 AM   #35
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Re: Restaurant industry

Barriers to entry are really low and everyone knows someone who is a great cook that 'should be a chef', every time someone comes over for dinner they tell them they should be a chef as a compliment. So everyone's dream is to open a restaurant so competition is fierce and so many people want to go to a new restaurant and are averse to trying one they have been to already.
Therefore high end restaurants can't survive fundamentally and their lifespan will be short. People who go to them are averse to chains/ the restaurant with all the publicity so they want to try something different (so even if the menu is constantly changing, the restaurant is the same) and their nature wants them to try something new.
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Old 01-05-2017, 01:45 AM   #36
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Re: Restaurant industry

I have had pizza all over Italy -- the pizza in most US cities is better. Speaking of specialization -- can anyone explain why a fast casual salad place hasn't thrived? Sweetgreens does a great job but it is only found in a handful of cities.
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Old 01-05-2017, 02:52 AM   #37
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Re: Restaurant industry

I think Americans actually do have "specialized" places that specialize in one type of food: NY pizza, burger joints all over the place, BBQ (Texas? Kansas?), steakhouses in NY (and a lot of other places), and crab houses near Chesapeake Bay.

The problem I think is American population is much more diverse than Japan... even if we're talking about flyover states. Japanese curry/tonkatsu? 90+% (guess) of Japanese grew up on the stuff, probably over 95% for curry. Imagine lunch/dinner planning in Japan. Tonkatsu house? Everyone: "sure, why not." The same question would get "uhhhhhhh"s from Jews, vegetarians, Muslims, and people trying to eat healthy.

Also in my experience overseas, a lot of the high end traditional places are very much about selling the atmospherics and prestige.

I am rambling. But I think it's a combination of two factors that led to less homogenization in US:

1. We just don't pay chefs enough money or give them enough social respect for vast majority of human population to treat (the vast majority of) chefs as "professionals." Japan is staying away (though less successfully over time) from this by sticking doggedly to traditional apprenticeships that take years to complete.
2. Much of our food events (lunch, dinner, social) are about finding the lowest common denominator between parties involved. In Japan you don't need to go very low to find the lowest common denominator. In US, especially on the coasts, you gotta go pretty low.

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Old 01-05-2017, 02:56 AM   #38
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Re: Restaurant industry

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I think Americans actually do have "specialized" places that specialize in one type of food: NY pizza, burger joints all over the place, BBQ (Texas? Kansas?), steakhouses in NY (and a lot of other places), and crab houses near Chesapeake Bay.
most of those places don't really actually specialize. pizza is a good example, but burger joints usually also have chicken, veggie, etc burgers, salads, all kinds of ****. BBQ is a pretty wide range of stuff. steakhouses usually serve everything (though I'll admit peter luger type places prob qualify).
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Old 01-05-2017, 03:13 AM   #39
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Re: Restaurant industry

Yeah, true. I don't think anyone goes to Peter Luger's or Old Homestead for their seafood.*

It's a good thing they do.

My wife would never go with me otherwise.

My point is just we do have places that specializes in certain types of food. Even though most of them have sold out and diversified their menus, they still have their specialties.

*definitely excellent steaks but the service can be wanting... unless you catch them on a good day or have a really hot date.

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Old 01-05-2017, 08:23 AM   #40
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Re: Restaurant industry

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Restaurant industry is in gloom. The number of Americans eating out has been tumbling big time. Millions of Americans have little or no money.

So many people are becoming nurses, are waiters, or bartenders because there are very few productive jobs. These kinds of jobs just add to the trade deficit.
are you saying being a nurse is an unproductive job?

what does being a bartender have to do with the trade deficit? Do bartenders export their drinks to Mexico?
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Old 01-05-2017, 08:24 AM   #41
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Re: Restaurant industry

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Yeah, true. I don't think anyone goes to Peter Luger's or Old Homestead for their seafood.*

It's a good thing they do.

My wife would never go with me otherwise.

My point is just we do have places that specializes in certain types of food. Even though most of them have sold out and diversified their menus, they still have their specialties.

*definitely excellent steaks but the service can be wanting... unless you catch them on a good day or have a really hot date.
isnt the whole point of peter lugers is that they are old school and the waiters are all gruff? Thought that was part of the charm
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Old 01-05-2017, 11:29 AM   #42
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Re: Restaurant industry

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I have had pizza all over Italy -- the pizza in most US cities is better. Speaking of specialization -- can anyone explain why a fast casual salad place hasn't thrived? Sweetgreens does a great job but it is only found in a handful of cities.
One answer might lie in the issues Sweetgreens has had with food sanitation. Salad places seem like they'd be ripe (pun intended) for that issue.
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Old 01-05-2017, 12:51 PM   #43
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Re: Restaurant industry

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One answer might lie in the issues Sweetgreens has had with food sanitation. Salad places seem like they'd be ripe (pun intended) for that issue.
I never knew of this, but from what I found on google health code violations were only found in a handful of restaurants -- none of which were due to it being a salad place.
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Old 01-05-2017, 02:39 PM   #44
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Re: Restaurant industry

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I never knew of this, but from what I found on google health code violations were only found in a handful of restaurants -- none of which were due to it being a salad place.
Salad places are taking off in most metropolitan areas, and there are several franchise options in the market. It's definitely a thing now.
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Old 01-05-2017, 03:13 PM   #45
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Re: Restaurant industry

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I never knew of this, but from what I found on google health code violations were only found in a handful of restaurants -- none of which were due to it being a salad place.
Maybe they weren't specifically due to salad ingredients, but any place where you can't rely upon cooking away contamination is going to be more vulnerable to it. And at salad places it's all fresh and none of it is cooked, as compared to let's say a typical pizza place, where everything is either pretty safe to begin with (carbs stuff, like fries, bread-based stuff) or is cooked. Sure - I guess things can be undercooked, but that's way more apparent to customers than when salad ingredients are contaminated, which is almost impossible to see with the naked eye and often can't be smelled either.

Plus, there is lots of handling of food at salad places, and if you saw the people who worked at Sweetgreens even in upscale neighborhoods let's just say it wouldn't instill confidence.
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Old 01-06-2017, 03:45 AM   #46
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Re: Restaurant industry

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Originally Posted by Rizzeedizzee View Post
One answer might lie in the issues Sweetgreens has had with food sanitation. Salad places seem like they'd be ripe (pun intended) for that issue.
Problems with good Garde Manger (salad and cold apps):
any dip in quality is obvious
need to turn produce over quickly and regularly
product is highly sensitive to mishandling
your neighborhood grocery store probably has a salad bar that gets much more turnover, wider variety, and beats you on cost
good product is expensive
working garde manger takes culinary talent, more (imo) than your average line cook

A whole lot of restaurant profit comes from alcohol. Salad places aren't known for their alcohol consumption.
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Old 01-06-2017, 12:07 PM   #47
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Re: Restaurant industry

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Problems with good Garde Manger (salad and cold apps):
any dip in quality is obvious
need to turn produce over quickly and regularly
product is highly sensitive to mishandling
your neighborhood grocery store probably has a salad bar that gets much more turnover, wider variety, and beats you on cost
good product is expensive
working garde manger takes culinary talent, more (imo) than your average line cook

A whole lot of restaurant profit comes from alcohol. Salad places aren't known for their alcohol consumption.
Which is why you pair it with cold-pressed juice which can have high margins. I am not saying it is bullet proof but there is a need for a legitimately healthy fast casual place outside of big cities.
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Old 01-06-2017, 02:27 PM   #48
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Re: Restaurant industry

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Which is why you pair it with cold-pressed juice which can have high margins. I am not saying it is bullet proof but there is a need for a legitimately healthy fast casual place outside of big cities.
Is there really a need for this outside of big cities? Once you get 30+ miles from a major metropolis or college town I'm guessing most folks would think something like Panera was already on the too healthy end of the spectrum.
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Old 01-06-2017, 02:53 PM   #49
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Re: Restaurant industry

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Is there really a need for this outside of big cities? Once you get 30+ miles from a major metropolis or college town I'm guessing most folks would think something like Panera was already on the too healthy end of the spectrum.
Sadly, I think you are right. But I still think there is an opportunity in the Midwestern cities where no brand has been established.

If you can solve convenience and health you will have a decent size
Market.
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Old 01-06-2017, 05:32 PM   #50
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Re: Restaurant industry

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Sadly, I think you are right. But I still think there is an opportunity in the Midwestern cities where no brand has been established.

If you can solve convenience and health you will have a decent size
Market.
Install salad franchises inside or next to fitness centers?
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