Sam Mason’s Plans on How to, You Know, Make Money

Contemplating food costs, down to the pickled cherries.Photo: Melissa Hom
Sam Mason, the former star pastry chef at wd-50, will be launching his own restaurant and lounge, Tailor, at the beginning of March. In the weeks leading up to this, he’ll take us behind the scenes of a hot restaurant opening.

"I haven’t spent too much time in the space. We’ve been working really hard on the menu items. We’ve nailed the bacon gnocchi, and we’ve almost got the micro-olives — which aren’t olives, of course, but spheroids of olive-flavored gel. We’re having tons of fun, but there’s a lot to worry about in terms of food costs. Foie gras is expensive, but we can charge for it. Also, a couple of the other dishes can absorb that cost, like the razor clams, which are a little cheaper. At the end of the night, they cancel each other, and we keep at our 26 percent food costs. We’re not a three- or four-star restaurant. We don’t expect to just break even on food. We want to turn a profit, without cranking up our price points. You’re going to take a hit on some things. Waste, for example. It’s hard to see, and it’s not something you can always account for numerically. But we expect to make a lot from our cocktails, which are going to be amazing. One thing we’re thinking about is having private parties, events where someone buys out one of the floors. It will be a fixed cost, but we can’t figure out what that will be until we know what our night is. If we have $8,000 or $10,000 nights, we won’t want to give those away. And it’s not just losing the room. You lose a customer too, who might come by that night and be turned away, and end up getting pissed off.

Today we had a photo shoot for Food Arts Magazine in the test kitchen. It focused on our cocktails, which we’ve been working really hard on. There were twelve people! A three-man camera team, and the editor and all her sidekicks. We’re really trying not to have too much media exposure. We turn down a lot — seriously. We did Food Arts because their lag time is so far out; by the time this runs, it will be April. Even though we’re talking to you guys, we’re basically trying to stay as far under the radar as we can. There’s a lot of things we want to be able to change and adjust without catching flak; the more people know, the more they want to hold you to your announced plans. We don’t want to put ourselves at risk."