Could Lean Times Be Slim Times?

Above: On the way out? A meaty meal at the Slanted Door

It’s no secret that restaurants are tightening their belts economically. Rising food and fuel costs have led to smaller portions, less rich food and generally weaker value across the board for customers.

But we’re wondering if that same economic frugality could lead to a literal belt-tightening among increasingly girthy consumers. From the Florida Times Union:

Beef, flour and cheese are among the commodities with rapidly inflating prices that are integral to running a restaurant. Flour prices alone shot up 67 percent between January 2007 and this January, according to Ephraim Leibtag, an economist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. Cheese prices climbed 29 percent during that period, while beef costs increased a more modest 3.1 percent.

What gets you fatter than beef, cheese and flour? Not much. And there are hints that increasingly pinched restaurateurs are moving away from giant slabs of meat and towards more mixed dishes that lean on vegetables. From the Wall Street Journal:

But rising prices have prompted a furious new round of behind-the-scenes shuffling. San Francisco’s The Slanted Door is known for its rack of lamb. On many days, chef and owner Charles Phan offers a more-profitable lamb sirloin stir-fry instead, shaving his food costs by a third. It is a temporary fix that draws some complaints. “Everyone wants that rack,” he says.

Of course they do. Where’s the fun in going out to a nice restaurant for a bunch of vegetables you could make at home? But maybe, as necessity dictates, chefs will begin to adapt to the new world order and create things out of plants that you could never mimic.

Localvorism already calls for more vegetables transported shorter distances, and the economic necessity might help integrate that into all our diets. As chefs play with spices and vegetable cooking techniques, we may not miss that big slab of meat as much, which will be good, because we may not be able to get it.

Restaurants on a diet in tight economy [Florida Times Union]
Cutback Cuisine [Wall Street Journal]
The Slanted Door [MenuPages]
The Slanted Door [Official Site]

Could Lean Times Be Slim Times?