Chicago Restaurants Feel The Crunch

Another day, another newspaper article about how the economy is destroying everything that makes us happy. Today’s topic: restaurants! Today’s news outlet: the New York Times! They deliver a city-by-city breakdown of just how tragic everything is. Chicago, of course, is included:

Also, restaurant owners and chefs said that diners are choosing less expensive items on menus and wine lists.

And they are asking for separate checks more often, no matter how large the party, said Emmanuel Nony, who opened Sepia, in the West Loop, one of the city’s premier dining zones, 15 months ago.

“It’s never been like that,” he said.

…“I’ve never seen the restaurant business so concerned about the stock market,” said Arthur Greenan, general manager of One Sixtyblue, a contemporary French restaurant where dinner and drinks come to about $85 per person. “We follow it as much as food prices.”

Mr. Greenan said many diners are skipping desserts, and fewer people come in for a light dinner at the bar. Overall, sales are off by 10 to 15 percent.

But One SixtyBlue is counting on a new chef and some tweaks to its pricing to end the year on a better note.

“The new menu is reflective of where the economy is going and sensitive to people’s spending needs,” Mr. Greenan said. “Chicago, like New York, is looking for what’s new and exciting. For us, this will be significant. We want people to think of us as more affordable on a regular basis.”

This gives us a little bit of pause — part of One Sixtyblue’s allure, after all, is that it’s not an everyday, affordable kind of place, and we’re not too thrilled about the idea of them reinventing themselves as such. Not that we’re about to welcome them as the second coming of Applebee’s, but still. Consumers can smell pandering and inauthenticity a mile away, and our (entirely unacademic, entirely nonprofessional) opinion on how to ride out this recession is to keep doing what you do — but make sure you do it brilliantly, and let the cream rise to the top.

In either case, we can’t wait to see what new chef Michael McDonald has planned for his menu. And we also wonder if “affordable” is what he thought he was signing up for.

Across The Country, Restaurants Feel The Pinch [New York Times]
Sepia [MenuPages]
Sepia [Official Site]
one sixtyblue [MenuPages]
one sixtyblue [Official Site]

[Photo: the interior of One Sixtyblue]


Chicago Restaurants Feel The Crunch