The economy — and how it relates to food and dining — has been the topic of a lot of conversation recently, and with good reason. Just last week, the New York Times has an article about restaurants in Miami, Los Angeles, and Chicago, and the way in which they are coping (or not coping) with the hard times. For that matter, the topic was covered in both the Chicago and South Florida MenuPages blogs, by the respective editors.
Today, we had the chance to go “Top Chef: Taste of the Five Boroughs (call-back to last week!), where we ate a lot of food, and also watched a quick panel with Daniel Maurer, Tom Colicchio, and Stephen Starr.
The title of the discussion? “Being A Restaurateur In Today’s Economy.” Maurer asked both restaurateurs about how things are going for their restaurants, given the grim economic outlook, and it sounds like business is a pretty mixed bag. Both Morimoto“>Morimoto in New York City and Buddakan (also the New York one) are doing fine. In fact, business at Morimoto is up from last year, and Buddakan has stayed level. Starr’s Philadelphia restaurants are another matter, though. Although definitely not doing poorly, he did say that “in Philadelphia however, we have seen a small drop.”
What else? Nothing too revolutionary. He also said that people are eating a lot of food, and drinking much less, as well as ordering fewer appetizers. Apparently, we have Europe to thank for bolstering our restaurant industry thus far (Stephen Starr on this subject: “thank God for Europeans!”). It seems that everyone else is buying booze at liquor stores and going home to drink it (for the record, Starr calls this “people being smart”).
He also tried to shake the “big box” label once more (okay! We get it! You don’t like it!) and the ways in which kitchens can be “engineered” to cut costs (think four and a half egg omelets, instead of six egg ones). Mostly though, the mood was confident. He closed by espousing how firmly he believes in Darwinism, declaring that “the better restaurants will survive this.”