The Boom-Bust Restaurant Economy


I recently ate at a new, popular restaurant. This place has gotten a lot of food media attention, and the place was absolutely packed. Very buzzy. The space is gorgeous, but it’s clear that no one has put very much care into the food—not disgusting, just meh. Not worth it.

But, like I said, the place was packed, and it probably will be packed for a couple months and then fade away when the next exciting thing opens. I can’t imagine that it will have a life of more than five years, and I can’t imagine that the owners don’t know that.

As Robert Sietsema often says, it’s too bad that restaurateurs feel they have to open places that “foodies” will run to immediately and probably never go back to. It means that it’s harder to find serious new restaurants that will be perennial favorites—places where the food, rather than the experience or the scene, is worth your money.

So here’s what I’m wondering: Why open a restaurant that’s tied to the boom and bust cycle of ‘the next big thing’ in New York restaurant culture? If a 100-seat restaurant is full of people eating and drinking, are the owners really making so much money that it’s worth it?

Take Eater’s deathwatch list. It’s full of places like this: Sheriden Square (which closed today), Kurve, Merkato 55… The cycle: Hire a good PR firm and/or well-known chef or design firm, get a lot of buzz for your opening, maybe don’t pay so much attention to the food, and then fade away into the night. Aside from the fact that it’s not so good for the restaurant culture, does that sequence of events really make anyone much money?


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