Food Costs Worry Colicchio, But Craft ‘Ready For Recession’

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Tom Colicchio spoke to reporters yesterday at a live broadcast of Martha's Table on Sirius radio, but he kept mum on the big news announcements he is to make this morning at a press breakfast at Craft. (More on that later today.) But Chef Tom was happy to share his worries about the economy. Business is up at 'wichcraft and Craftbar and holding steady at Craftsteak. But at Craft, there are fewer diners on Sunday and Monday, an uptick on Tuesday, and a strong weekend crowd. Craft doesn't have to be a special-occasion meal, Colicchio claims. Strategic eaters who order wisely from the à la carte menu at Craft and share their dishes can eat for about half of the average $95 check. "The restaurant's almost ready for recession since everything's à la carte," Colicchio says. "You're eating in the same environment and with the same service that Craft provides, but you can do it for a lot less money if you think about it."

But even a nationally known TV chef like Colicchio has to count pennies in his kitchens. At Craft, the fall season lends itself to cheaper meats. "We started bringing things like veal breast — high quality, off cuts of meat. You can braise things like that. We can offer that at a much lower price than a prime steak or lobsters," he says. The steak will still be there, but it'll cost you. "I can't put a fourteen-ounce strip steak that's prime on my menu for less than $60. It's impossible. And I'm paying almost $30 for that steak," Colicchio says. "Twenty-some odd years ago, I had food costs of 30 percent. Twenty-seven years later, my food costs are still 30 percent, but the prices have gone up. I'm not making any more money."