When we spoke with Stephen Starr and Tom Colicchio at Taste of the Five Boroughs on Monday, Starr said that his diners were ordering fewer appetizers and spending less on alcohol. Colicchio noted that it's harder to fill his restaurants on off days, causing Starr to remark that the ideal restaurant would have 3,000 seats and only be open on Saturdays. (“Thank God for Europeans,” Starr also said.) In The Wall Street Journal today, none other than Tim and Nina Zagat write that with 20 percent of diners cutting back on apps and booze, the future belongs to “BATH” restaurants, i.e. casual, moderately priced joints that are a “Better Alternative to Home” because they produce meals more efficiently than you can in your kitchen. The Zagats identify three reasons that the restaurant industry will thrive, thanks in part to the media fervor around it and the fact that people turn to entertainment for distraction.
To start with, more and more women have joined the workforce over the years. Thus, in most families, no one regularly has the time to shop, cook and clean up afterwards. Second, our tax laws continue to favor eating out for business. Last, the Immigration Act of 1965 led to a diversification of inexpensive, ethnic cuisines. Today roughly 50% of all meals consumed around the U.S. are prepared outside the home.
So there’s hope. Or, as Stephen Starr told us when he discussed a sort of industry Darwinism, “the better restaurants will survive this.” The question is, will they have to lower their prices as the Zagats (and Danny Abrams) suggest?
People Still Have to Eat [WSJ]