Eating Out in 2017: Is Restaurant Growth Over?

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BIGGEST NEWS: Expect to see a slew of restaurants closing around the country as “fail fast” takes hold. It has never been easy to run a restaurant but in big cities, it has become inordinately competitive, over-regulated and just crazy expensive to open a restaurant – especially mid-to-large size ones.

In San Francisco, several well-reviewed restaurants have closed abruptly e.g. Cadence closed just 5 months after opening. The restaurant was too big, they didn’t get the concept right and the neighborhood was not up-and-coming enough, quickly enough.

Typically 30% of new restaurants nationwide close within the first year. Based on my own observations as well as discussions with friends in the industry, lots of restaurant owners and chefs are considering throwing in the towel.

Read below for 4 more trends – all more upbeat than this – including the return of Bubble Tea (huge!!).

Bubble Tea is Back: Boba 2.0

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I’ve noticed a slew of new bubble tea places opening all over my neighborhood in NYC on the Lower East Side and in Chinatown. And apparently it’s also happening in LA (e.g. at speakeasy Boba 7) and in San Francisco (e.g. Boba Guys).

Most interesting of all, many of these Bubble Tea places are going into former juice places e.g. Vivi Bubble Tea is taking over the former Organic Avenue place on 3rd Avenue at 9th Street. Vivi now has 30 locations in the US – and who can resist their cotton candy float?

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Hester Street

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Cotton Candy Float

 

Collaborations and Takeovers

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Nick and Mario

Having Nicholas Morgenstern as a downstairs neighbor gives me firsthand insight into this trend. Nick has collaborated on ice creams and pies with everyone from Mario Batali and Dale Talde to LA’s smash hit, Sqirl. Jessica Koslow (Sqirl) is currently doing a big collab with Sweetgreen as well.

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The collaboration trend is growing around the country e.g. in DC there is monthly guest chef taco series at Taco Bamba.

 

Take-out Windows

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Two in NYC that I love: Poke bowls and soft serve at Seamore’s and Burrata soft serve at the takeout window at Ansel Kitchen on 7th Avenue.

In DC, El Rey sounds great – only operates on weekend from midnight to 3am.

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The Emerging Cannabis Cuisine Movement

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Many food world peeps are convinced that in 5-10 years, many high-end restaurants will adopt cannabis programs much like the wine programs they currently offer. Allowing patrons to use cannabis during a meal or before being seated will pique their appetites and encourage increased spending, which creates another large revenue stream for the restaurant industry.

Top names to keep an eye on:

  • Mindy Segal, a James Beard award-winning pastry chef who recently launched an artisanal edibles shop in Illinois
  • Miguel Trinidad, chef/owner at two NYC restaurants—Marharlika and Jeepney—now pursuing cannabis-infused secret suppers and an edibles line (see pic above)
  • Philip Wolf, the world’s first cannabis sommelier and founder of Cultivating Spirits, a Colorado cannabis cooking, dining and tourism company

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