It’s going to be a banner year for restaurant openings and closings, more than 2015 in both directions, as money changes hands.
- More consolidations. Urban Outfitters set the trend with its purchase of all of Marc Vetri’s wonderful restaurants in Philadelphia. As hedge funds, investors, and businesses outside the food world find extremely undervalued restaurant properties, these will be snapped up and further monetized. Don’t expect the food to change much, but, in general, expect to pay more, be in and out in less time, and feel like more of a consumer who is being pitched hard by wait staff who will sell, sell, sell.
- Bigger cocktail programs. Would you like a drink? Expect to be pitched cocktails when handed a menu, and anticipate bartenders making the alcohol they are selling sound like elixirs that grant health and long life. At prices between $13-19 for two ounce pours, this is a real money maker for restaurants. With the minimum wage going up, it’s a sure-fire way to stay profitable.
- Pizza, small bites, and bottom feeders. No food brings more money into a restaurant than pizza. Small bites don’t seem pricey, but they add up. A crew of cooks can learn this stuff faster than fancier dishes and plating the food is easy.
- Greek Food. It’s a nice way to stand out from Italian cuisines, which are deeply regional and ingredient driven. Greek food is, too, but fewer people have opinions about how it should or could or might taste. Plus: The products are often farmed, which lowers costs.
- Bye Bye, Long Tasting Menus. Do you really want to sit for two or three hours feigning amazement at each gustatory work of art that comes to the table? Me neither. Look, there are enormously talented people–Redzepi, Keller, Humm, Boulud, Ripert,Chang, et. al.–who can pull this off. But they have decades of training in the world’s best kitchens, decent crews, and deep pockets.