My have things changed

The last night I was in New York City before heading out west, I walked by the Spotted Pig and it was empty. At one point you couldn’t get into the place for hours on end. It was a special spot. Turns out it was more than that.

In 2004, Momofuku Noodle bar opened. Eater began publishing in 2005. Food became a major topic of conversation across the globe. Where to eat, what is opening, the creative merging of flavors, instant information of anything around food went viral immediately. Chang and April Bloomfield of the Spotted Pig had created new spots that were delicious, fun, not fancy and made everyone think about food differently. You did not have to go to Le Bernadin for a good meal although they certainly continue to reign just recently getting a well deserved four-star nod again.

Then came farm to table and non-GMO’s and organic and being more aware of what we putting in our bodies. All good, all-important as I certainly believe every meal should be a good one.

Instagramming and ethnic food are continuing to change the food landscape. Sharing is big although I have very mixed feelings on the share based on the restaurant.

The biggest thing is the rise of higher real estate costs and higher labor costs that make it very difficult to make a profit. After all, in NYC and other urban cities, many ovens are used for storing shoes not cooking. In other words, people just simply eat out.

Places come and go and some places stay forever but exposing diners to the inner workings of restaurants where sexual abuse was rampant brought down some of the biggest names that capitalized on our obsession with new restaurants and food. Has that changed? Have chefs and restauranteurs thought more about the culture they are creating in the back end? Are those conversations continuing to take place after the downfall of many?

Seeing the Spotted Pig empty was bound to happen after the expose of what happens behind closed doors. In its day it was the best but obviously not for the employees, only for the patrons. I hope that lessons have been learned throughout the industry. The next generation will figure out the costs, or perhaps tax benefits to make sure that there are ways for restaurants to survive. But most importantly, I hope that the industry has learned to create safe, equal opportunity, enjoyable restaurant environments….in the back of the house.

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    Agree.The exceptions like The Odeon continue to amaze me. 40 years!

    1. Anne Libby

      I love that place — especially in the middle of the afternoon at staff meal time. The reasons they’re still around made palpable.

      1. awaldstein

        Yup–Lucky Strike is of the same vintage as well and used to be my middle of the night breakfast hangout when i lived in Soho.Created by the same team.Happy holidays to you!

        1. Anne Libby

          You too!

    2. Kirsten Lambertsen

      The Odeon was first place I went when I came to NYC on my first trip. I used to stare at their big ads in Interview magazine during college in Wyoming and Colorado, dreaming of the day I’d be sitting at one of the tables. It did *not* disappoint. And with all the change happening in the city, I really cherish the fact that The Odeon is still there.

      1. awaldstein

        first place downtown with wine from the Jura and grass fed beef.basically the same since used to go with friends who had an illegal loft in the neighborhood in the late 80s.seems to be packed even some really great spots to see it.

  2. LE

    What I find interesting is that it’s still operating by the same name and still owned by Ken Friedman (who apparently might sell his shares from what I read). I am wondering if there is some restriction in the lease that they have (at whatever they negotiated) that prevents them from changing names or concepts.I am remembering (and I think it was Roy Rogers on the turnpike) a situation where a corporation was sold but they were not able to convert certain restaurants to another name because of long standing leases which prohibited rebranding (or selling the locations). Hence my saying ‘when something doesn’t make sense there is probably something you don’t know about going on’.

  3. pointsnfigures

    Don’t forget, meal delivery. Went to one restaurant in Chicago that was sort of busy in the front of the house-but most of their orders were going to delivery services out of the back. was a game changer. There might be something to the idea of a central kitchen-no restaurant, that just makes stuff for delivery. Also, cities are taxing the crap out of restaurant bills (and the property taxes, minimum wage laws etc). Chicago just raised its restaurant tax again….

    1. Gotham Gal


  4. Peter J. Kim

    That is nuts. I remember when Spotted Pig was such an industry spot. You could show up and expect to see people you knew.

  5. Semil Shah

    Thanks for writing this, very interesting trend line. This is likely why good restaurants have moved to Oakland, Brooklyn, Koreatown, etc. From the rising real estate cost, how best to fix that problem?

    1. Gotham Gal

      Not sure how to fix this but it is a tremendous problem.

    2. Talentueux De Classe

      I’m very glad for your post