Food for Thought: You've decided to open a restaurant. Which facet of the business gets most of your attention?
a) developing a menu
b) hiring a chef
c) starting a network of suppliers
d) training employees
e) finding the right location
f) designing the restaurant
The answer? None of the above. The correct answer is g) think up a gimmicky concept.
At least that's what's happening in New York. Nation's Restaurant News, an industry trade paper, recently spotlighted the latest in Big Apple high-concept dining. Among the most fanciful new theme restaurants:
Twins--The owners of Twins are identical twins. So are the doormen, servers, bartenders and hosts. In fact, the restaurant hires only identical siblings by the pair. The concept is so rigid that if one of the pair calls in sick or quits, the other must also do so.
Lucky Cheng's--Are you ready for a restaurant themed around Asian male cross-dressing servers? Then step into Lucky Cheng's, where drag queens of Far Eastern descent are the principal attraction. Says the owner: "We thought there would be a segment of the population that might get offended, but it turns out that the very folks who we thought we'd offend are our biggest customers."
The concept has been so successful that the operators have started branches in Miami and New Orleans. I can hardly wait for a Mesa outlet to open, where, perhaps bowing to local demographics, they'll have to make do with cross-dressing Mormons.
Live Bait--This place's concept is so stupid it makes Lucky Cheng's operators look like Nobel Prize winners. Live Bait is a bayou-themed seafood shack whose staff consists mainly of curvy models who portray Daisy Duke, a character from the old, submoronic television series The Dukes of Hazzard.
I have an even better idea. If I can get the funding, I'm going to open "Brady's Place." Everything will be served with white bread, and all employees will be dead ringers for Florence Henderson.
Motown Cafe--Apparently, there ain't no mountain high enough to get away from the sounds of Motown. Every 30 minutes, diners at Motown Cafe are regaled by singing servers, emoting to Motown hits. I suppose we can be grateful that there's no Billy Ray Cyrus Cafe on the horizon. But I bet someone has thought of it.
Sweet Talk: I got a call from a restaurant owner who thinks I'm being inconsistent. A few weeks ago, I praised Global Village, an outstanding pastry shop at 56th Street and Bell. I noted that the proprietor also wholesales to many Valley restaurants.
The caller correctly noted that I often bash restaurants for not making their own desserts and relying instead on outside suppliers. If the desserts are good, he asked, what difference does it make where they come from?
He's got a point. At most restaurants, it doesn't matter. But at places that are trying to make a serious culinary statement, it's a mistake. At the opera, the tenor doesn't lip-synch to Pavarotti in the third act. If you're a singer, you sing. If you're a chef, you cook.--Howard Seftel
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