Daniel Gerzina & Ashok Selvam | Eater Chicago | September 7, 2017
More often than not, tipsters, readers, friends, and family of Eater have one question: Where should one eat right now? Restaurant obsessives want to know what’s new, what’s hot, which favorite chef just launched a sophomore effort. And while the Eater 38 is a crucial resource covering old standbys and neighborhood essentials across the city, it is not a chronicle of the “it” places of the moment. Thus, the staff offers the Eater Heatmap, which will change on a regular basis to always highlight where the crowds are flocking to at the moment.
Labor Day has come and gone so summer’s unofficially over in Chicago, but new restaurants continue to sizzle around the city. The September Heatmap update features five new entries: world-renowned Italian import Bonci Pizzeria, jamming Jewish deli Steingold’s, LA Japanese expansion Katana, NYC burrito specialist Dos Toros, and all-day swanky-yet-casual spot The Heritage Restaurant and Caviar Bar. Meanwhile, someone has to come off to make room, so Quiote exits after eight months on, Noyane as well as rooftop season sadly winds down, and Clever Rabbit, Nutella Cafe, and Ella Elli take bows too. Happy eating.
Karen Stabiner | New York Times | August 25, 2017
The early diners are dawdling, so your 7:30 p.m. reservation looks more like 8. While you wait, the last order of the duck you wanted passes by. Tonight, you’ll be eating something else — without a second bottle of wine, because you can’t find your server in the busy dining room. This is not your favorite night out.
The right data could have fixed it, according to the tech wizards who are determined to jolt the restaurant industry out of its current slump. Information culled and crunched from a wide array of sources can identify customers who like to linger, based on data about their dining histories, so the manager can anticipate your wait, buy you a drink and make the delay less painful.
It can track the restaurant’s duck sales by day, week and season, and flag you as a regular who likes duck. It can identify a server whose customers have spent a less-than-average amount on alcohol, to see if he needs to sharpen his second-round skills.
So Big Data is staging an intervention.
Both start-ups and established companies are scrambling to deliver up-to-the-minute data on sales, customers, staff performance or competitors by merging the information that restaurants already have with all sorts of data from outside sources: social media, tracking apps, reservation systems, review sites, even weather reports.
They have an eager audience. The NPD Group, a market research company, is predicting “flat” growth in 2017 restaurant traffic, with a 2 percent decline among full-service restaurants and no growth for quick-service restaurants. A 2016 National Restaurant Association survey reported that four out of five restaurateurs believed that business would improve if they embraced technology, and a third worried that they were lagging in those efforts.
Phil Vettel | Chicago Tribune | August 21, 2017
Fred’s Mobil Station, which served Winnetka motorists for decades, is about to become a filling station of another sort.
Joe Krouse, Robert LaPata and Fred Gale, the owners of Ten Mile House restaurant in Evanston, are putting the finishing touches to Fred’s Garage (574 Green Bay Road, Winnetka), aiming for a mid-September opening.
“Fred (LaPata) was really bummed,” Krouse joked. “He thought we were naming it after him.”
The partners have expanded the original building, which has been gutted. When finished, the restaurant will be “an homage to the service station,” sporting two working garage doors (for open-air dining) and a large outdoor space that mimics the look of a gas-station canopy.
Daniela Galarza | Eater
“Conflict and Change” was the topic of yesterday’s fourth-annual Welcome Conference, a hospitality summit created by restaurateur Will Guidara of Eleven Madison Park and Anthony Rudolf, founder of the educational community Journee. Its goal is to bring members of the restaurant world together; this year’s theme was chosen in light of challenges in the industry, though it nods at this country’s current political climate, as well.
Chefs and restaurateurs including Jordyn Lexton of Drive Change, David Chang of Momofuku, Rich Melman of Lettuce Entertain You, and Brian Canlis of Canlis in Seattle spoke to the crowd of 850 about their own personal challenges and conflicts — and the ever-changing industry. Here now, attendees and speakers on what they believe to be the most pressing conflicts facing the hospitality business today:
Patrick O’Connell, the Inn at Little Washington, Washington, VA: “The greatest conflict in the industry today? How about the world? I think we need to have more empathy. The restaurant industry isn’t isolated… our collective anxiety level is extraordinarily high right now, and it’s affecting people’s concentration and their ability to perform. So much of what we’re about is taking people out of their reality and making them happy, putting them in a festive frame of mind.
Hillary Dixler | Eater
Next, the Chicago restaurant that reinvents itself around a new theme multiple times a year, is currently dedicated to Hollywood. That means guests arrive on a “step and repeat,” as at a red carpet premiere. It also means that each course in the tasting menu is somehow tied to movies generally or a specific film.
To executive chef Jenner Tomaska, food and film are a natural pair. “Whether it be the focal point or not, there’s always some type of hospitality or food related scene in a movie. To me, it’s cool to see when it happens and it’s the focal point.” When it came time to create the menu, Tomaska says he and his team shed their typical “less is more philosophy.” Observers of Next will see a link to some past menus in the look of the food itself, but probably not in the serving pieces. “We had to hit enough nostalgia points and enough movie points, so that every diner that came in could have a reference to something,” the chef explains. “Whether it be to all the movies, or to more than half, is what we really wanted.”
“Although the service pieces have strong visual connections to the films, the dishes themselves are much more interpretive,” says Greg Morabito, who covers pop culture for Eater. Some dishes are quite literal — the Ratatouille course, for example, is basically gourmet ratatouille served on a mousetrap. But for the most part, Jenner says he “kept it open,” playing with flavors and ideas, making “food replicate what the movie stood for.” Beyond highlighting specific movies, Tomaska’s menu also tracks film history, following a chronological progression.