Business

Lunch Businesses can go out of business

WASHINGTON – Few people understand lunch stronger than Ashok Bajaj. The chef began his career here within the waning days of Ronald Reagan’s administration, when he opened the short-lived Bombay Club from the White House.

Eight out of 10 restaurants it operates today are like its first, located in a rural area. They bond well with each other, making it possible for Mr. Bajaj easily manages a number of dining rooms, as well as close customers working on Capitol Hill, the State Department and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building – an important source of Mr. Bajaj calls it his “lunch group”.

The crowds of celebrities continue in the Oval Room, a 26-year-old lunch magnet magnet – ending in November 2020. Long-term regulators have begun eating lunch in urban areas for it, according to at Rasika and Bombay Club. But “nothing is as it was before Covid,” he said. “Power has not been removed in downtown.”

Of all the headaches that infectious diseases have brought to the restaurant industry, one of the most permanent is the cessation of the business of shopping during lunch. It persecutes a group of restaurant executives, such as Mr. Bajaj, who have a popular restaurant in the heart of a large city where industry workers have fled.

Continued uncertainty when or if the staff will return leaving the restaurant that takes care of them without the large amount of money they will earn during the purchase price prices, mainly in urban areas, are on the rise. At the same time, many of the diners who develop close relationships and relationships between hamachi crudo and steak frites are now making the connections in front of a computer screen at home. they eat salads from the food box.

These economic changes and practices are raising concerns about the well-being of independent restaurants in large cities, where both serve as a barrier to the homogenizing effect of corporate bonds. “The cheesecake factory will open March 30 in Downtown DC and people are breaking up,” a report on the Washingtonian website last year reported on the replacement of a restaurant with a chef’s restaurant. prizes.

Reflecting on the new reality, Mr. Bajaj opened the catch and destination, Bindaas Bowls and Rolls, downtown in April. Recently, a fast-paced work stopper would have been unthinkable coming from a restaurant known for its savoir faire and designer suits.

He said: “It seems the right time for her. “There aren’t a lot of healthy lunch makers right now.”

In unhealthy restaurants across the country, luncheon restaurants are thriving, especially in rural and residential areas where many Americans worked during the disease. The total value of fast-food restaurants has surpassed those of the fast-food restaurants since the onset of the disease, promoting the values ​​of history, according to the National Restaurant Association. of national origin. And fast bonds continue to open in cities like Washington and San Francisco.

But many local restaurants and restaurants that used to do business were closed for lunch, even in search of a return to the reservation. Many employers say that rising prices and labor shortages are making cheap lunch prices closer to some people losing money.

Nancy Oakes, who opened Boulevard in the Embarcadero area of ​​San Francisco in 1993, said the return of office workers to different systems – say, three days in the building, two at home – was not necessarily the case. -expected to support staff in training for the company. lunch.

“From this hybrid working day, Wednesday is a new Monday, or is Thursday a new Friday?” Ms. Oakes asked. “If I can crack the code, I have a chance.”

Many of the top restaurants fighting for the economic change of lunch are in cities that have had record record growth in the decade since the Great Recession of 2008, said Hudson Riehle, vice president president and chief research officer of the National Restaurant Association said. He said, “The economic expansion has stimulated the development of other restaurants, especially the freelance work that has enabled the crowd to work for the community.”

Recent figures, however, do not raise a quick return to the status quo before Covid. About 47 percent of diners working from home go to lunch more often than they did before the outbreak, according to one restaurant.

Lunch arrangements in the first four months of this year at restaurants with an average of more than $ 50 are lower than at the same time in 2019, according to data from the online booking service OpenTable. They fell in Washington (38 percent), New York City (38 percent), San Diego (42 percent), Philadelphia (54 percent) and Chicago (58 percent).

Joel Johnson has noticed the change. The chief executive of Washington’s FGS Global, communications communications company, Mr. Johnson, 61, was eating three business lunches a week before the outbreak.

The festival was so well-founded, he said, that “between 12-ish and 2-ish, no one is going to organize a big customer meeting. It is understood that people are going to have lunch. . That fell in Covid’s time. “

The downtown lunch business has not stopped completely. “Some days are good,” Mr. Bajaj talked about his restaurants opening for lunch, noting that Ketanji Brown Jackson ate lunch at Rasika, a modern Indian restaurant near the Capitol, soon to be it was upheld in the Supreme Court in April.

Chef Eric Ripert said lunch at Le Bernardin, his popular French restaurant in Midtown Manhattan where a $ 120 prix-fixe lunch, is on “100% right,” despite being unable to say the same goes for the nearby Aldo Sohm bar. of himself. Lunch has not yet started at Manhattan restaurants that are celebrated at high prices such as Per Se, Eleven Madison Park and Jean-Georges.

Lunch on Wednesday and June was served at Higgins, an influential restaurant in downtown Portland, Ore. Greg Higgins, its chef and owner, said he worked hard to attract lunch diners – but he also benefited from the close closure.

He said: “The restaurant chain is gone. We are one of the only options right now.”

Reports for restaurants in rural areas are almost entirely different from those in downtown, Mr. Riehle of the National Restaurant Association said.

The Detroit-based business run by Samy Eid’s family shows a split screen. Mr. Eid said, referring to their Lebanese restaurant in Birmingham, which is remote, “We opened for lunch as soon as we could in Phenicia.” He is back. “

Leila, in downtown Detroit, is another matter. Eids opened a state-of-the-art Lebanese restaurant in 2019 to celebrate, with a large portion of the space available for lunch at about three blocks from the Quicken Loans headquarters.

“I don’t know if lunch will be back for Leila,” Mr. Eid said. “It’s a multi-million dollar project. To say that it is reasonable to remain in the dark is to tell you what you need to know about stupidity. ”

Shortly after Leila opened lunch before Covid arrived, Katy Cockrel said she was staying at the restaurant several times and the staff “laughed at me to park in the afternoon but will still be there at 3. ”

Ms. Cockrel, 37, who is vice president of communications at StockX, said she considers the restaurant chain as a day job. He said: “People are going up a conversation. “If I can get that and good food is part of it, why not?”

This deadly disease has challenged the challenges of the big city restaurants, many owners said.

Benefiting from rising prices and changing generations of food is reflected in the number of fast bonds in downtown San Francisco, Ms. Oakes said it will almost close Boulevard in 2019. A partner in an investment firm in the same building convinced him. to be open, and assist in lease negotiations.

“Once upon a time we had a good lunch, 250 people. Even before Covid, we were in the 150s and 160s,” he said. “I’m ready to turn on the keys.”

Today, lunch reservations at high-end restaurants in San Francisco are actually 15 percent compared to 2019, according to OpenTable. But by then, Mitch Rosenthal had closed three restaurants he and his brother, Steven owned. They are all close to the offices of technology companies like Facebook and Salesforce.

Their remaining restaurant, Town Hall, is in the same area. (Bjorn Kock is an associate at a restaurant.) He works hard for dinner but will not open again for lunch, Mr. Rosenthal said. Cheap lunch makes it impossible to turn a profit in San Francisco, he said.

“I pay cooks $ 25 an hour,” he said. “I think they deserve it? Yes I do. Does that mean the restaurant could be useful? That’s a different story.”

By the time Marea, an Italiantali restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, opened well for lunch every February, its owner, Ahmass Fakahany, discovered that serious illness had changed eating habits.

The restaurant is known for its Michelin star and its wealthy customers. Mr. Fakahany, former president of Merrill Lynch, said Marea’s simple new lunch coincided with the situation of business people who had used video conferencing calls to resolve difficult issues at their restaurant. Those who eat the food pay close attention to lunch to enhance the relationship.

He said, “I see a lot of people reconnecting, slowly.” “People use words for lunch. It is becoming increasingly common for lunch to affect social interactions, after all this time in Zoom. “

Dirk Van Dongen retired as a Washington runner in early 2020 and moved to Florida. He still blends in well to see what is missing when people stop face-to-face.

Mr. Van Dongen said he ate most of his lunch and half of his dinner with a restaurant that sat for more than 50 years in Washington. He said that it was the way he developed his business relationships with the people he wanted to work with and who could eventually become enemies.

“But let’s still identify ourselves as human beings,” he said. “You can only do that when you look at each other.”

Mr. Bajaj, a Washington restaurant manager, is still interested in helping to make connections. That’s why he opened La Bise, a high-end French restaurant, last summer, in the opening of the first Oval Room.

Mr. Bajaj has not yet opened La Bise for lunch. Waiting for the right moment, he developed a new system: going to a local parking lot, hoping to find it full of cars – a sign of life to return to the city.

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