Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

You SHOULD Visit Some Restaurants Immediately Upon Opening


Chris Amirault
 Share

Recommended Posts

It is a truth universally acknowledged that diners should avoid restaurants in their first few weeks of operation. They're working out the systems in both the back and front of the house; they're prone to screw-ups, slow service, and missed reservations; staff are learning routines and relationships that take time to perfect. The idea is that you'll get better food if you wait for them to iron out those kinks.

I've been having experiences lately that suggest the exact opposite: that you should visit certain restaurants immediately upon opening. Sure, you may have to wait a bit, but you're much more likely to get quality food prepared with care early in the restaurant's existence than later. I'm not sure why, but I think that the restaurants tend to be:

  • Small operations, not major endeavors bankrolled by Robert DeNiro or Larry David. No soft openings; no PR blasts; no superstar chefs. Just someone who loves to cook opening up shop.
  • Places that take advantage of a set of existing relationships, usually a family, that structures the work. Last night I ate at a place that has been open only a couple of weeks run by a Khmer family (and serving Cambodian food that we rarely see in these parts these days, I'll add), and when we left late two large parties arrived just as they were getting ready to close. No staff griping there when they were seated: the server was the daughter of the the owner/maitre'd, and mom was cooking out back.
  • Restaurants that have misjudged their business plans and inventories, expecting better business at first than they actually get. For example, our family went to a place in its first two weeks this summer, and we had some amazing food that had clearly been prepared a la minute (sitting in an empty dining room). When we went back a few weeks later, all the proteins that were so succulent had been generically parcooked and "grilled" for the marks only.

I can't tell whether this is idiosyncratic to my neck of the woods or whether I'm onto something here. What do you think? Do any of these experiences resonate with you?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that diners should avoid restaurants in their first few weeks of operation."

I agree with the sentiment in the post, and would modify the above statement to replace the word 'diners' with 'critics'. That's all.

"You can't taste the beauty and energy of the Earth in a Twinkie." - Astrid Alauda

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Food Lovers' Guide to Santa Fe, Albuquerque & Taos: OMG I wrote a book. Woo!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Done that, ate the food - eventually.

No matter the size restaurant, most often the timing just won't be there during opening days. That leads to food slow from the kitchen, lukewarm food that has been sitting at pick-up until the order is complete, mistakes, dishes arriving at different times and, often, short tempers all around. Might be ok for a quiet opening that no one knows about - but might not. Having only a few diners makes timing easier, but not so much for an inexperienced kitchen staff.

Problems will be compounded by mass confusion if too many people take the above advice and a small place is swamped.

Hitting any restaurant during the first week is a gamble. No reason not to if one can relax and emphasize. But demanding diners should probably wait a few weeks.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

Twitter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Small operations, not major endeavors bankrolled by Robert DeNiro or Larry David. No soft openings; no PR blasts; no superstar chefs. Just someone who loves to cook opening up shop.

Any of the subsets you list could rock, but could just as easily crumble into dust. I'd pick "small restaurant by someone who loves to cook" as the most likely to get off to a feeble start. Almost guaranteed if the "someone" has only cooked out of a home kitchen.

All depends on the experience, skills and personality of the staff.

Sure I've seen restaurants start of good and go downhill over the next few months. But I've seen a lot more restaurants start weak and evolve to strong over time. I've also seen a lot of restaurants start off good and stay good - at least for a year or two, often longer.

I'm fine with your suggestion as long as the suggestee knows and accepts the risks.

Edited to add: In my above post I used emphasize instead of empathize. Let me emphasize that I meant empathize.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

Twitter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Surely you've been to places that rocked out of the box and petered out over the next few months?

Your proposed approach might be problematic for people who want to eat out often, absent a steady stream of new restaurants opening for their personal convenience! :smile:

Also, echoing misstenacity, hereabouts (industry friends tell me) local journalist critics typically try out new restaurants between four and eight weeks after opening, for the usual reasons cited in this thread. Given that most diners won't be visiting within the first day or week, it makes sense for the journalists deliberately to wait, and report the more typical experience. (When everything's parcooked and "grilled" for the marks.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There's no doubt that waiting a while is the conventional wisdom, and there's no doubt that it's often right. But I'm convinced that it's wrong once in a while, too.

I learned last week of another factor: the existence of a small number of Khmer, Dominican, and Chinese chefs who, unknown to the dining public, are consultants hired to design menus, train staff, and open restaurants around town. After a few months, they pack up and leave -- typically leaving the restaurant in weaker hands -- or bump up in the organization and out of the kitchen.

There's one woman in particular who, I'm told, was singlehandedly responsible for starting up, in order, Apsara, Angkor Wat, Four Seasons, Galaxy, Jackie's Galaxy, and a few others. Providence residents will recognize that list, because those were the best SE Asian restaurants in the first year or two of their opening and then went steadily downhill. Even though she's responsible for establishing an entire popular genre of restaurant in RI, no one I've spoken to about these women (they're all women) knows of her existence, much less her name.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There's one woman in particular who, I'm told, was singlehandedly responsible for starting up, in order, Apsara, Angkor Wat, Four Seasons, Galaxy, Jackie's Galaxy, and a few others. Providence residents will recognize that list, because those were the best SE Asian restaurants in the first year or two of their opening and then went steadily downhill. Even though she's responsible for establishing an entire popular genre of restaurant in RI, no one I've spoken to about these women (they're all women) knows of her existence, much less her name.

I would love to learn more about this woman with the golden touch. Can we call out the bloodhounds? :laugh:

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had a teacher in medical school who was quite the gourmand, and who was a strong advocate of dining at restaurants soon after their opening. There was an explosion of restaurants in Houston's Montrose area in those days--early 1970's-- and he would try one and urge us to go now before they go down hill "as they always do." Looking back over my experience with the restaurant world, I don't know if it is universally true, but it is a common phenomenon. I know lots of places that were red hot at first, but then cooled off and lost their luster with time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another good reason (and its corollary) for trying new restaurants early…

To show support for a new venture and help the owners start paying the bills. This is more germane in “other-than-urban” locations where the pool of potential diners is relatively small, eating habits are hard to change, and all things new are viewed with a wait-and-see suspicion.

The corollary: Because they might not still be in business if you wait too long. Restaurants fail all the time and new ones at a rate far exceeding well-established ones and often NOT because they didn’t have great food, service, or whatever. Sometimes a real gem that should have shot to stardom just doesn’t make it and if you hadn’t had the foresight to try it early – you’d have missed out.

The Big Cheese

BlackMesaRanch.com

My Blog: "The Kitchen Chronicles"

BMR on FaceBook

"The Flavor of the White Mountains"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To show support for a new venture and help the owners start paying the bills ...corollary: Because they might not still be in business if you wait too long.

Those are profound points (the second supports the first) and should be printed in all dining guides, IMO.

If you like a business, show it, by supporting the place and spreading the word. You might think that was obvious or trite. Yet people will give great lip service to what they like, or what we need need more of, without doing the obvious follow-up of actually supporting it. Some folks take for granted the restaurants they like, as if those were part of nature -- then complain indignantly when the restaurants close -- or talk about "petitions" to demand more such businesses. (It's tempting to tell them that's not how it works. You puts your money where your mouth is. Support the businesses someone else took the risk to open, or take the risk yourself. Organize a venture and put your own money on the line. Among other benefits, that'll impart a different perspective, compared to analyses from the armchair, with the greatest of ease ...)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

xxchef - Amen to that!

Also, to echo Chris, I've found that (at least in my neck of the woods) restaurants don't always get better over time. Often the case is, sadly, the opposite. I've been to many a restaurant that I really liked when it first opened. But then the quality of the food rapidly declined and the service went with it (and the Caribbean is not known for its great service to begin with...friendly yes, but not usually quick or particularly polished).

So I tend to get in quick and form at least an initial opinion.

Abigail Blake

Sugar Apple: Posts from the Caribbean

http://www.abigailblake.com/sugarapple

"Sometimes spaghetti likes to be alone." Big Night

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This may not be applicable everywhere, but something you experience overseas is very similar.

Here in Bangalore, there's a lot of International chains, and when they first open they are out of sight. Imagine the joy of a forlorn American when a Chili's opened! (granted, not fine dining by a thousand miles, but something from HOME!)

When they opened (along with Papa Johns, McD's, KFC) they had American staff and top notch food and service. Eventually, the visiting trainers leave, and the food immediately transmogrifies (my favorite Calvin & Hobbes word) into Indian food that just happens to look like the pictures of American food in the menu.

I'm sure there's corollaries around the world, but the chain restaurant is the worst.

All of the expats have a saying in B'lore: "Go quick while it's still good!" Even non-American, non-chain restaurants all seem to open great here, but usually peter out after a bit.... oi

Anyhoo - to sum it up - Yes, there are some restaurants/establishments that start better than they will ever actually be in the long run...

PastaMeshugana

"The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."

"What's hunger got to do with anything?" - My Father

My eG Food Blog (2011)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...