Fine Dining in the Recession

La Gavroche

La Gavroche -- London

As a quick follow-up to last week’s restaurant recession report, new information in the past week further supports a significant difference in the effects of the recession on restaurants across the U.S and those in London.

Particularly hard hit in the U.S. have been fine dining restaurants, with many a long-established place closing (or in some places relocating to take advantage of lower rents that have become available in the current recession).  In a just released Zagat survey the following figures demonstrate changes in U.S. customers’ dining habits during the recession:

In Los Angeles, of the 10,311 people surveyed, 48 percent said they were dining out less; 42 percent said they ate out at less-expensive venues; and 22 percent skipped appetizers or desserts. Another 19 percent cut back on alcohol, and 7 percent shifted from bottled water to tap to save money.

Results were similar in San Francisco, where 52 percent of the 9,700 people surveyed said they were eating out less often and 42 percent said they were dining in less-expensive restaurants. Twenty percent said they were cutting back on alcohol, and 21 percent had cut down on desserts.

The important numbers here are that 42% in both cities state they are eating at less-expensive places, indicative of why fine dining establishments have been punished in the U.S.

Once again, across the Atlantic, London is bucking the trend. In a simple but elegant piece of research, a journalist at Bloomberg, Richard Vines, tested the London market by trying to make reservations for 8pm on a Friday at twenty of the better known  fine dining restaurants.  Vines discovered that universally that there was little evidence of easy availability of tables. Most of the restaurants recommended booking at least a month in advance, while some were booked out into next year. Here’s a sample of the responses:

Fat Duck (Bray): “The restaurant is now fully booked for lunch and dinner for the next two calendar months.”

Le Gavroche: “I’m sorry, we’re fully booked. Shall I put you on a waiting list? For Friday and Saturday nights, I’d say you need to book one month in advance, or two.”

Gordon Ramsay: “To be honest, most Fridays are full. There’s a 6:30 p.m./6:45 p.m. on Oct. 30. That’s the only availability for two.”

Ramsay's -- London

The Ivy: “It’s going to be 7:15 p.m. and I’m going to need that back at 9:30 p.m. Otherwise, I can do 10:30 p.m. It’s going to be four to six weeks in advance for 8 p.m. or 8:30 p.m.”

Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley: “I’m afraid we’re fully booked. I am able to put your details on the waiting list if you like. Fridays and Saturday are our busiest nights and we take bookings six months in advance. I have something on Jan. 22. That would be 7:30 p.m. or 9:30 p.m.”

Other restaurants called were:Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, Bocca di Lupo, Le Caprice, Dinings, Goodman, Hakkasan, Hibiscus, Locanda Locatelli, Murano, Nobu, River Cafe, Roka, Scotts, Terroirs, and Wolseley.

Old money, more tourists, less debt to deleverage. Who knows why the London market is holding up?

Further Reading: BANKRUPT: America’s highest earning restaurant

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  1. […] Further Reading: Fine Dining in the Recession […]

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