The element of the Pearl v. Ed's lawsuit that's most interesting to us at present surrounds the fact chefs and restaurateurs stealing from each other is old news. It's been happening since the dawn of time. Patsy's/Patsy Grimaldi's, Nobu/Morimoto, Magnolia/Butter Cup/Little Cup are just three examples of many many others in New York. Classically, open feuds, bitter rivalries and the occasional bit of sabotage have been the methods of choice for settling these things. And yet, you do find that the best restaurateurs persevere. We asked some of the top dogs in New York, who run some of the most popular restaurant brands in the city, what their position is on knockoffs. In brief, they said, Go ahead and try to copy us; we're going to take you down in the end anyway. More specifically:
Ken Friedman, Spotted Pig: "Good question. We don't know [how to prevent knockoffs]. You can remind the employee that its just bad karma to do something like that. You can remind them it would be likely that bad stuff will happen to their business. He who betrays someone who is loved by the nyc restaurant community, as Rebecca is, will have a rough time."
William Tigertt, Freemans: "I feel for Pearl, and understand why she is mad enough to sue. The amount that Ed copied her is pretty flagrant. I think the tact that Mary's Fish Camp went was better. They are also ex-Pearl employees that copied Pearl, but then they put there own spin on it. My gut says that her lawsuit won't be a financial windfall or shut Ed down, but it may make her feel better and make an impression to the media/public.
People knock off Freemans all the time, but at the end of the day, we put a tremendous amount of energy into our businesses and that can't be copied. Anyone can put devils on horseback on their menu and taxidermy on their walls, but so many little things that go into the Freemans experience that makes it unique.
People that bring original, innovative concepts to market will succeed. Balthazar is probably the most copied restaurant in the city, and that hasn't made it less successful. If Pearl wins her lawsuit and sets a precedent - it might open up a whole other revenue stream for McNally.
John McDonald, Lure Fishbar, Mercbar: "You can never stop employees from doing their own thing, you just hope they really do so. If they do copy you, the energy spent trying to stop them is wasted. But then, I'm really of the belief that if you can figure out all the mechanics, raise the money, sign a lease, open the restaurant, and fill it, then I wish you well. Cloning is easier said than done. To many times I've heard, I'm gonna do my own thing, it'll be just like MercBar. Not too many of those are running a Merc clone today. Many great chefs have left their post, and often, they take with them much of what they were doing at their past job. Look at Nobu and Morimoto. Morimoto worked for Nobu and when he left many said he was copying his former boss yet over time he cultivated his own signatures and has expanded successfully. I would hope that even if they do start out in clone mode that they eventually find their own core strengths and create a new identity. Good luck."
Tomorrow, we hear from more heavyweights, including the one and only Danny Meyer.