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10 Crazy Facts About the New York City Restaurant Industry

Gleaned from New York Magazine's jumbo feature on playing the "restaurant game," here are some things you probably never knew about the wild world of running restaurants in NYC.

The current issue of New York Magazine contains an epic feature on the ins and outs, ups and downs of owning restaurants in New York City. The message: It's really hard to run a restaurant in this city, but there's a way to do things right. Here, gleaned from pages on buying property, designing menus, the complicated web of industry relationships, and hot dogs as status symbols, are 10 fascinating tidbits about the inner workings of the New York restaurant scene:

  • At a certain, unnamed "successful restaurant" downtown, weekly dinner revenue adds up to about $100,000. Over the past year, it gave up about the same amount in comped food and drinks for friends and VIPs. This restaurant also makes about the same amount of money over five days of lunch service that it does in two days of brunch service. Can anyone guess the restaurant?
  • The first and last dishes listed in any given menu category usually sell the best.
  • Oysters rarely make any money for a restaurant directly, but they're apparently a great way to lure in customers.
  • The restaurant industry is a tangled, tangled web of relationships. Just try to make sense of who's related, who mentored who, and who's investing in what.
  • When Andrew Carmellini, Luke Ostrom, and Josh Pickard opened their sophomore effort, The Dutch, they decided to do it without backers. It cost them $3 million, they ran out of money, and poor Carms had to sell $75,000 worth of his own music equipment to keep things afloat.
  • Carmellini and crew claim they have no new projects in the works, but also allegedly "haven't ruled out" doing some sort of casual chain. Will this be the year that Carmellini creates his Shake Shack?
  • Jim Lahey, of Co. and Sullivan Street Bakery, explains why 9/11 was good for airport restaurants: "It made it necessary to be ready for your flight so far in advance that it was a huge boost for the airport economy." He also explains how the airport dining company OTG has had such success signing on big names: It offers chefs a flat fee to create menu and train the staff, and then they're off the hook. A tempting offer in the uncertain restaurant business.
  • The following chefs are, according to NY Magthe "restaurant mafia" (whatever that means): Brooks Headley, Ignacio Mattos, Alex Raij, Rich Torrisi, Mario Carbone, Danny Bowien, Alex Stupak, Wylie Dufresne, April Bloomfield, David Chang, and Daniel Humm.
  • On average, The Spotted Pig sells about 75,000 of its famed burger in a year, which adds up to $1,575,000 in sales. By comparison, Daniel only sells about 25,000 DB burgers a year. And Ignacio Mattos sells about 10,800 orders of beef tartare at Estela.
  • The Franks have it made: Frank Castronovo's mom works for British Airways, so when he and Frank Falcinelli travel (as they so often do) it's always for free, except for taxes. As for meals, Castronovo explains: "Eating is like a chef's courtesy. You always comp your friends."

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