David Chang and the restaurant business "apocalypse" 

One of NYC's greatest chefs sheds light on major challenges in the restaurant industry

click to enlarge David Chang, chef and owner of Momofuku. - DAVID SHANKBONE
  • David Chang, chef and owner of Momofuku.
  • David Shankbone
David Chang is unquestionably one of the most well-known chefs in the world. He is the host of the first season of the well-received PBS show, Mind of a Chef. Momofuku, his restaurant group, has some of the most respected and delicious N.Y.C. eateries under its umbrella. He is a badass chef, who is highly venerated amongst his peers and customers alike. 

Last week Chang released an article for GQ and it sheds light on the major issues facing the restaurant industry and foretells of a coming restaurant apocalypse. According to Chang, this oncoming catastrophe is due to a multitude of  issues including chefs leaving the kitchen (because they're incredibly over-worked and disgustingly underpaid), tipping (which Chang just removed from one of his establishments), and restaurants being forced by consumers to sell food at a bare minimum:
"Our bowl of Momofuku ramen should cost $28. That would cover the true cost of the “food” plus a reasonable (and not remotely greedy) margin. I put “food” in quotes because every tiny part of a restaurant is in the cost of that dish, from dripping faucets to broken plates. But you know what? I sell that ramen for $17, because if I charged $28, people would say it’s too expensive." It’s on us, as restaurateurs, to get better at running our businesses (and break fewer plates), but the bottom line is that food needs to get more expensive for you, too.
click to enlarge Momofuku Pork Ramen - WIKIPEDIA
  • Momofuku Pork Ramen
  • Wikipedia
You may be wondering what this has to do with you and Indianapolis. This "apocalypse" will affect restaurants across the country. Trust me, if David Chang is having serious issues (the guy runs more or less a food empire), then your favorite Indy restaurants will be feeling this pressure too. 

We're already seeing it, you just may not know it yet. A huge issue is the persistent loss of good cooks, just last week, Pizzology and Libertine owner Neal Brown posted on his Facebook: 
If you're wondering where all the cooks have gone, you may want to consider that they are now working in the FOH [Front of House] because simply said, they make more money. The traditional American restaurant financial model must be rethought.
I've worked in restaurants. The kitchen staff works their asses off. I'm not saying servers and bartenders don't as well, they absolutely do. But they're not doing it over a burning hot flat top, covered in sweat, pulling pans out of broilers and burning their hands (or even worse having hot fry grease splash on them), accidentally slicing the tip of their fingers off and throwing on a little blue
click to enlarge FLICKR
  • Flickr
 condom-esque rubber finger cover and finishing their shift (a bartender may do this during prep, lime juice in a fresh cut is never fun). There's also a good chance servers and bartenders are making $5 to $10 more an hour on average than their back of house counterparts (tipping has its benefits, if the customer tips the correct 20-percent).
So, cooks are heading out of the frying pan and into the fresh front of house air. 


This is just the tip of the iceberg, there are so many issues in the way we run our restaurants, and usually they lead to the people in the industry having to pay, so you don't have to. 

Check out David Chang's full article, The Earthquake That's About to Hit Restaurants.


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Cavan McGinsie

Cavan McGinsie

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I travel. I eat. I drink. I meet. I record. I'm the Food & Drink Editor here at NUVO and I'm always happy to chat with people about anything over a coffee, beer, or meal. Let me know your thoughts on Indianapolis.

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