Whether this year’s countdown feels celebratory, contemplative or cathartic (or some mix of all of the above, because 2020 felt both endless and finite), people will be ringing in the new year in various creative and socially distanced methods.
A quiet evening at home can be a chance to carve out your own little fortress of solitude, however, with your nearest and dearest close at hand. Although many of us can’t celebrate at restaurants or bars this year, here are some elements that savvy restaurant designers use to make your evening out a special experience that you can transfer to your own living room for a cozy New Year’s Eve.
1. Cast a spotlight on what matters
Although the soft glow of candlelight is always flattering (and a variety of LED options are available for the accident-prone among us), restaurant designers know to balance out lighting in a way that combines practicality and aesthetics. You may not need to read a menu at home, but squinting at the television is definitely too much effort for a low-key new year’s.
Skip the overhead lights and play with a variety of small table lamps instead (warm white or yellow tinted bulbs are much cozier than blue-based brilliant white options). Worst come to worst, those holiday lights that you haven’t gotten around to taking down can be pressed into service — stick to white or silver for a unified look, and skip the blinking ones unless you want to feel like you’re living in a disco ball.
2. Be careful where you sit
Savvy restaurant designers spend an inordinate amount of time considering seating options — one designer once told me that they personally tested every chair in a 100 seat restaurant for comfort, height and other factors. Don’t just focus on the padding (although that’s certainly a plus), and pay attention to the arm rests, textures and height. Is a love seat, ottoman or even a pile of cushions and throws on the floor the best option for you? Take this opportunity to move around some of your seating to see if there’s a more comfortable arrangement, since many people configure their living space once when they move or get new furniture and consider it to be set in stone.
3. Keep everything in sight
Pull in some small tables for food and drink (more on that in a bit) and see how the heights compare to your eye level when seated: are they within easy reach? Remember to keep sight lines clear to the television and your fellow celebrants (I’ve been to many a wedding where massive centrepieces prevented conversation across a table, for example). On a similar note, take a look at your glassware and remove the overly tall, fragile or eminently tip prone stemware from consideration — nothing spoils a cozy night quicker than breaking out the vacuum to deal with shattered glass.
4. Plate for ease of use
New Year’s Eve is the land of opportunity when it comes to appetizers. A variety of small, distinct bites helps combat palate fatigue and lets us try out new recipes (or previously prepared options, because 2020 has been busy enough) and different pairings. Keep things manageable by limiting the number of plates used to serve or eat — one large platter that is easy to transport between kitchen and dining area, and a couple of small plates per person should be plenty (restaurants have professional dishwashers, after all). Consider your table size before pulling out plates and servingware to avoid overloading and spilling, or perhaps consider having one family member serve up warm foods straight from the oven. Remember to keep the path from the kitchen clear and designate a dish pit for dirty dishes to make cleanup easier later.
5. Sound barrier
Restaurant designers learn early that hard surfaces are the enemy of cozy dining. Bouncing and amplifying sound, hard tile, bare walls or high ceilings can create echo chambers that make a space feel larger but also less intimate. Although sound absorbing elements are typically built into the design (or expensively retrofitted later on once critics start complaining about the cacophonous dining room), you can create sound barriers in your own space by piling on soft surfaces, hanging curtains or decorative textiles on windows or walls, or using room dividers to customize a sitting area.
Note: Because restaurants are hurting this year, consider ordering in some of your celebratory nosh (directly from the restaurant if possible, rather than using a third party app) or donating to a local restaurant workers relief fund if you can.
I’m a Toronto-based freelance writer who has spent the last 18 years traveling the globe as a magazine editor, and a lifetime consuming and exploring the world’s most interesting plates. A former editorial director of several national trade magazines on food, restaurants and fashion, I’ve covered luxury global trends and local flavors — and the chefs, artisans and tastemakers that drive them — across Asia, the Americas and Europe. Whether foraging with herb witches in Germany or hunting for the perfect small batch bourbon, I’m always seeking out new experiences in restaurants, wines and spirits and travel. I’ve also put my Masters degree in Communications to use by teaching magazine journalism and creative writing to the next generation of explorers. I tweet at @leslie_wu
In 2017, Filipino-Brazilian chef Laila Bazahm threw caution to the wind and opened her first restaurant in Barcelona. Since then, Hawker 45 has gone from strength to strength, firmly establishing itself as a local favorite on the Barcelona food scene. Earlier this year, Bazahm decided the time had come to expand the Hawker 45 brand. Not one to do things by halves, she agreed to take over the entire food and beverage offering at AxelBeach Ibiza, a popular LGBTQ+ hotel situated on the beachfront in San Antonio Bay on the Spanish island of Ibiza. Then COVID-19 struck.
This is Laila Bazahm’s story of what it’s like to open a new restaurant—despite being in the midst of a pandemic.
Isabelle Kliger: Please describe your new project at AxelBeach Ibiza.
Laila Bazahm: AxelBeach Ibiza is a “heterofriendly” LGBTQ+ hotel comprising 96 apartments. As of this year, I’m responsible for managing all its food and beverage outlets, including a restaurant, a beach bar, a pool bar, breakfast service and room service, along with 12 members of staff. Compared with overseeing a team of five at my restaurant in Barcelona, it’s quite a large operation. We serve everything from Hawker 45’s signature pan-Asian crowd-pleasers like Singaporean Laksa, Thai-style chicken wings and Malaysian Rendang curry, to beach food like burgers, and a full breakfast menu.
Kliger: What was your original plan and to what extent have you been forced to change it?
Bazahm: We had intended to open on April 1, in good time for summer, but then COVID happened. We finally ended up opening on June 24. Some of the things we’d planned were left hanging this year, due to the uncertainty around how the season would play out, and how reduced traffic would affect our revenue. For example, I had a lot of ideas about marketing, social media, brand collaborations and PR that I wasn’t willing to risk committing to. We also held off on investing in design elements like proper lighting and quality signage. And then there were the parties: Ibiza is all about parties, especially at an LGBTQ+ hotel, where people are looking to make new friends. Big, wild parties just aren’t happening here this season.
Kliger: What safety measures have been implemented as a result of the pandemic?
Bazahm: Firstly, we were all required to take a special course related to COVID-19 protocols. Secondly, we had to cut our occupancy by half and ensure five feet of distance between all sun loungers and tables. Staff wear facemasks and gloves and have their temperature checked daily. In addition, we have to observe a “no dancing” policy, which is quite a challenge, since the majority of our guests come to Ibiza to party.
Kliger: Is everyone following the rules?
Bazahm: Unfortunately, some of the clubs on the island are not fully respecting the social distancing rules and have been organizing crowded parties where not everyone is wearing masks. We refuse to do that. Having experienced the lockdown in Barcelona, and with family in the U.S. and the Philippines, we’re acutely aware of the potential consequences of ignoring social distancing guidelines. We don’t want to contribute to another outbreak.
Kliger: What made you decide to go ahead and open despite the pandemic?
Bazahm: This is our first year collaborating with Axel Hotels. They’ve been tremendously supportive, and that made the decision to go ahead considerably easier. The season may be shorter than usual, but we believed people would come, so we wanted to give it a go. And since we’re in it for the long haul, we figured we’d break even, but learn a lot, and come back stronger next year.
I’ll admit I had a lot of doubts and fears but, sometimes, you just have to jump first and build your plane on the way down.
Kliger: What has been the most challenging aspect of opening a restaurant during a pandemic?
Bazahm: Opening a restaurant—or any other venture for that matter—is already insanely stressful. With COVID, it’s completely nerve-wracking! There are so many factors outside our control, and we live with the ever-present threat of another outbreak and shutdown. I worry a lot about the safety of our team, since we’re all susceptible to catching the virus, no matter how careful we are. That really keeps me up at night.
From a practical perspective, hitting our occupancy targets has been challenging. Dealing with suppliers, many of whom have staff in Spain’s temporary worker furlough scheme, has been a nightmare. But we’re also grateful to the people who’ve offered to help us out.
Kliger: What advice would you give other restaurateurs who might be thinking about whether or not to launch a new project in the current circumstances?
Bazahm: Every situation is different and, in this pandemic, there’s no playbook we can rely on. I mean, who gets into a sport where, the longer you play, the more likely you are to die? If you’re in any kind of entrepreneurial business, you are essentially a gladiator. It requires incredible strength and a very particular psychology. But launching a public-facing, entrepreneurial venture during a global pandemic takes a special kind of madness. It’s definitely not for everyone.
Having grown up in Sweden and studied in the U.K., I moved to Barcelona in 2010 and have never looked back. I write about travel, with a particular focus on all things sustainable and local, and pop culture. My ideal day would involve getting lost in a new city, stumbling upon a tiny restaurant, and getting to sample a dish I’ve never had before. If it happens to be served with red wine or gin (or any kind of local spirit—I’m not fussy), even better. My work can be found in Condé Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, American Way, Departures International, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, and more. Follow me on Instagram @ikliger.
A Saturday night and my phone pings. It’s an email from a well-known courier company. Earlier that day they’d confirmed that my delivery from a high-street restaurant chain would arrive the next day. Now they were telling me it was cancelled: “Contact the sender directly for more information.” At 9.30pm on a Saturday night? Gosh, thanks. Last month, when I wrote about the enduring appeal of French food in Britain, I was emailed by a senior person from the high street bistro chain Côte. They had just launched their Côte at Home range, available nationwide. Would I like to try it?
I turn down over 95% of the freebies offered to me. Partly this is because I am drenched in enough privilege as it is. Wet through, I am. Also, where would I put it all? Mostly, though, I decline such because I’d prefer to experience products as other customers would. I’ve never eaten in a branch of Côte, but many people have told me they rather like them: a fair price point, reliable food and good service. (Complaints in 2015 about the unfair use of tips to top up wages led to a change in policy.) Accordingly, I declined the offer of Côte at Home for free and instead booked it myself. Now, here I was very much experiencing the gorgeous life of a valued customer: it was a Saturday night, I’d spent £85, and my planned dinner for Sunday night had disappeared, along with the contents of this column.
Sod that. What’s the point of being thickly glazed in privilege if you don’t use it? I emailed the Côte exec. Much hand wringing. Apparently six packages had been lost by the couriers. It would be reorganised. Of course it would. Five other people probably have me to thank for their delivery turning up that Sunday, because I do wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t made a stink.
I mention this partly because it would have been far less than full disclosure not to, but mostly because I want them to sort it out. The thing is that Côte at Home is really good. Not just “good considering they’re a high street chain”, or “not bad at the price”. It’s proper good, in the way you tell your neighbours about over the garden wall while dissing the government’s latest knuckle-dragging stupidity. The online selection is so extensive – not just ready meals but cheeses, wines and butchery – that I wondered whether a food service company was involved. Apparently not. Côte introduced a central kitchen for some of their dishes a while back and, with the additions of a few buy-ins, it all comes from there.
Be prepared for packaging that recalls hardcore M&S: recyclable film-sealed plastic trays with cardboard sleeves bearing the legend “Handmade in the UK.” The labelling is supermarket ready, from allergens, through nutritional advice to ingredients and barcodes, with a chilled shelf life of a week. Look closely at those ingredients. It’s what those in the food business call a “clean dec” (short for clean declaration). It’s all words you would recognise, rather than the sort of preservatives and emulsifiers that allow certain foods to outlive that kitten you just acquired. The pokey vinaigrette, with a generous portion of roasted asparagus for £4.95, is made with Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar and oil, just as mine is. The gazpacho, more than enough for two, and again for £4.95, is made with such exotic ingredients as tomatoes, cucumbers, red and green peppers, garlic and olive oil. It tastes as if it has just been blitzed in my own kitchen. I check. I hadn’t blitzed it in my own kitchen. There are brioche croutons and basil leaves to add. It’s bright and fresh with a strident peppery kick.
Have you ever stood in a supermarket aisle peering at ready-meal portion sizes, muttering: “Which two people is this for? A couple of four-year-olds who are off their food?” No? Just me then. These dishes pass that test. The most expensive is the beef bourguignon at £13.95 for two including a portion of their mash, the arrival of which shames me. But then it’s part of the deal and I’m working, OK? It’s a proper serving for two of me, made with long-cooked boulders of shin, glugs of cabernet sauvignon, lardons, veal jus and a fat old dollop of time. It is ripe and unctuous and could stick your lips together on a chilly day. It gives Tom Kerridge’s recent beef cheek bourguignon serious competition.
Other highlights: a lamb parmentier that the packaging translates as a shepherd’s pie, made with both mince and pieces of lamb that have disintegrated graciously. There is salmon with ratatouille, and to finish, an impressive lemon and Armagnac posset spun through with zest for £3.50, or a classy apple tarte fine for £4.50. Home preparation has been considered. The oven needs to be at 200C for all of it, and cooking times are in multiples of 10 minutes, making it straightforward to get the dishes out in the right order. A slight niggle: the mash that I hated myself for having and the minted peas, required a microwave, which I don’t own. I did them on the hob. They were fine. I’d be very surprised if this service didn’t continue once the crisis ends, and far less surprised if the products turned up in supermarkets, though they’ll be hard pushed to maintain the current price point once retailers take a cut.
One other delivery: the small Mumbai-inspired group Dishoom have launched a kit enabling you to make their rightly famed bacon naans at home for £16, delivered via Deliveroo from their three London outposts. This did come to me for free, because I was then outside the catchment area, but I made a donation to the charity Magic Breakfast, which provides breakfasts in schools to kids who need them. (Dishoom makes a donation to Magic Breakfast for every kit sold).
It’s a lot of fun, and is now available nationwide. You get the three pots of dough, so you have one to screw up (or fill yourself). Roll the dough out, put it into a fiercely hot dry pan for 30 seconds then under the grill for a minute. Works a treat. There’s cream cheese, tomato chilli jam, coriander and very good streaky bacon from Ramsay of Carluke. The good things to have come out of this crisis are few, but a Dishoom bacon naan at home is one of them. Next week this column should find me eating in an actual restaurant. Or just outside one. Fingers crossed.
A London-based wine company, Nice, was due to launch an Argentinean Malbec in recyclable cans for the 2020 music festival circuit, to go with their sauvignon blanc and rosé that went on sale in 2019. Now, with a lot of sturdy red wine on their hands, they’ve bottled it and are selling it with all profits going to NHS charities. ‘Wine for heroes’ is available via selected retailers, Amazon and their own website, nice-drinks.co.uk.
One issue of the furlough scheme for the restaurant trade has been that income from service charges through ‘tronc’ schemes was not regarded as the salary upon which government payments were calculated. Many employees, already on modest salaries, saw incomes cut in half during the crisis. It’s shone a light on what many see as the problematical nature of restaurant staff depending upon tips, by their nature variable, to get by. Now London restaurants Oklava and Hill and Szrok have joined a few others by announcing the scrapping of all service charges. The headline price of dishes will go up, but there will be no extra to pay and staff salaries will be guaranteed. Let’s hope it catches on.
A survey of 2,000 people by research company Perspectus Global has found that Lady and the Tramp sharing spaghetti is the most loved movie restaurant scene of all time. The top ten also includes Meg Ryan’s faked orgasm at Katz Deli in When Harry Met Sally and Mia and Vincent going for a burger in Pulp Fiction.
There are things you can do, however, to make sure that your favorite place stays open. Here’s a list.
1) Go out and eat. The restaurant industry has been galvanized into taking steps to make their dining rooms, restrooms and kitchens the cleanest that they’ve ever been.
We know that the coronavirus spreads in two ways: from surface contact, and from airborne transmission.
At least when it comes to surface contact, you can be pretty sure that your place is wiping down as much as it can.
Likewise, smaller crowds mean less chance that you’ll catch an infection that way, even though there are no guarantees.
Of course, some states are banning assemblies of larger groups, which might affect whether your favorite is open.
But, if you are comfortable leaving the house, and they are welcoming customers, go have a good meal.
2) Honor reservations. The worst thing you can do right now is book a table and then change your mind and not show up. It’s always a bad idea but in this environment, it will really play havoc with their staff and inventory planning.
Likewise, it’s truly bad form to make multiple reservations, and then choose from one at the last minute. You’ll simply make a number of places unhappy.
“Don’t ‘ghost,’” Bayless said in his email to customers. “We kindly ask that if you choose not to join us for your reservation, please inform us in advance. It’s OK!”
3) Opt for carryout or delivery. On its Instagram account Friday, Saba in New Orleans launched a curbside delivery service.
Many other restaurants have offered them, or have pick up areas where you can dash in, get your food and leave.
It’s a better deal for restaurants if you collect carry out yourself, rather than use a delivery app. That helps the restaurant — and you — avoid delivery charges.
But if you don’t feel like driving over, delivery is your back up choice. Be sure to tip your delivery person.
4) Buy gift cards and merchandise. Restaurants collect gift card revenue as soon as the card is purchased, then mark it as redeemed once the user applies it to a bill.
If you are in a position to buy a gift card and sit on it for a while, you will be helping your local favorite get through a tough time.
Likewise, merchandise can be big profits for restaurants. They make money on t-shirts, cookbooks, mugs, water bottles, and the like. They’re walking advertisements, too, and they show that you’re lending your favorite place a hand.
5) Tip your server. I’ve seen people asking on social media whether they can send tips directly to their favorite servers, to offset the money they’re losing by the drop in patronage.
That’s a lovely idea, but the situation can be a little complicated. First, you have to know your server well enough to have their email or cellphone number.
Second, servers are supposed to declare tips as income, and pay the appropriate taxes.
If you send the money through an app like Venmo or PayPal, there will be a record of the transaction, and the server might get in trouble if they don’t later report it, and the IRS catches them.
That’s why some servers prefer to be tipped in cash.
Also, you need to look up your state’s tipped wage law, if it has one. A number of states require restaurants to cover the shortfall between tips and the minimum hourly wage, usually for employees that are working 30 hours or more per week.
If their hours get cut, they could lose out, even if you try to make up the difference.
Before you do this, make sure it’s on the up-and-up. And also, be considerate of your server’s pride if you make them an gratuity offer.
I’m an alumni of the New York Times and NPR. I learned to cook from my mom, and studied with Patricia Wells and at Le Cordon Bleu. E: email@example.com T: @mickimaynard I: @michelinemaynard Sorry, I don’t honor embargoes.
Shocking opportunities of the Coronavirus and Global Recession for restaurant owners and entrepreneurs… *DISCLAIMER* I’m not a medical professional or economist so for most accurate advice please refer to the CDC and WHO This video is filmed March 2 2020. Around the world, the Coronavirus has made Chinese restaurants ghost towns and affected millions of small businesses. With all this fear and panic happening, it has been reported that some Chinese restaurants are seeing as high as 70% sales drop. Some are forced to lay off workers and close down. Although Chinese restaurants are feeling the brunt of this, know that a virus knows NO BORDERS and sees NO SKIN COLOUR. The business ramifications will leak onto other restaurants as people continue to be fearful of going out to eat and gather. But as one person sees all the NEGATIVES of this, there is another who sees THE POSITIVES OF THIS. As a business owner, I see the opportunities in all the fear and panic from this pandemic and global recession. Cause as Warren Buffet says, when everyone is fearful, you should be greedy. It is the prime time to use the fear as your advantage as things are cheaper and in favour of the growing trend to food delivery. Life is all about how to react to problems. It is up to you how you react to this global phenomenon. Just know that riches are made in recessions. So if you are a restaurant owner, restaurateur, food entrepreneur, small business owner, want to open a restaurant, want to start a business, then now is the time. *Note: no way am I belittling the drastic and devastating effect both the coronavirus and recession has done and can do to people’s livelihood and the lives taken. RESOURCES: Secret Restaurant Success Club Facebook Group: http://bit.ly/Restaurantsuccessclub 7 Day FREE Email Training on How To Start a Restaurant: http://bit.ly/restaurantemailtraining How To Start A Restaurant With 0 experience: http://bit.ly/ULTRESTAURANT ABOUT WILSON LEE: I am an award-winning Top 30 Under 30 business strategist, digital marketer, and Brick and Mortar development expert helping business owners and entrepreneurs create explosive Food and Beverage businesses. My experience cultivating and operating multi-million dollar businesses such as founding and growing an international Dessert Chain (https://720sweets.com/) with locations from North America to Asia, I have discovered the key to achieving unattainable success. It is now my mission to share this knowledge with others who have solid business concepts but can’t seem to break through. If you’d like to learn more about how I can help you achieve the same results, then make sure to connect with me: https://wilsonklee.com/ FOLLOW ME ON: Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wilsonklee/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WilsonKingLee/#wilsonklee#restaurantowner#restaurantmanagement
Giuseppe Carillo rolls the Five-Star hotel’s heaving gin trolley over to your group. Then the bouffant-haired mixologist specialist with a boyish smile wordlessly studies each person and makes a snap recommendation to suit their palate. His predictions hit the spot—a yuzu-forward Ki No Bi gin from Kyoto selection for a citrus fan and Iron Balls from Thailand for someone seeking a taste of the exotic.
Once he receives approval, Carillo gets to work, expertly measuring out proportions, cutting up fresh fruit, swirling cinnamon sticks and coaxing the fragrant oil from an orange rind. As he concocts the G&Ts, he regales the crowd with stories about the gins and life in glitzy Macau.
The tableside trolley, the warm and knowledgeable service, the chanteuse belting out standards in the background and the personalized cocktails all add up to a one-of-a-kind experience. It’s why The Ritz-Carlton Bar & Lounge landed on Forbes Travel Guide’s 2019 list of the World’s Best Hotel Bars.
The best-of list comes from comprehensive data gathered by the company’s inspectors, who stay at nearly 1,100 hotels anonymously and evaluate them based on up to 900 standards for the guide’s annual Star Ratings, which were unveiled in February.
Being named one of Forbes Travel Guide’s Best Hotel Bars isn’t just a matter of serving top-notch drinks or having a certain atmosphere; the venues had to demonstrate an exceptional beverage program, presentation and service. Winners made the data-driven list by scoring top marks on bar standards related to elements of luxury. For example, inspectors checked to see if the beverages had a distinctive presentation, the snacks were high quality, the napkins were linen or cotton, and the overall bar experience was impressive.
The bars also had to achieve near-perfect scores on food and beverage quality standards, which measure things such as whether the cocktails are well-balanced and served at the right temperature.
Get acquainted with the top hotel drinking destinations below.
Britain’s oldest-surviving cocktail bar wrote the primer on classic drinks (1930’s The Savoy Cocktail Book). Visit the icon to try something vintage (White Lady with gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, egg white) or new (Electric Lover, a “Purple Rain”-inspired tipple with glitter).
Gaze out across Tokyo to Mount Fuji from the floor-to-ceiling windows of this sophisticated 38th-floor lounge. To drink in the view longer, order a Manhattan, Scotch egg with truffle mayonnaise and katsu sando (pork cutlet sandwich).
Watch the sky erupt into violet over the ocean during sunset at this alfresco bar. For a proper sundowner, try the Bulgari Cocktail (concocted with Beefeater gin, Campari and orange, lime and pineapple juices).
During the day, impeccably dressed executives head into the neutral-hued bar in Beijing’s business district for caffeine, but at night they go there to loosen their ties, graze on spicy almonds and roasted macadamia nuts, and order rounds of Old Fashioneds.
Hollywood power players fill the tan leather chairs in the California-birch-lined bar. Work the room while sipping a Blossoming Indigo (made with Empress gin, cucumber, lemon juice, rhubarb and tonic) and snacking on manchego, kettle-cooked potato chips and marinated Kalamata, Manzanilla and Liguria olives.
The handsome bar boasts Boston’s largest scotch collection, but it also takes pride in crafting cocktails like the Irish Rose (a mix of Tyrconnell Irish Whiskey, Boston Bittahs, angostura bitters, simple syrup, smoked rose buds). Either way, you can’t lose.
Get a glimpse of the sun sinking into the Pacific while nursing a nutty Liquid Sky (with Don Julio Blanco, housemade almond Tajín simple syrup, lime juice and orange bitters) and munching on tequila-lime-marinated almonds.
On sizzling nights, cool off at this chic rooftop terrace with The Z (a combination of mint, cucumber, Italian bergamot rosolio and Koval gin). And when chilly weather arrives, warm up by the fire with daikon frites (daikon fingers with Chinese sausage, garlic chives, radish and white soy).
Southern California’s ever present sun begs for a tropical tipple like the Beached Quail (with Smith & Cross rum, Wild Turkey 101, orange curaçao, pineapple, cinnamon syrup and lime juice). Bring it to the patio and toast to the gorgeous sunset.
Live bands and DJs pump soul and jazz into this bar that overlooks the waterways and the Arabian Gulf. Soak up the scene while partaking in a mezze platter and a Behind the Times (Glenfiddich Project with date-honey syrup and aromatic bitters).
Mere feet from Lake Geneva, Le Bar des Bergues lets you imbibe while admiring the blasting Jet d’Eau and soaring Mont Blanc. You’re guaranteed drinks as good as the view: It’s helmed by Sophie Larrouture, who became Switzerland’s best bartender when she won the World Class competition in 2016.
At The Bar, illuminated waterfalls trickle and a weekend jazz band livens the crowd, but your attention will be on cocktails featuring local ingredients, like the popular Genuine Care (a fusion of gin, sake and sencha green tea produced in Kyoto, plus yuzu jam and zest, grapefruit, chamomile-pineapple syrup and liquorice bitters), and indulgent dishes like Japanese caviar and kuroge wagyu burgers.
To take in the Swiss Alps, visit this rustic-modern watering hole, order a fruity Hattori Hanzo (a blend of sake, apple juice, peach liqueur and rose syrup) and peer through the floor-to-ceiling windows framing the mountains. Or venture out to the terrace for a closer look.
Zip up to the 25th floor for a rooftop hot spot overlooking glittering cityscapes and Victoria Harbour. The sultry, dimly lit space shakes up lavish libations (like the Bespoke Champagne Cocktail with Rémy Martin Louis XIII, Krug Grande Cuvée and gold flakes) and serves fare from Five-Star chef Pierre Gagnaire.
Visit this crimson-hued bar for a low-key vibe and bold drinks with local ties, like the vodka-based 18 3838, whose ultraviolet shade pays homage to the city’s jacaranda trees, and Gorreana Ice Tea 1883, a tribute to Europe’s oldest tea plantation in the Azores.
The elegant bar showers hotel guests with complimentary food, like tea-smoked duck and plum jam, croque monsieur and a freezer of Jude’s Ice Cream in flavors like gin and tonic. Cap off your snacking with an espresso martini.
The silver and gray bar channels Gatsby glamour. Go for a nostalgic number (such as the Champagne cocktail Fleurissimo, which honors former guest Princess Grace of Monaco) or an original option (like Illumination, which has Bacardi 8 rum, Michoacan mezcal, Sangue Morlacco, chocolate malt Chablis, Galliano L’Aperitivo, cardamom bitters and fig molasses).
There’s more to this open-air Bali spot than martinis. Sidle up to the glass-topped bar for the Grilled Chicken Colada—rum-infused pineapple, coconut puree, vanilla syrup, pineapple juice and housemade chicken stock arrive in a whimsical drumstick-shaped vessel.
As bars keep pushing flashy presentations and complex cocktails that make for good Instagram fodder, this beloved haunt is bucking the trend and paring back. Minimalist tipples like Michter’s bourbon and pear let the quality ingredients shine.
Bedecked in checkered flooring and wood walls, the bar gleans inspiration from an old Cuban-cigar factory (it’s the hotel’s smoking area). Sample pica-pica (finger food) like pork sisigcroquetas (balls of creamy béchamel and crispy pork) and Sriracha butter duck wings, and sip on the Batangas Old Fashioned, which swaps in Maker’s Mark infused with Kapeng Barako (a Filipino coffee variety).
When you’re in an opulent hotel owned by the king of Morocco, you know that the bar will be a stunner. The space doesn’t disappoint, with floor-to-ceiling mirrors coated in rose-gold leaf bearing white-gold foliage designs that create infinite reflections. Imbibe like royalty with a flute of Royal Mansour (Champagne Billecart-Salmon infused with fresh raspberries and Sahara honey).
Reach for The Made and the Born (with gin, bourbon syrup, Florida citrus, bitters and nutmeg) and the ceviche roll at this posh lounge. Then sway to live Cuban jazz or Spanish guitar, or simply enjoy panoramas of the water and the skyline from the wall of windows.
Europe’s highest hotel bar delivers breathtaking London views. But peel your eyes from the 52nd-floor vistas to take in the Hong Kong Saudade—a fruity spin on the caipirinha made with Abelha cachaca, HKB Baijiu, peach liqueur, white peach purée, agave syrup, peach bitters and lime juice.
This modern gem gleams with black marble floors and antique mirrored walls. Wine is the drink of choice in these sleek surroundings. The impressive vault carries 2,500 bottles from 450 vineyards and 14 different countries.
Escape from the bustle of Milan at this dreamy Paris-inspired bar, which has a hand-painted ceiling, inlaid parquet, abundant art and a private garden. A refuge within the green space, the Winter Garden is where to linger over Aperol spritzes during aperitivo (Milan’s riff on the happy hour).
You’ll want to stay a while in the tufted chairs fronting the fireplace at the inviting Le Bar. Sip the delectable Lips Like Sugar (with saffron-infused Patron Silver, Aperol, grapefruit juice, green lemon, beer syrup and aquafaba) while you warm up.
During the day, the stylish bar offers seasonally changing cocktails and gourmet bites like king crab spring rolls and black truffle pizzetta from respected chef Eric Frechon. But at night (Thursday to Saturday), it transforms into B.A.D. (Bristol After Dark), with DJs and debauchery.
The hotel’s first bar debuted in 1921 to cater to guests like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. It delightfully remains in that era, with Art Deco décor and sterling service. For a taste of the modern, order the Kaffir (an amalgam of mezcal, kaffir syrup, maraschino, Bénédictine and angostura).
Under a painted blue-sky ceiling, the luxurious bar is swathed in marble and gold. Catch the daily live music; nosh on black truffle and Comté finger sandwiches, and foie gras and orange wine jelly with ginger bread; and sip bubbly—Les Ambassadeurs serves more than 100 different kinds.
Pop into the cheekily named bar for a Cloud Nine (Belvedere vodka, St-Germain, lime juice, mint, cucumber, simple syrup and egg white), regional fare like empanadas and churros, and live music. Don’t miss the striking Sonoran sunset from the terrace.
It’s hard to pick which is cozier: sitting near the flames of two 1913 fireplaces in the wood-paneled lobby or under a blanket in the sun-soaked terrace overlooking the frozen lake and snowy mountains. You’ll feel even more snug with an Apple Pie in the Sky (made with Etter Vieille Pomme Royale, cinnamon liqueur, apple juice, chestnut honey and Louis Roederer Champagne).
Look out on the golf course at this members- and hotel-guests-only bar that turns out Southern staples (such as chicken and dumplings and shrimp and grits) to go with your single-malt scotch. It’s enough to make you want to check into the Five-Star hotel.
Venice was a muse for one-time resident Lord Byron, and the writer inspired this tony bar facing a Grand Canal-side secret garden. While the bar stocks the city’s largest gin collection, try the Vigorous (bourbon, vanilla, chamomile, chocolate bitters, muscovado sugar and orange smoke) to pair with the cicchetti (Venetian tapas), including crispy gnocchi and baccalà (salt cod).
The Macau bar sparkles with a mirror-backed bar, etched-glass accents and an ornate 19th-century chandelier from France. The intimate, sumptuous surroundings call for popping open a bottle of Louis Roederer.
Perched on the 51st floor of the hotel, this glamorous, low-lit bar draws lots of locals with its warm, wood-filled space; lofty views of the sprawling Galaxy Macau complex; and luscious drinks like Padua Punch (Aperol, pisco, Riesling, lime juice, simple syrup, orange juice, bitters and egg white).
Sit in one of the antique Stickley chairs and savor a taste of New England at this bar with some comforting clam chowder or a fresh lobster roll, along with a Maple Bourbon Old Fashioned (Sapling maple bourbon from Vermont, water, bitters).
Peek at the floating fronds of Palm Jumeirah from the 27th floor of the sail-shaped Dubai hotel while savoring decadent drinks like the Burj Royale (with marries Louis Roederer Brut and Stolichnaya vanilla vodka with Chambord, raspberries and blackberries).
Tucked inside a 15th-century Florence palazzo, the light-filled lounge emanates Old World grandeur. Sink into the plush sofa, order from the Negroni trolley and nosh on bar bites like tempura Parmigiano or ricotta mousse with smoked duck.
Only guests of the Five-Star ranch can slip into this rustic bar for some country music and refreshments. The Bandito (made with coriander-infused añejo tequila) arrives on a cowhide coaster, alongside snacks like roasted green beans topped with toasted breadcrumbs and marinated maitake mushrooms.
A fixture at the popular lounge for more than 30 years, bar manager Giuliano Morandin says that patrons clamor for the Martinez (Dorchester Old Tom, Punt e Mes, Maraschino Luxardo, Boker’s bitters)—the forerunner to the martini. Order it with one of Morandin’s favorite dishes, the seafood linguine.
In Italy’s fashion capital, Mandarin Bar looks the part with black-and-white kaleidoscopic mosaic marble walls. But its courtyard goes for the natural look with greenery and soft lighting. No matter your style, seek out a Treasure Map (Veuve Clicquot Rich; pineapple, yuzu, mint and green chili pepper; and Williams pear liqueur).
The underlit honey-onyx tables make the space look new, but the white coffered ceiling and red postal boxes are remnants of the 1928 building’s former life as the General Post Office. Try the Mile Zero Cocktail (with vodka, Irish cream liqueur and Milo powder).
Bougainvillea and olive and palm trees blanket this 40-acre Moorish retreat. For the most picturesque perspective, head to Inara’s terrace to admire the fountain rimmed with towering trees. Expect drinks with ingredients like mint, ginger and dates.
Sip a gin and tonic (there’s a menu dedicated to them) from an alfresco sofa next to the treetops of surrounding palms. As the sun wanes, arabesque lanterns light up so that you can work your way through the various G&Ts into the wee hours.
Among the many and profound losses on September 11, 2001, was the destruction of one of New York’s most treasured restaurants—Windows on the World. I still vividly remember the extraordinary experiences I had dining on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center. And an enthralling new book, The Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World, by veteran writer Tom Roston, brought those memories (and so many others) back to me.
Within ten pages, I pushed aside everything else I was doing and read the book for hours, because Roston has written something far more illuminating and edifying than a chronicle of this ridiculously audacious achievement, feeding people a quarter of a mile in the sky.
Ask any native New York baby boomer what was the exciting era of this city, and without hesitation, almost everyone will say “the ‘70s.” Long before everyone started singing “I Love New York,” the only people who wanted to be in this town were those who lived here, because it was dirty, crime-ridden, rough and broke. It was also thrilling, exciting, and frankly pretty damn fabulous, because the people who chose to live in this city were arrogant enough to believe they could do anything against all odds. That’s why, while the Federal Government refused to bail out the city’s financial crisis (instigating the famous Daily News headline “Ford to City: Drop Dead”), those Twin Towers were on the rise, and a restaurateur with bravado to spare figured he could give these gleaming structures a gustatorial crown that would be the envy of all.
Since you really can’t tell the story of the creation of Windows on the World—which opened in 1976—without understanding both the odds against its success and the maniacal drive to make it a reality, Roston has crafted the most detailed, all-consuming and thoroughly spellbinding portrait of my hometown during this daunting, delirious decade that I’ve ever read.
Roston was aware that “as a storyteller, one of the great challenges here was the everyone knows the ending. Then how do you hold people’s attention? By telling people everything that happened before. I was astonished that when I looked into it, it’s a story that has never been told.”
And what Roston reveals is a story about incredible characters: The brilliant and sly P.T. Barnum-esque showmanship of Windows’ driving force, Joe Baum; the tyrannical but effective manner of his chosen manager, Al Lewis, of whom Roston writes “his son called him the meanest man in town”; the handsome and imposing maître’d, P.T. Eggar, who made a fortune getting his palm greased for those most-desired tables by the window because as Roston notes, “he was selling real estate”; as well as the untried but inspired sommelier, the private club manager who kept his money in his sock, and a host of others who were responsible for Windows on the World becoming the highest-grossing restaurant on the planet.
Roston believes it’s also “a story of immigrants. Over thirty languages were spoken in the restaurant. So many came so far because to work here was the chance of a lifetime.”
And it’s a tale of architectural wonder. How do you alter a unique, but rigid structural design to achieve panoramic views? How do you get gas up 107 floors? You don’t. Then how do you cook? And it’s a history of New York’s growing sophistication with food. “Now we toss it off, but back then whoever heard of coconut shrimp?” Baum wanted chef Michael Lomonaco’s menu to astonish as much as the view.”
But most important, Roston revels in the fact that it’s a story about a city that boasts something even more hypnotic than its skyline—the people who make this city come alive. There is the aerialist Philippe Petit, who tightroped across the top of both buildings and “not only humanized the structures but turned these previously unloved buildings into an attraction.” The great food critic Gael Greene’s all-important cover story in New York Magazine, then the most influential periodical in town, calling this what is now the title of this book. “I couldn’t believe how this restaurant absorbed all the trauma and the triumphs of this city. How people trapped at the restaurant handled the blackout of 1977 (they had a blast and ate for free), the first bombing of the building in 1993, and the celebrities as diverse as John Lennon and Henry Kissinger who came and were either loved or loathed by the staff.
And it’s a tale of tragic sorrow, of a city forever changed by the loss of, not the restaurant, or even the buildings, but of thousands of loved ones. “I’m so grateful that the victim’s compensation fund rallied to help the families of the seventy-three people who lost their lives working at Windows,” Roston says.
But as he admits, knowing the awful ending gave him an inspiration that makes this book such a compelling read. “When you hear a memorable eulogy, it’s because it’s about how a person lived, not how he or she died,” he adds. “The waiters, the chefs, the builders, the famous and the fierce, this incredible cast of characters created something so kinetic on the 107th floor of this building. This restaurant was destroyed 18 years ago, far enough away that it counts as history for so many too young to remember, but close enough to get firsthand accounts, and still so fresh in the minds of so many. Everything about this place reflects New York’s culture at a time we should never forget.”
And now we won’t. If you love this city (and if you don’t, better not tell me), grab this book. Thanks, Tom.
I am the author of ‘The Looks of Love: 50 Moments in Fashion That Inspired Romance’ and ‘100 Unforgettable Dresses.’ I was fashion director at InStyle Magazine and the New York Times Magazine. I’m also a restaurant critic, consultant and designer of The Hal Rubenstein Collection on HSN. Native New Yorker and pretty nice guy.
“Windows on the World” was a landmark restaurant on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center. Martha Teichner reports on the search for its missing employees. (This report was from a DVD included with the tenth anniversary edition of the CBS News/Simon & Schuster book, “What We Saw: The Events of September 11, 2001, in Words, Pictures, and Video.”)
About 300 of KFC’s top marketers from around the world will descend upon the company’s global headquarters in Dallas this week to share best practices, industry trends and menu ideas. It’s at this Marketing Planning Meeting—which has been held since 2006—where much of the brand’s menu magic happens.
If you’re not fully familiar with what that “magic” entails, consider KFC product launches from around the world: KFC Thailand’s shrimp doughnuts, Singapore’s egg tarts, Australia’s nacho box, the Double Down Dog (a hot dog wrapped in a bun-sized piece of fried chicken) the Mac ‘n Cheese Zinger (with a bun made of mac ‘n cheese) and, of course, the original Zinger Chicken Sandwich, which originated in Trinidad and Tobago in 1984 and finally came to the U.S. in 2017. (Australia sells more than 22 million Zingers each year.)
The company’s massive scale of 22,000-plus restaurants in more than 135 countries certainly hasn’t slowed down its innovation wheel. In fact, KFC just launched a chicken tender taco in France, debuted green chili crunch chicken in Malaysia and added “Chizza” (pizza with a fried chicken crust) to the menu in the Philippines. In Canada, the chain unveiled Chachos earlier this year, a take on nachos but with KFC’s chicken tenders instead of tortilla chips.
The scope of menu creativity is impressive and the approach has been quite successful. KFC Indonesia rolled out chicken skin fries earlier this summer, for example, and the product sold out on day one. The company’s vegan Imposter Burger, launched in June in the U.K., sold out in just four days.
KFC is able to set this pace because it has 18 food innovation teams throughout the world filled with culinarians with big imaginations. Simultaneously, the company stringently adheres to its brand standards (the very 11 herbs and spices that put the chain on the map), thanks to a four-person Food Innovation Team based out of its Dallas headquarters.
I recently had the opportunity to spend the day with this team to see firsthand how some of these ideas are brought to life in the KFC Global kitchen. What I witnessed was a group of food enthusiasts with deep global experiences and a deeper appreciation for the work they’re doing.
The team is led by Ana Maria Basurto, a Mexico City native who joined the team in 2015 and is tasked with “guarding” the KFC brand standards while expanding its culinary portfolio.
Jacinta Pounsett is the senior scientist for FIT, working with KFC’s markets to develop a nutrition strategy and identify opportunities for innovation. She started her career with KFC Australia.
Gaana Nagaraj, a food innovation technologist, heads up poultry innovation and development and also leads seasoning and marinade developments. She moved to the U.S. from India, where she was born and raised.
The fourth member of the team is Robert Merrill, associate manager who supports the alignment of the chain’s signature recipes and provides protocols for standard products. He received a master’s degree in food science and technology from Texas A&M.
That this particular team includes four people from diverse international backgrounds is notable.
“A major challenge happening now in the restaurant space is to stay relevant as global demographics shift,” said James Fripp, Yum Brands’ chief diversity and inclusion officer. “If this team can’t work with multiple cultures from around the world, what we’re doing is not going to work.”
Indeed, the way KFC approaches innovation is not centralized. The cuisines are different, as are the cultures and preferences.
“We leverage that expertise around the world and serve as a guardrail for the 18 units. We want them to take our food and make it their own, adapted for their flavors,” Pounsett said.
Asian consumers, for example, prefer hot and spicy flavors, while the brand’s extra tasty crispy recipe performs well in Latin America and Mexico.
“We spend time working on how to elevate our 11 herbs and spices for each market. Our strength as a global company is leveraging food innovation and marketing teams around the world to have a better understanding of what consumers prefer,” Basurto said.
Challenges exist, such as how to fulfill volume demands at such a large scale and how to roll out exciting new products that meet both brand and operational standards. Many of these kinks are ironed during the MPM event.
But much of the time spent at that event this week will be on the exchange of new and big ideas on how to keep KFC’s menu exciting in markets all over the world.
“We get to taste products that have been the most successful in different markets. We want to foster that pride within our community so people are willing to learn what other markets are doing and then adopt it,” Basurto said.
KFC’s Chizza is a great example of a successful product launched in a market, originating in the Philippines, and adopted elsewhere. The menu item is now available in more than 15 countries across Europe, Asia and Latin America, specifically in Germany, the Netherlands, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Panama, Puerto Rico, Korea, Thailand and India.
Considering the brand’s momentum of late, expect these types of market-to-market translations to continue at a staggering pace, especially as consumers are becoming more adventurous with their palates.
During Q1, Yum Brands’ KFC division delivered system sales growth of 9%. CEO Greg Creed specifically credited creative products for the performance.
“The innovation that’s happening is (driving KFC’s momentum),” Creed said during the earnings call. “We’re seeing a lot of great innovation, flavor innovation, on existing forms and new form innovation also occurring.”
I have covered the restaurant industry since 2010 when I was named editor of QSRweb. I later added fast casual and pizza beats to my portfolio as editorial director of foodservice media. This coverage spanned the gamut of topics that make up the foodservice space, from marketing and customer service, to the supply chain and display technology. My work has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Bloomberg, The Seattle Times, Crain’s Chicago, Good Morning America and Franchise Asia Magazine. I continue to serve as a contributor for many publications, including QSRweb, Food Dive, Innovation Leader and the Digital Signage Federation.
Mirazur, a three-Michelin-starred restaurant in the resort town of Menton, on the French Riviera, has been awarded the coveted title of World’s Best Restaurant and Best Restaurant in Europe 2019. The other top positions were given to restaurant Noma , @nomacph, in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Asador Etxebarri in Atxondo, Spain.
This is the first time in the award’s 18-year history that a French restaurant has received the top prize. Mirazur took over the No.1 position from Osteria Francescana, in Modena, Italy. Mirazur appeared as No.3 in 2018 and No. 4 in 2017.
In this year’s event which is considered the biggest night of the international culinary world, 26 countries from five continents won a place in the list of World’s Best 50.
The World’s 50 Best Restaurants has been ranking the top 100 fine dining destinations around the globe every year since 2002, with the winners chosen by a panel of more than 1,000 chefs, restaurateurs and food writers.
Mirazur’s selection “is a testament to Chef Colagreco’s love of local produce, most of which is grown in the restaurant’s three-tiered garden just meters from the dining room, complemented by a stunning French Riviera backdrop,” explained the organizers.
“This year we are thrilled to see Mirazur claim the No.1 spot after rising through the ranks since making its debut on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list at No.35 in 2009, it’s been brilliant to witness its progress,” said William Drew, Director of Content for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. “This has been a wonderful, progressive year for the list as a whole, with so many new entries from all corners of the globe.”
Spain got the biggest number, with seven restaurants in the World’s 50 Best, many of them in the Basque country. including three in the top 10: Asador Etxebarri (No.3); Mugaritz (No.7); and Disfrutar (No.9).
The USA got second place in the number of restaurants with six in the list, including Cosme (No.23) in New York, which is helmed by The World’s Best Female Chef 2019, Daniela Soto-Innes, and two new entries: Atelier Crenn (No.35), and Benu (No.47), both in San Francisco, California.
This year Denmark has two at the top-five honors for the new incarnation of Noma (No.2) and Geranium (No.5), both in Copenhagen.
Peru also makes the top ten list with entries from Lima including Central (No.6), once again voted The Best Restaurant in South America, and Maido (No.10). Mexico claimed two spots in the upper echelons of the list: Pujol (No.12), which is named The Best Restaurant in North America, and Quintonil (No.24), both in Mexico City.
The UK, Italy, Japan, China, Thailand and Russia are also each represented with two restaurants on the list.
Alain Passard of Arpège in Paris, France (No.8), won the Chefs’ Choice Award, sponsored by Estrella Damm, voted on by the world’s leading chefs in the list and awarded to a peer who has made a significant impact to the culinary world in the past year.
The Art of Hospitality Award, sponsored by Legle, went to Tokyo’s Den (No.11). The restaurant is highly regarded for its holistic approach to service. Other Asia-based restaurants in the list include Gaggan (No.4), in Bangkok, which is closing next year, named The Best Restaurant in Asia, and Odette (No.18) from Singapore.
The Test Kitchen (No.44) from Cape Town is The Best Restaurant in Africa.
UK, which has seen its share of top 50 establishments drop from four to two.
Only four restaurants at least partially led by women — New York’s Cosme, Slovenia’s Hisa Franko, Colombia’s Leo in Bogota and Atelier Crenn — made the list of 50.
When Marguerite Mariscal started interning for Chef David Chang in 2011, Momofuku was about to open up in Australia. Toronto came next, and with all the momentum, the budding restaurant group then took on funding from outside investors for the first time.
Soon after, Chang recalls, “there was a lull.” An era of “complacency” ensued. His next big project—Nishi, a take on Italian food made solely with Asian ingredients—opened in 2016. What Chang calls “a real painful moment” followed. The New York Times wrote that Chang’s usual magic was showing “a little wear.”
“It was, honestly, all my fault. I wasn’t a good enough leader, and I didn’t prepare us to be successful. I wasn’t doing my job. I was, quite frankly, all over the place. It was fear of change, fear of growing up, fear of taking chances,” Chang recalls. “I had thought that what’s good for me is going to be good for the company. And I swore to myself that I was never going to do that again.”
But Chang says Mariscal worked tirelessly against it, proving herself during hard times. She hopped on the line to prep before service, worked the door at private events without being asked and helped out when the in-house reservation system wasn’t working. “She’s probably the most respected employee we have in the whole company, because there is nothing that she won’t do herself, if needed. You can’t say that for a lot of people. You just really can’t,” Chang says. “As she got promoted and had more and more say, I realized she understands Momofuku better than me sometimes, maybe more. She’s seen the highs, and she’s seen the very lows.”
Now Chang is stepping aside to focus on media and work with Momofuku’s next-generation chefs, along with spending more time with his newborn son. And Mariscal, a New York native and member of the iconic Zabar’s family, will become Momofuku’s first official CEO at just 29 years old.
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“I’m not tasked as being a steward of the brand. Dave wants me to basically be a custodian of change. He wants to make sure that I’m the person who is making sure that we’re moving forward,” says Mariscal, who was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 food and drink list in 2018. “If I don’t, if things don’t change, if we progress on the kind of trajectory that we are now, that’s failure.”
Previously Momofuku’s creative director and chief of staff, Mariscal is now in charge of an empire that includes 14 locations, from critically acclaimed Majordomo in Los Angeles to the revamped Noodle Bar location recently opened on New York’s Upper West Side. There’s a new, potentially scalable, concept, too: a Momofuku-inspired Asian convenience store called Peach Mart, with a new flagship inside the shops at Hudson Yards. (And it’s Hudson Yards’ billionaire developer Stephen Ross who backs RSE Ventures, the owner of a minority stake in Momofuku. There are also some other small private investors.)
“For us to grow, the most Momofuku thing is to break with what we are already doing, not try to distill it and franchise it. It’s really figuring out how do you scale without losing what made Momofuku successful in the first place, but at the same time, knowing what made us successful is not going to work moving forward,” Mariscal adds.
She is also taking charge of Momofuku’s growing consumer packaged goods business, which started selling its own Korean chili Ssam Sauce in select Whole Foods locations in 2015. Last year, Momofuku’s partner Kraft Heinz initiated a relaunch, and it now can be found in 3,800 locations nationwide, as well as Amazon. Momofuku says sales increased 38 times from 2017 to 2018 but declined to provide specific figures.
Mariscal says the company is already planning to launch two more products: a fermented chickpea paste called Hozon, featured in Nishi’s signature ceci e pepe, and Bonji, the soy sauce alternative made from fermented grains, not soybeans. Momofuku has previously sold these to other restaurants and distributors but never to customers.
“It was proven really early on to me that Momofuku was a meritocracy. There really isn’t a lot of red tape,” Mariscal says. “We encourage people to come in, learn the systems and then make recommendations as to how to make it better. We have no sacred cows.”
This past fall was pretty hectic for Zhang Yong. His popular restaurant company, Haidilao, was entering the public stock market, and he was also determined for the business to keep up its frenetic growth. A second Hong Kong location of Haidilao was debuting, and shortly after its doors swung open for the first time, Zhang dropped in for an inspection. As he walked through, servers and cooks rushed out to meet him, eager to greet Zhang da ge, or “big brother Zhang……..”