- Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn, New York, is the latest exclusive restaurant to make its food more accessible – by offering delivery.
- But gourmet restaurants around the world have turned to more accessible and affordable food in the wake of the pandemic.
- Restaurants that previously required reservations for meals costing hundreds of dollars now offer $ 15 burgers, deliveries, and take-out tasting menus.
- Gourmet restaurants benefit from their reputation for exclusivity: by becoming more accessible, they open the floodgates of demand.
- However, this trend may not last forever, and it is likely that many of these restaurants will become very exclusive again once the pandemic is over.
- Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.
On Monday, Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn, New York, began offering delivery – the first delivery service to be put on the table in the legendary steakhouse’s 133-year history.
But Peter Luger is far from the only one to give up his white tablecloth for something much more accessible. Fine dining restaurants around the world are finding that surviving the pandemic means forgoing the tasting menu.
Before the pandemic, scoring a seat in Noma was no easy feat for the common man. Seating at the Copenhagen restaurant run by René Redzepi sold out well in advance, and meals, which included more than a dozen dishes, cost $ 400 per person. Noma has won the title of “Best Restaurant in the World” on several occasions and currently has two Michelin stars.
But on Thursday, Noma reopened as an open-air burger and wine bar only. The price of his burgers? $ 15.
Tons of restaurants are selling takeout burgers, especially during the pandemic. But what restaurants like Noma and Peter Luger sell is pedigree.
Shifting to more affordable and accessible food opens the demand floodgates for a restaurant with an established name and a permanent waiting list. Canlis, Alinea, Peter Luger and Noma are just a handful of the horde of fine dining restaurants opening their menus to the middle class.
Canlis, often considered Seattle’s most exclusive restaurant, was arguably the first of his fellow foodies to prove this theory. In March, right after the pandemic, the restaurant famous for its elegant dining room with wonderful lake views and live piano music transformed into a drive-thru fast food restaurant serving burgers. So many people came to try Canlis’ burgers that the line of cars spilled onto the roads, blocking traffic.
Owner Mark Canlis told Business Insider that one night Canlis “had 1,800 people on the waiting list.” Canlis therefore decided to close the drive-thru and offer pre-ordered delivery instead. The delivery windows for Canlis are often still sold out shortly after their release.
Alinea, the molecular gastronomy restaurant famous for its green apple balloon desserts, is Chicago’s only golden restaurant with three Michelin stars. It is also one of the few gourmet restaurants to have started offering take-out tasting menus. Before the pandemic, a meal at Alinea would be a dinner at a show – every dish as theatrical as it is delicious. Reservations were filled months in advance and as soon as they were released. Dinners started at just over $ 200 per person. Now, Chicagoans for whom a night out at Alinea was once a distant fantasy can take home the restaurant’s boxed seven-course tasting menus.
“The restaurant industry will be different on the other side of that,” Canlis said. “And maybe a nice thing that comes out is that Canlis makes a habit of serving Americans meatballs.”
While one in five restaurants faces permanent closure, the most exclusive of them will have the best chance of surviving by becoming, at least temporarily, less exclusive.
This does not mean that this sudden democratization of gastronomy will last forever. Canlis says it’s possible his restaurant will retain some aspects of its current business model after the pandemic, but Redzepi told the LA Times he plans to reopen Noma’s full operations in July, at the earliest. Noma will return to serving her high-flying guests, just with more distance between them, and her peers will likely follow suit.