October 5, 2022

The Business Lunch May Be Going Out of Business

Ms. Cockrel, 37, who is the vice president of communications at StockX, said she treats restaurant dining rooms as daytime work spaces. “People just kind of walk up and chat,” she said. “If I can have that with good food being a part of it, why not?”

The pandemic intensified challenges that had long bedeviled big-city restaurants, many owners say.

Pinched by rising costs and a generational shift in dining habits evidenced by the number of fast-casual chains in downtown San Francisco, Ms. Oakes said she nearly closed Boulevard in 2019. A partner in an investment firm with offices in the same building persuaded her to stay open, and helped with lease negotiations.

“We once had a very busy lunch, 250 people. Even before Covid, we had dropped into the 150s and 160s,” she said. “I was ready to turn in the keys.”

Today, lunch reservations at higher-priced restaurants in San Francisco are actually up 15 percent compared with 2019, according to OpenTable. But in that time, Mitch Rosenthal has closed three of the restaurants he owned there with his brother, Steven. All were near the offices of tech companies like Facebook and Salesforce.

Their remaining restaurant, Town Hall, is in the same neighborhood. (Bjorn Kock is a partner in the restaurant.) It’s busy for dinner but may never reopen for lunch, Mr. Rosenthal said. Lower-priced lunch menus make it nearly impossible to turn a profit in San Francisco, he said.

“I’m paying cooks $25 an hour,” he said. “Do I think they deserve it? Yes I do. Does it mean the restaurant can be profitable? That’s a different story.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/11/dining/business-lunch-restaurants.html

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