Food Thinking

The effects of the terrorist attacks ripple through the restaurant industry

Bond traders weren't the only ones abruptly throttled by early September's airborne spittle from hell. Food pros as well as one of the most lauded restaurant idols were also vaporized in the maelstrom. Windows on the World, that famous 40,000-square-foot feedlot in the sky perched on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center's North Tower, is no more. Some 76 Windows' cooks, waiters, servers and dishwashers crashed into oblivion with Windows, along with dozens of business people attending a breakfast conference in the restaurant that morning. The Windows on the World Web site, done up stark in black, simply states, "We are praying for our colleagues and their families...Our thoughts and prayers are with you." For many years Windows on the World sold more wine than any other restaurant in the United States and was the launch pad for wine director Kevin Zraly's famous Windows on the World wine course.


The flames of the WTC's demise have a long reach. Greg Elam of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau says Dallas has suffered significant declines in hospitality business since September 11. Though the Bureau has no hard numbers, Elam says with relief that while Dallas has been hit with a number of smaller corporate meeting cancellations, it has not suffered the loss of any major conventions. "The hotel and restaurant ripple effect will certainly be real and evident," he cautions. Yet this impact, thus far at least, is mixed. The French Room in the Adolphus Hotel saw a significant dip in business the week of the terrorist attacks but has since regained its normal footing, according to manager and maitre d' Jim Donohue. Likewise, Van Roberts of Lola sees a similar pattern: business drop-offs in the first couple of days after September 11 that quickly kicked back up to normal.

And though Green Room and Jeroboam haven't taken appreciable sales hits, Whit Meyers of the Entertainment Collaborative is circumspect. "I think we're probably doing better than most people," he says. "I mean, think of what it's like to own a restaurant at the airport." Meyers talks about all of the memorial services his family has been attending in the New York area and the eeriness of all the cars parked silently in New York-area commuter rail stations that haven't been driven for days. Then he suddenly discovers a bit of strange irony: On September 10, the day before the attacks, Meyers was setting up a blood drive for the Green Room (to be held October 20 from 12 to 4 p.m.). "That's the day I usually do my tastings with the vendors," Meyers says, scrambling for a little levity. "I figure there will be a few bottles of wine open for those who wish to get a cheap thrill."

 
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