The subcription-only Wall Street Journal has a piece today on the surge of prix fixe and tasting menus popping up in restaurants across the country. Such menus are not only instruments for showcasing a chef's best work; they also lard up gross margins, the Journal says. They even cut back on kitchen garbage.
Example: Tre Wilcox, chef de cuisine at Kent Rathbun's Abacus, offers a $90, nine-course tasting menu featuring fish scraps, or leftovers destined for the dumpster after the kitchen cuts up fish into larger a la carte portions. The article says the Abacus tasting menu generates 75 percent gross profit margins--the difference between menu prices and ingredient costs--compared with a 66 percent margin on the Abacus a la carte menu.
These numbers, of course, are deceptively puffy as restaurant labor sucks most of the fat out of them, which is why alcohol is the margin lard of choice (relatively low labor cost). If margins were really this good, most upscale restaurants in Dallas would be thriving instead of closing and going bankrupt, as far too many have done over the last few months. --Mark Stuertz