At the risk of tooting our own horn here, I kinda feel like David Chang should read The Spoon.
The famed chef/restauranteur/TV personality was back on The Bill Simmons Podcast this week. The last time Chang was on there (if I recall correctly), it was at the very start of the pandemic, and the more pressing concern at that time was how third-party delivery services would decimate the restaurant industry (a topic we cover quite a bit!).
Normally, we wouldn’t write about someone’s appearance on another podcast, but since we started the pandemic with Chef Chang, I thought it was worth checking back in as we close out the year to hear what he had to say about the restaurant biz with the pandemic still in effect nine months later.
As we’ve been saying for awhile, winter is
coming here, and Chang’s biggest fear for restaurants is their ability to survive until Spring. In addition to a lack of dine-in options, restaurants are also being hurt by the disappearance of downtown office workers/restaurant customers that are no longer coming in to work on a daily basis and buying sandwiches. All of this, Chang continued, is compounded by an administration that isn’t doing anything to help the industry or the people who work in it.
In order to survive, Chang said on the podcast restaurant owners need to adapt, whether that’s by selling packaged goods (homemade sauces, spices, etc.), or Moneyballing their menus. As Chang suggests (and we’ve covered before), restaurants may need to embrace analytics and pare down their offerings to just the dishes that are good for delivery and that generate the most revenue.
As the two talked about how restaurants will change, how owners won’t put a lot of effort/energy in the dining rooms and will focus more on setting themselves up for delivery. What struck me as I listened to Chang was that he didn’t once mention ghost or dark kitchens. He obviously knows what they are (I mean, he sold his delivery-only concept, Ando, to Uber).
Maybe the Bill Simmons podcast isn’t the place to discuss such matters, and maybe Chang talks about it on his own podcast. I get that. But it was still odd that the topic didn’t even come up, especially since they are in Los Angeles, which is home to ghost kitchen outfits Kitchen United and CloudKitchens (for more, check out The Spoon Plus Guide to Ghost Kitchens).
The conversation between Chang and Simmons drifted to restaurant delivery. Instead of talking about the economics of delivery this time around, the two soft-balled it and spoke more about the types of food that deliver well again (pizza, sushi, Chinese, fried chicken). One funny sidenote was dispelling the notion that cheese was good for delivery. Outside of pizza, Chang commented, melted cheese dishes do not travel well in delivery, which, I hadn’t thought about but is totally true. I mean, Soggy Food Sucks.
Ultimately, what struck me about the interview was that nobody, not even a famous high-end chef who won Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (and donated the money to restaurant workers), really has the answers as to what’s going to happen next with restaurants, especially independent ones. Everyone is just doing their best to just make it through, and we at The Spoon doing our best to inform you about developments and innovations that can help. Even if it’s as simple as getting dropping melted cheese items off the menu.