Comments on: Restaurant charts of the day, price/quality edition A slice of lime in the soda Sun, 26 Oct 2014 19:05:02 +0000 hourly 1 By: Auros Sat, 04 May 2013 00:05:35 +0000 “In terms of value for money, cheap street food beats high-priced “cuisine” any day of the week and twice on Sunday.”

It entirely depends on what you want.

I agree that there is some amazing street food. I patronize food trucks for lunch quite frequently. OTOH, sometimes they’ve been disappointing (and once I got some kind of food poisoning — the hygiene standards at high end places are, I suspect, better than that, or at least they’ve never burned me).

What you will _never_ get from street food is the artistry and innovation you find in high end places. High-end places are making much more deliberate choices about how to tweak every aspect of the food — how it interacts with at least four senses (visual, smell, taste, touch), and sometimes even all five, if you look at something like, say, Elizabeth Falkner’s signature Explosive Caesar Salad (which includes parmesan “pop rocks” that sizzle on your tongue). There’s also an element of stage-craft or performance art in the way the food is presented.

If you’re not into it, fine, don’t go — there’ll be more seats available and lower prices for those of us who want to. But saying that street food is a “better value” _universally_ is like saying, “God, how stupid are those people paying to see the Metropolitan Opera, when they could find people busking on the street, who would be happy to get paid a dollar.” Some of us _like_ opera, and choose to devote some of our resources to experiencing it as performed at the very peak of human ability (in terms of the singing, stagecraft, etc). Others of us _like_ cuisine, and want to experience the edges of what’s possible with that artform. And apparently the market of people who truly love that artform will easily bear a price somewhere in the $150/plate range.

I will say that there definitely are some very expensive places that are expensive purely because of the crowd they cater to, or because they’re coasting on reputation / tradition — places that the bigwigs of some local industry (bankers, lawyers, politicians, actors) have been patronizing for ages. Nobody who doesn’t care about being a member of the tribe should ever bother going.

But I definitely disagree with the idea that there’s no improvement in quality above $30/plate. I’ve been to plenty of places that _entirely_ justified much higher prices than that.

By: QCIC Fri, 03 May 2013 18:37:09 +0000 I have found extremely diminishing returns on food quality after about $25/30 a plate.

Heck 80% of the time you can find something for $10-15 that is perfect. We live in an amazing time.

By: Skrodolies Fri, 03 May 2013 14:54:30 +0000 Interesting article and so much more readable if the column chat had been a bar chart, given our predisposition to reading left to right instead of bottom to top.

By: mfw13 Fri, 03 May 2013 01:58:35 +0000 The bigger issue is that higher price does not necessarily equate to better tasting food. There’s a limit to how good you can make food taste, but there’s no limit to how much you can charge pricewise.

In terms of value for money, cheap street food beats high-priced “cuisine” any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Pretty much anywhere in the world these days you can find food that tastes just as good if not better than what these highly ranked restaurants serve at a tenth of the price (if that)…

By: Auros Fri, 03 May 2013 00:25:08 +0000 Nameless, even your figure of 0.15% is way too small. I’d expect that most diners at high-end places (to name favorites in my own region — Ubuntu Napa, Benu, Gary Danko, Chez TJ, Manresa) are, like me, mass-affluent, maybe the whole top quintile; it’s just that we’re the people within that group are devoted to cuisine as hobby / art-form / entertainment. Eating at a top-notch restaurant every couple months will cost you significantly less than, say, blowing money on hobbyist-level investing (especially if you’re dumb enough to subscribe to the affinity-scam newsletters and magazines).

By: Auros Fri, 03 May 2013 00:19:09 +0000 “Ultimately, the world’s best restaurants cater to a global elite who can afford to spend thousands of dollars for a meal”

I’m sorry, that’s nonsense. The vast majority of diners at those places are not billionaires. I’m not even a millionaire, and I’ve been to more than one of the world 50, including El Celler.  /sets/72157628958290937/

By: Nameless Thu, 02 May 2013 23:25:36 +0000 It’s not hard to explain rationally.

Start with the 0.01% figure. In the U.S., richest 0.01% comprise 30,000 people. Most of these are married and have private chefs. Let’s assume that an average of these 30,000 eats a dinner in a restaurant once every 10 days. Let’s further assume (this is an oversimplification, but it should do) that they are equally distributed in the U.S., each of them knows 5 best restaurants within a 20 mile radius from his/her home or work, and he/she visits those 5 equally often. (It would be too boring to go to the same place every time, and there’s hardly much difference between #1 and #3 in each city.)

There are 59 metro areas in the U.S. with populations of 1 million or more, and, assuming average population density of 2000 people per square mile, they cover 110,000 square miles. 110,000/(pi*20*20) gives us 450 “top-level” restaurants in the country, providing 3,000 meals to super-rich per day – or 6.7 super-rich clients per restaurant.

This is obviously well below capacity for a typical restaurant. One could try to run a restaurant that is specifically designed to serve 6.7 extremely overpriced dinners per day, but it’s not traditional and very risky. Instead the restaurant would target somewhere in the vicinity of 100 dinners/day, lowering the entry price accordingly, and try to collect the premium from super-rich visitors in the form of markups on wine or in some other way.

Notice that only 6 out of these 450 restaurants appear on the “world’s best 50″ list. 4 are in New York, 1 is in Chicago, and one is in Napa Valley, 60 miles from San Francisco. In essence, even when American super-rich eat in restaurants, they almost always do that in restaurants which are _not_ on the list.

This model can be improved if we recognize that neither the super-rich nor high end restaurants are distributed equally throughout U.S. metro areas, but basic findings should not be very different.

With the pool of 450 top class restaurants serving 100 dinners per day and the target audience visiting restaurants once every 10 days, we arrive at the figure of 450,000 patrons (0.15% of the population). 99.85th percentile by income in the U.S. is around 20 times the median household income. If it costs $10 for an average American to eat in an average chain cafe (the level of Denny’s & such), a dinner at one of the top 450 would cost $200.