Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Charles Phan only now realizing he opened his new restaurant in the MALL FOOD COURT. Ahem.

Apparently people are minting money at the year-old expansion of Westfield SF Centre mall, but not poor Charles Phan of Slanted Door, who has a restaurant in the basement food court called Out The Door.

Bloomingdale's made a year's worth of money in nine months at the mall, but Phan is all, :-(

As he told my colleague Sarah Duxbury last week:

... his Out the Door concept is only doing OK.

"People are not embracing the mall in the evening as much as I'd like to see," he said, adding that his 150-seat, 5,000-square-foot restaurant gets only one dinner seating and is not meeting his projections.

See? No turns at dinner!

Imagine that. People not wanting to eat dinner in the mall food court. Hmmmm.

Phan's expectations may be just slightly inflated by his experience at the Ferry Building, where since opening in 2003 he has made close to $12 million per year. There, he does two or even three turns each night at dinner.

Besides Westfield, Phan now has spinoffs in the works in Pacific Heights, mid-Market and at the California Academy of Sciences.

Business Times: Westfield dazzles (free link)

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Phan FINALLY seals deal with Soma Grand

Six months after the developers of the Soma Grand condo complex started hyping their talks with developer Charles Phan to prospective buyers, it looks like the restaurant deal is actually officially happening, if the Chronicle's Inside Scoop is to be believed.

Phan of course is known for his ubiquitous chain of StarbucksSlanted Door-branded restaurants, including the relocated "original" Slanted Door in the Ferry Building, a new one under construction in Pacific Heights, the Out the Door takeout spinoff in the Ferry Building, the Out the Door in Westfield San Francisco Centre and the forthcoming joint project with Loretta Keller at the California Academy of Sciences.

So if you loooorve Charles' crab cellophane noodles to the tune of around $700,000, give or take a few hundred thousand, and you actually mange to get a hold of a mortgage amid the financial markets meltdown, totally go for it!

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Correction: THIRD Out the Door in Pacific Heights

In yesterday's item on Charles Phan starting construction on his third Out the Door in Pacific Heights, I said it was the second Out the Door.

In reality, it's the third: One next door to the original Slanted Door in the Ferry Building, one in Westfield SF Centre and the new one. I forgot about the original because somehow in my espresso-addled brain it's just part of Slanted Door.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Charles Phan expansion to Pacific Heights now under way

Slanted Door chef-owner Charles Phan is opening a third Out the Door.

He bought a building in Pacific Heights where he is working on a 3,000 square foot restaurant. When I talked to him on the phone just now he was in the middle of demolition.

I have the address and more on the food concept in an update on the Business Times website today (free link).

I was going to mark this "scoop" but I just Googled and found 7x7 posted something to their website March 1.

7x7 people: When you're not busy ogling the owners of District, consider putting this sort of stuff -- you know, "news" -- on your blog. That and an RSS feed.

UPDATE: OK, I just did some more Googling, and can proudly say that other than tablehopper, Chowhound, 7x7 and the Zoning Board, I was totally first with the story. (So glad I didn't use the "scoop" tag. So very glad.)

Well, at least we know construction has started.

This post has been corrected from its original form.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Charles Phan, Soma Grand and guerilla marketing

SocketSite today reports as rumor that Charles Phan of Slanted Door is in talks to put in a restaurant at Soma Grand, a luxury San Francisco condo development that just opened a sales office.

It's actually not a rumor: Phan is indeed in talks. I heard the same gossip a week or two ago and called Charles. He told me there were talks but that they were preliminary and he had not decided whether to do anything yet. His publicist confirmed for me just now that this continues to be true.

I'm not holding my breath on this one. But I *am* fascinated by this rumor, because it's giving a significant amount of of free publicity and word-of-mouth to Soma Grand just as the development is offering units for sale.

SocketSite is a scrappy Web publication that doggedly follows the local condo market and the economics therein. The Phan/Soma Grand chatter has become pretty widespread and could certainly affect sales prices of units in the building, but if I were a buyer I would not spend an extra penny on the chance that this deal will happen, simply because it is so preliminary.

Even if it does happen, is Charles' hotness and quality level up to this point, no matter how high both might be, worth a premium?

Isn't there a significant risk that even if this deal goes through (again I'm not holding my breath) Phan, like any other chef, could
  1. leave after his lease expires in five or ten years;
  2. delegate to people whose quality isn't up to snuff;
  3. create noise issues from tightly-packed, cocktail-swilling diners;
  4. be on the unhappy side of a new dining fad
  5. ????
-- I'm not saying this stuff will happen but there's enough of a risk that it makes you question whether there should be any premium paid by a condo buyer to be in Phan's building.

In the final financial analysis, when you are talking about an investment of upwards of $700,000, risks from interest rates, local economy, building quality, crime, and the school district, to name just a few, are of much higher importance than who is running the ground-floor restaurant.

And of course most buyers will probably not make their decision based on who is running the restaurants.

But the Phan rumor, as it spreads among individuals and from media like SocketSite, does help the developers of Soma Grand get people in the door on the cheap. It spreads the name of the development and lodges it in people's memory. It adds a halo of hipness and legitimacy.

This isn't just a restaurant rumor, it is free publicity in an increasingly cutthroat condo market. And it will make an excellent case study for a guerilla marketing class at some point, whether that was the intent behind the rumor or not.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

More like LINE Out the Door

How busy is Charles Phan's team at Out the Door in the San Francisco Centre mall?

Serving 1,200 patrons in one day busy.

If everyone had eaten in that would have been about 10 turns, since the joint only serves 138 (yes you can stay Inside-the-Door, and are even provided with table service at that). But of course the whole point of the place is that you can take your food to go, so 10 turns is unlikely.

Phan's publicist tells me he is giving staff extra time to unwind, though whether this is just individual time off or whether he closed the restaurant for a day (which was the impression I got) isn't clear. At least not to, um, me.

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