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, 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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Monday, October 30, 2006

Weighs the same as a duck

It's been a tough month in San Francisco for Tom Colicchio.

As I reported a couple of weeks ago, he'd like to open four new locations of his deli 'wichcraft in as many months, expanding beyond the San Francisco Centre location, which would serve as a commissary.

But first he had to deal with a power outage at Westfield Centre that pushed his opening back a day, costing him roughly 1,000 covers.

And now there's Michael Bauer, who on his blog called Colicchio's $10-ish sandwiches "very oily," "tasted like it had languished in the refrigerator for four days" and "so tough I couldn't bite through it." In the end, he decides it's not worth the cost, and many of his coworkers (and blog commenters) seem to agree.

I haven't eaten at 'wichcraft myself, but I face a similar value question with another upscale fast food place, Sellers Market, in the financial district. The place seems to be constantly busy, but I end up spending $12 on a personal-size pizza or nearly as much on breakfast egg flatbread thing and asking myself whether it is really worth it.

But from a business standpoint, the concept of selling more sustainable, locally raised, organic food seems to have really taken off, presumably among those in a higher income bracket than me. Sellers Market is due to open another location, and Colicchio has had a lot of success with 'wichcraft in New York.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mall madness for Centre chefs

After my post last month on someone being ejected from the food court at the new gourmet food court in Westfield San Francisco Centre, I kept hearing of more and more hiccups.

Thanks to a weekend power outage, Tom Colicchio had to push back the opening of his 'wichraft sandwich shop a day, losing hundreds of orders. He reports a neighbor lost five tractor trailers full of food, though I could not run this down for confirmation.

Then Luigi at Beard Papa's told me of an errant fire alarm, that just happened to go off during a weekend lunch rush. The whole place had to be evacuated, and when people were let back in, the rush had subsided, which means lots of lost sales. (Although Beard Papa's had a hectic opening even without the fire drill, Cruz added.)

Then there's the issue of about half the restaurants not being able to take advantage of the crush of customers in the mall's first weeks because they could not open in time, given how mall construction unfolded.

Something tells me, though, that the brisk business everyone I have spoken with claims to be doign is going to more than make up for the hiccups. Assuming the hiccups stop.

From the Business Times:

New Westfield food is too much to swallow at once

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Straits Dope

I had a lengthy lunch at Straits Cafe in San Francisco Centre this past Thursday with a hotel industry source, and had an interesting conversation with chef/owner Chris Yeo.

Chris told me -- after I identified myself as a reporter -- that he does about $7.8 million per year in revenue out of his Santana Row location, roughly 8,000 square feet. In San Francisco, he's at a tighter 5,000 square feet and 80 seats, but with Westfield spent about $2.8 million on the tenant improvements. That helps keep the employee head count below 50, above which Yeo would have to unionize.

Chris seemed utterly at ease talking about dollars and cents, enjoying a break from the physical exertion of the kitchen and floor. This comfort with money made even more sense when Chris informed me he got his start as a hairdresser and opened his first restaurant with only one month's rent, no deposit and no real credit to speak of.

Chris is so busy juggling customers -- the room was brim-full when we arrived for lunch at 1 pm -- that within five days of my visit he stopped taking lunch reservations. This may help bring in the ladies who lunch, but could also backfire among the big-spending expense-account types who from the business community, who typically appreciate the certainty that a reservation at least simulates.

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Friday, September 29, 2006

And do you have a reservation for the food court?

A reliable operative writes about the increasingly exclusive seating in the basement of San Francisco's newest mall-strosity, the new wing of Westfield's San Francisco Centre:
The rush on the tables has the security guards giving diners the bum's rush - happened twice to me now.
That's right -- there's now a defacto velvet rope across the mall food court, traditional home of the Orange Julius and Hot Dog On a Stick.

I'm definitely asking Tom Colicchio about this next week.

But in the meantime: People: grab hold of your senses. There are other restaurants out there. Just like there were before the biggest mall-builder in the country opened yet another in downtown San Francisco and filled it with spinoffs of other, more original restaurants.

I'm not saying it ain't tasty. I'm not saying it ain't worth a visit. I'm just saying, there is no need to get mall security involved, possibly ending up handcuffed and crying in the back of a Sbarro.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

New Beard Papa's to open in Rest Room of existing Beard Papa's

I knew Beard Papa's was going into the new wing of San Francisco Centre back in June, when I wrote about the local franchises of the Japanese chain.

But untill today, reading the bazzilionth roundup of Centre restaurants in tablehopper, the full absurdity of the location did not dawn on me.

Beard Papa's debuted in San Francisco on Mission Street and Yerba Buena Lane, about half a block from Fourth Street. The second local location is going in to the Centre's expansion on Mission toward Fourth -- less than a block away.

Of course, if you eat enough cream puffs that can start to seem like quite a distance.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Picketing the pate

No sooner did San Francisco's hotels settle their two-year-old union dispute than a new group of picketers readied themselves for battle in the foodie court at Westfield's Emporium redevelopment.

When the new wing of San Francisco Centre opens later this week, it remains a distinct possibility that members of a union affiliated with the hotel union will be on hand to picket the centrepiece (cough) attraction, the 30,000-square-foot gourmet grocer Bristol Farms, a kind of Southern California version of Draeger's Markets.

As a redevelopment project, the mall has pledged to allow union organizing. What that means, exactly, is unclear. What is known is that Bristol Farms is a non-union shop in the crosshairs of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

Linkage: Matier and Ross reported the story Sept. 20, CBS5 picked up the item, and Sunday SFist mentioned the dispute in its Emporium roundup.

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