retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• The Washington Business Journal reports that Bobby Flay, known for writing cookbooks, hosting programs on the Food Network as well as operating three Mesa Grill restaurants and several other concepts, is looking to expand his Bobby’s Burger Palace format.

The celebrity chef reportedly is looking for locations in Washington, DC, where he can bring his concept of 10 signature burgers that can be “crunchified” - which means that potato chips are added between the burger and the bun.

• The Wall Street Journal has an interview with Mario Batali, who plans on opening his first grocery store, a 50,000 square foot operation called Eataly, in New York later this year.

“It's a tough margin,” he tells the Journal. “You buy things and then sit around waiting for them to go bad. But I think New York needs a gastronomic destination like Harrods in London or Fauchon in Paris. [Eataly will be an American version of a gourmet food store in Turin, Italy.]

Batali adds, “We're trying to preserve the great ingredients in Italy that would be otherwise diminished. We're flying in canned, preserved products, like San Marzano [canned] tomatoes. We'll have 10 kinds of stone-ground polenta, for example. The fish, meat and produce will be from America. We'll have six restaurants in there.

“It's a smaller margin than we're used to, but we're predicting $50 to $100 million in annual sales. Of course, we'll do a lot of work. I hope it will benefit our restaurant businesses - hopefully it will help us source new products.”
KC's View:
What I love about these guys is that whether they are talking about hamburgers or stone ground polenta, they are embracing the notion that people want something more than lowest-common-denominator food.

In my view, there is almost never any excuse for shooting for the lowest common denominator. In the end, it does not benefit anyone ... and in this business, the result is almost always crappy food.