retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

I’m always curious about new food trends … and so I was intrigued by this piece in Eater, reporting on a New York City restaurant called Duck’s Eatery that is selling “smoked watermelon ham” for $75 per portion … and is sold out until November.

Why is it sold out? Because “it’s such a time-intensive process to make it. It’s cured for four to six days, dried, smoked for eight hours, and then finished in a pan — ultimately taking around a week to make in the tiny, 600-square-square foot restaurant.” They can’t make more than two per night, despite demand that seems largely driven by social media.

Chef and co-owner Will Horowitz, the Eater story says, “seems frustrated with the obsession with the specific dish. The chef, who opened Ducks in 2012 with his sister Julie, has become known for smoked foods, and the watermelon was an experiment in hopes of changing the whole playing field of how people view meat, not for people to gawk at a fun-looking watermelon. It’s a sustainability play, he says. Besides Ducks and East Village sandwich shop Harry and Ida’s, Horowitz is also the chef behind a food startup manufacturing kelp jerky, a way to think about non-traditional proteins.”

And I think that’s the Eye-Opening point. While I’m sure it can be frustrating to be thought of as faddish, the point is that one of the ways in which businesses compete - especially with online retailers - is by doing things that are non-traditional, that try to change the playing field. Those moments are to be treasured … they’re just moments, but moments can combine to become a strategic direction - turning a place into a venue that draws people in because they offer a differential advantage.

By the way, if you can’t get a reservation at Duck’s to try the smoked watermelon ham, there’s always the “smoked cantaloupe burger, a $16 sandwich where the melon is smoked in the same process as the watermelon.”

Sounds delicious.
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