Monday, May 3, 2010

Can He Pull It Off?!

(Photo: Grant Achatz)

Two thousand ten is officially The Year of Grant Achatz.

Just last week, the much celebrated owner/chef of Alinea nabbed the honor of being named the best restaurant in North America (placing at No. 7) by the prestigious San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants Awards.

On Monday in New York, before hundreds of the country's top culinary bigwigs in media and restaurants, he won yet another big-deal honor at the James Beard Awards: Outstanding Service.

All this happened before Alinea's fifth anniversary—Tuesday, May 4—but there's soooooo much more to come.

Three major projects, all set for 2010, are coming up fast:

NEXT: The global-focused resto will "serve four menus per year from great moments in culinary history," according to its website, which will include five to six courses paired with beverages. Prices will range $40 to $75, which is pretty reasonable. What's completely different from what we've ever seen is that you'll need to purchase tickets in advance online to get in. They say it'll be as easy as buying airline or pro sports tickets. Two walk-in tables will be available every evening. No details on location, but they're planning on a fall opening.

The Aviary: Plans are also underway for a lounge with a molecular gastronomy theme that'll be adjacent to NEXT. It'll be a casual space with no reservations, but trust us when we say it won't be easy getting in. Chefs whip up the cuisine and pair them with cocktails (no crafty mixologists?!). Look for it to open simultaneously with NEXT.

Chicago’s Once In a Lifetime Package: And let's not forget about Alinea. There's still a three-month waiting list to get in, and now that he's getting all these major props it just got harder. That's why Achatz's teamed up with the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau (CCTB) for a unique four-day, three-night whirlwind getaway for two during the 4th of July holiday. Bidding starts at $1,200 for the package that includes a meet-and-greet with Achatz with the honor of serving as guest chef for the afternoon at Alinea; an afternoon wine tasting with head sommelier Craig Sindelar; 24+ course tour menu with wine pairings; and a seasonal case of wine shipped home from Alinea includes tasting notes, sketches from Achatz, and recipes from the menus. The Chicago package officially goes on sale May 12—for 12 hours only!—but you will be able to preview it here May 7.

That's a ton of stuff going on there. We'll just watch what happens because it's going to be an interesting rest of the year for Achatz!


James said...

My thoughts on buying tickets to dinner is that it's potentially genius. At first I didn't like it ("in this economy, blah blah") but when I really thought about it, it makes a lot of sense.
Operationally, the traffic flow of a given night is typically a bell curve, starting off slow, building to a midpoint where everyone's in the weeds & shit's crazy, then tapering off toward closing. By charging more for prime time, customers will try to "beat the system" by choosing a time early or late. So, you're essentially "flattening" that curve by increasing your 5pm & 10pm traffic flows, bringing them closer to the midpoint apex.
This is assuming that NEXT is doing a set menu throughout the night, therefore offering the same experience to each diner & the only variation is cost based on time slot. If the higher priced slots receive some added perk than the flattening effect is lessened as people will still shoot for primetime resos. Also, if they are not doing set menus & the ticket price is merely a cover charge/access fee, then it's a dick move.
But, if they're able to raise their overall traffic level by increasing reso counts early & late, I think it's a really smart move.

312 Dining Diva said...


Yes, they're doing a prix-fixe menu each night and in order to get in you must buy tickets in advance online. On the NEXT site, they're comparing it to buying an airline ticket, which means it should be pretty easy. The price includes beverages and food.

Also, which is REALLY cool as hell, they'll reserve two walk-in tables every night. That's going to be NUTS!