Can Perfection Survive at $32 Per Person?

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On Sunday, The New York Times published a profile of superstar chef/restaurateur Daniel Boulud, but it wasn't in the section that you might expect. The excellent piece was on the front of Sunday Business, the beginning of a 3,000-word examination of his company's string of financial successes. Boulud's new venture, the article said, was his most brazen yet: a casual brasserie called DGBG that arrives as the economy shows no signs of a quick recovery:

By Dinex Group's [Boulud's restaurant management company] own calculations, DBGB must generate $4.5 million a year in revenue to be profitable, not easy in a time that a spokesman for the National Restaurant Association called "the most challenging the restaurant industry has seen in several decades." A consumer marketing firm, NPD, issued a report a few weeks back stating that national restaurant traffic had dropped for a second consecutive quarter.

When Food Channel curator Corby Kummer dined at one of Boulud's restaurants, he was focused on the food and service, not the company's bottom line. On that count, the flagship Daniel amounted to nothing short of "perfection," he wrote:

Its singular achievement is to serve what is on any day likely to be the best food in the best dining city in the world with an attitude implying that diners eat this well so often that it doesn't bear mentioning.

The big question facing Mr. Boulud now is how close he can get to perfection with a $32-per-head price point, and whether it will be close enough.

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Eleanor Barkhorn is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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