Signs of the Times
In light of a sour economy, Michel Richard Citronelle is cutting its hours and staff. Earlier this month, the modern French restaurant in Georgetown stopped serving dinner Sunday and Monday and began the process of reducing its kitchen and dining room crews. Dinner is now offered Tuesday through Saturday; as many as 10 staff may be sidelined.
Spokesman Mel Davis says such reductions are not uncommon for luxury establishments. She also notes that the early part of a new year is traditionally slow for the industry. But whereas most restaurateurs can anticipate robust business in the spring and beyond, "this year, no one is so sure." On a more ominous note, when asked if chef Michel Richard's labor-intensive menu would change, she responded with a pause. "Not yet."
Will other top-tier restaurants follow suit? Business at Restaurant Eve was down 20 percent from a year ago in January, but chef-owner Cathal Armstrong has thus far resisted staff cuts. Instead, to trim costs, he says he's sending employees home earlier and reducing the restaurant's wine inventory. At the youthful Volt, chef-owner Bryan Voltaggio recently stopped serving dinner on Tuesday and let a sous chef go.
The belt-tightening hasn't stopped him from thinking big, however. Just after Christmas, Voltaggio installed a custom-made stainless steel table for four in his kitchen, at which he introduced a 21-course menu of small dishes for $121.
He's calling it (what else?) Table 21.
-- Tom Sietsema
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