The year in New Orleans dining: Service with a smile | Food and drink | Gambit Weekly

A week before Christmas, the owner nearly had a stroke when a second party of 10 didn’t show up for a reservation at one of the finer restaurants in the French Quarter. “When I saw who this was, I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “We have to charge them. If they thought they’d be back during Mardi Gras or next Christmas, forget it. We bought extra seafood. Now crabs cost 1 It’s $38 a pound.Our staff went crazy with their tips.The behavior of people in the restaurant is unbelievable.”

Yes, 2022 is the year the pandemic “honeymoon” crashed into flames. The customer goes from “You’re Essentially his worker. Thank you, thank you” to “What do you mean there’s no Jameson? I want to see the manager.”

“Customers are returning to what they are entitled to do,” said one Uptown chef. Staffing shortages have arisen as hospitality industry employees have left the industry en masse. With everything from inflation to supply chains to labor issues being talked about, the service industry has not returned to “normal.”

“The restaurant won’t pick up steam until the convention is back,” says another chef. “A 50,000-person convention in the city is flooded with large diners. For example, it is unsustainable to operate in high-rent districts.”

go back to courtesy

Other than handing out “Be Nice or Leave” buttons to get the message across, restaurant owners and staff expect people to step up and do the right thing. Abigail Gallo, Creative Director of International House Hotel Roa, has seen a lot of progress this past year when it comes to bringing more women and people of color into the conversation. “There has been movement thanks to organizations like Turning Tables, but they are limited in what they can do,” she says. “The real work has to be done in the community. How does the community treat people of color and women? Generally, not good.”

It’s not uncommon to hear restaurateurs and customers say: where did all the workers go? ”

“They say it in front of us, and we work,” says one server Gambit spoke to. , can significantly reduce abuse.”

“We know that hospitality skills are highly transferable to other industries,” says Robert LeBlanc, partner at hospitality company LeBlanc + Smith. “We’re the only industry that tries to make things difficult for themselves. Doing business in New Orleans is hard enough. We need to work smarter, not harder.” .”

opening and closing

Since 2020, with the lingering effects of Hurricane Ida, COVID-19, and concerns about criminal closures, the constant change in the restaurant industry has not abated. Emeril Lagasse closed Emeril’s Delmonico and Nora, instead focusing on casual cafe Merrill and flagship Emeril. Smaller, family-owned eateries like the original Mid-City Pizza, Mayhew Bakery, Red Gravy, Cafe Amelie, and Green Goddess all served their last meals in 2022.

But despite the difficulties, new restaurants were popping up all the time. Some new spots that opened this year include Breakaway’s R&B, Le Chat Noir, Thai’d Up NOLA, and the much-anticipated Dakar NOLA by chef Serigne Mbaye and her business partner Effie Richardson. Dakar NOLA is just one of his restaurants with expensive tasting menus that attract customers. That and Lengua Madre only offers a tasting menu, while Saint-Germain has added a small bar menu and Yakuza House offers omakase options.

The food hall has undergone some changes as The Hall on Mag took over the now closed Auction House Market space. Hall’s future is unknown, but Pythian Market sellers are still at a loss, and it’s open until the end of the year.

Expect more payments in 2023

One chef says be prepared to pay more in 2023. Many restaurants have refrained from raising menu prices in line with rising costs, but ultimately have no choice. is the cost to

on the bright side

All news is not bad. It’s clear that Gallo loves her business despite her rough edges: “A lot of us love what we do, so we’re in hospitality,” she says. . “We love creating a sense of community for our guests. We are the gateway to great experiences.”

“I’m optimistic, because I’m always optimistic,” says Lengua Madre’s chef Ana Castro. “Doomscrolling through our own lives is a recipe for disaster. We are coming to an end after a difficult few years. I am grateful and honored to be here, I am privileged to live my legacy to the fullest and share space and joy with my team every day. ”

2022 was a year of new beginnings for Black Roux Collective chef Maya Masterson. “I feel like the entire restaurant industry is shifting in the right direction when it comes to treating and paying hospitality workers fairly. ‘ she says. “I am optimistic.”

2022 was indeed a milestone year for Shermond Esteen Jr. After opening his Nonno’s on N. Claiborne His Avenue early in the pandemic, this year he moved the restaurant to his Marigny, taking over what was once Horn’s and La Peniche. “Opening a restaurant has been a great experience, especially in the middle of Covid,” he says. “I have found that if the food and service are good, people will follow you wherever you go.

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