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Michelin Chef Risks it all to Raise Staff Wages

24 June, 2020
Chef Teague Moriarty

Photo Peter Prato

"We've always wanted to be better"

“We’ve always wanted to be better, so this is an opportunity to take out tables, do a smaller team, do a more focused, attention-to-detail tasting menu and I think that is a win-win. All of the people involved in that sort of enterprise will be able to move on with their careers in a more sustainable way, and when those people leave I’ll have a system that people are ready to climb right into. As we’ve been hiring for these positions, the level of those applying has been very high, because it’s a desirable place to be now.”

If anything, the coronavirus crisis and Moriarty’s pivot to takeout has served to underline the direction he wants to take the restaurant in. While many fine-dining restaurants are planning to reopen with a takeout as an option, Moriarty doesn’t want to do it. While many restaurants are leaning towards casual, he his moving in the opposite direction.

“I think the whole takeout thing has confirmed for me that I don’t really want to move towards being more casual,” he says. “Even if that’s a more sustainable business model for some restaurants, I think it was a wakeup call for me. ‘What do you really want to do with your day, what do you want your food to say’? For me the expression and the freedom you gain in doing tasting menus is really huge. So it is risky, because the demand for that kind of restaurant might not be what it was. But if it’s 70% of what it was, then we can make it work, because we’re taking out 30% of our tables. We’ve always been one of those places where you go once a year on a birthday or anniversary.”

The early signs are that the public get what he’s trying to do, and that they will come back to Sons & Daughters - even if the price point is higher (although not exorbitantly so). The tasting menu price will go up from $145 to $175, and wine pairings from $95 to $115. 

“We’ve opened up our books and we’re getting reservations,” says Moriarty. “I’ve been thinking about doing this for two years but it was always, like, ‘well I’ll just pay off the restaurant’s debt and then do it’ but since I announced it, I’ve had one of those moments of clarity. I feel so good about doing it. If we close because of coronavirus or whatever reason, I’m not going to have regrets.”

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