Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Vanishing Restaurant Owner-Host

I've always found something incredibly charming about a restaurant owner who doubles as the host, welcoming you as you enter and/or stopping by your table to check on how your meal is going. As the N.Y. Times notes, this owner-host situation is increasingly rare.

Noting the death of one such person (restaurateur Elaine Kaufman), the Times explores the rapidly disappearing joint role of owner-host in this article. By the way, Woody Allen was one of the regulars who dined at her restaurant, Elaine's. In its article, the Times writes:
... the notion of the host as the most important person in a given restaurant’s success is wavering.

Chefs are the draw in this modern age, and the more famous and customer-accessible, the better. Former line cooks now walk dining rooms like kings, celebrities from television, whose every utterance is recorded on blogs.

The business of restaurants is no longer so dependent on the presence of an owner in the dining room to dispense favors or act as gatekeeper to a private club. (Let us not forget: For every person who recalls Ms. Kaufman’s kindness at Elaine’s, there are others who remember her rudely barring the door or telling someone to get out.)