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May 21, 2004

Escalated Dining – Is mall food becoming classy? By Sara�Dickerman

I really enjoy Sara Dickerman’s comments on the industry of food. She is very insightful and picks up on the key trends emerging in the marketplace. This article is another instance of seeing things happen before others.

One thing she doesn’t dive into, and that I think is essential to understanding the larger trend, is the inability of the dining masses to distinguish between a true chef-driven renowned restaurant (e.g., a Thomas Keller or Charlie Trotter affair) and a chain with pseudo-haute aspirations (e.g., P.F. Changs). Many individuals visit P.F. Changs (for those unaware, the “P.F” stands for Paul Fleming, the restaurant entrepreneur that created the chain) and think they are getting high-class Asian food. Now, the food is very tasty, but it is not gourmet by any stretch of the imagination. Likewise, those who visit all the other mini-chains that serve good food, but are not the result of the singular vision of a chef/owner. Being able to distinguish between the semi-mass market and the exclusive is not always easy. This trend of movement of the elite chefs into the malls will make it even more difficult to discriminate. I can see the day where someone chooses P.F. Changes over Thomas Keller simply on price (and maybe the appeal of the big horse statues) instead of on the culinary value delivered.

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