Economic Development Series: Davis Needs More Cool Dining

from the Cool Cuisine Davis website
from the Cool Cuisine Davis website

By Anya McCann

For this economic development series I’d like to drill down a little into some themes discussed by Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis and Yolo County Visitors Bureau executive director Alan Humason here. They touched upon capturing dollars from visitors of all types, including eco-tourism and agritourism.

It is Spring and Yolo and Sacramento Counties are once again flush with farm to fork activities. Davisites may have noticed that Sacramento has devoted significant energy and funds to declare they are the Farm-to-Fork Capital of America, featuring the farmers, chefs, and the foodie community in the Sacramento region. Though Davis is in the region, we are an afterthought to the Sac F2F leadership. Our city’s contributions have not been actively marketed in tandem. We have not stepped up to the dining plate.

Davis has much to offer. For instance:

  • We are located in the midst of the agricultural seat of the country
  • We have unparalleled access to fresh, local, organic vegetables and fruit—highlighted by our world famous Davis Farmers Market
  • Most of the vintners in touristed Napa were trained at UC Davis
  • UC Davis also has one of the premiere training institutes for craft brewers
  • Davis is progressive, successfully moving towards the creation of a sustainable footprint
  • We are recognized around the world for our leadership in sustainability policies

Now is an opportune time to tie all of these unique features together for residents and visitors. Let’s make Davis really distinct—a destination for plant-based diners as part of the City’s strategic branding and marketing.

Imagine, eco-foodie-tourists arriving by the Capitol Corridor train from the Bay Area to visit the farmers market in the morning, followed by an afternoon walk in the Arboretum, and staying for dinner downtown. They stay overnight in a local hotel and take a bike ride on our famous greenbelt on rented bikes in the morning, culminating their stay with brunch, a wine tasting, and a nap on the train on the way home.

Currently, there is little promoting that experience and how it fits our vision of a sustainable Davis. We have no “destination” restaurants in which to taste our local wines and brews paired with local fine cuisine, with which to anchor this experience.

When I moved to town several years ago, my friends in Los Angeles exclaimed that based upon their image of Davis as a model for sustainability; it must be the perfect place for a vegan to find a tantalizing dining opportunity! (My new Davis friends thought so, too.)

Alas, most plant-based foodies are disappointed by the lack of interesting options and feel unwelcome in many local establishments. Nevertheless, Davis’ reputation as a healthy place to live is an excellent opportunity for our restaurants to redefine themselves and build our city as a destination for plant-based, sustainable dining, attracting regional guests and tourism dollars.

Approximately 4% of Americans and 8% of Californians identify as vegetarians or vegans for many reasons including for their health (heart, obesity, diabetes), to eat more sustainably and protect our environment, to follow religious strictures, out of compassion for animals, or their belief in animal rights. Many of us also consider ourselves “foodies” looking for the next great or unique dining experience. I know plant-based diners in Sacramento who will drive as far as Berkeley on a Sunday morning just to find a great vegan brunch! It is a highly motivated clientele.

The availability of healthy and tasty food is an important factor in choosing a vacation spot, a place to live, a place to work, and a place to go to school. There are even plant-based cruise ships!

A handful of cities are known as plant-based dining destinations. Foodie travelers like me plan entire vacations to eat their way through San Francisco, Portland, Los Angeles, or New York. Davis could easily become one of these leaders.

Advertising to this clientele is very targeted and low cost using social media. These diners rush to share information about their latest “find.” We have many well-attended local Facebook and Instagram groups sharing restaurant and shopping tips and even have our own version of Yelp, called Happy Cow.

How can Davis take advantage of this opportunity?

COOL Cuisine is a coalition of many groups with a long-term vision of Davis as a dining destination for plant-based cuisine and tourism. We have the ability to reach thousands of plant-based diners who live within an hour’s drive of here. And we are actively working for improvements through our 3rd Thurs restaurant patronage.

To draw new food to town, COOL Cuisine offers to facilitate outreach with other city organizations to popular and excellent chains such as Real Food Daily (link ), Veggie Grill (link ), and Native Foods (link ).

How does the City of Davis integrate all of the things we are most celebrate? An update of forward-thinking dining choices can encompass our values of local agriculture, sustainability, and a healthy population. It is one contribution to draw more locals, visitors, and new employees and residents to spend in all local establishments.

Anya McCann is a member of the Natural Resources Commission. She is a founder of COOL Cuisine Davis, which partners with Cool Davis and other community groups. Her opinions are solely her own and not endorsed by the NRC.

Editor’s note: following the decision by Mace Ranch Innovation Center to put its pending project on hold, the Vanguard decided to re-start a community discussion on the future of economic development in Davis.  As such, we are reaching out to a very diverse group of people and starting May 1 we are hoping to publish one op-ed a day on this subject.  We are pleased to announce that so far we have over 40 commitments and counting. Beginning today, we will publish one article per day for the month of May into June.  If you would like to add your voice – please submit your piece on the future of economic development in Davis (800 to 1000 words).

May 1: Robb Davis

May 2: Elaine Roberts Musser

May 3: Dan Carson

May 4: Matt Williams

May 6: Peter Bell

May 7: Bob Fung

May 9: Rob White

May 16: Alan Humason

May 17: Mike Hart

May 18: Judy Corbett

May 19: Mark Braly

May 20: Susan Rainier

May 21: Tia Will

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. David Greenwald

    I just have to say Anya is my new hero.  As someone who has been a vegetarian for 18 years now, I’m tired of having to drive to the Bay Area or Mendocino to get top quality vegetarian/ vegan food.  I simply don’t understand why someone hasn’t figured out there is a strong market for it here.

    1. Topcat

      I simply don’t understand why someone hasn’t figured out there is a strong market for it here.

      It’s a simple question of demand and supply.  If more people would order vegetarian and vegan options, restaurant owners and managers would respond with more menu offerings and we would see more vegetarian oriented restaurants opening.  Most people like to eat meat and so that is what restaurants offer.

      1. The Pugilist

        Why not just one compared to 100 that serve meat?  Obviously it’s a niche audience, but a good one would attract region wide and beyond.

      2. David Greenwald

        It’s not as simple as I think you believe it is. For example, my wife and I (and family) will drive to Mendocino a few times a year to go to Raven’s , which is world class vegan food. If we had a restaurant like that in Davis, obviously we would go many more times a year. I don’t see how you can measure that. Also, people from around the region and state drive to Mendocino to go to Raven’s, people would come to Davis for that reason as well. I don’t believe you can measure it by how often people order vegetarian menu offerings in town.

      3. Topcat

        Also, people from around the region and state drive to Mendocino to go to Raven’s, people would come to Davis for that reason as well.

        So all you have to do is convince some clever entrepreneur to open a vegetarian restaurant in Davis.  If the demand is there, as you believe, the restaurant should be very successful.

        1. Richard McCann

          The point of any economic development effort is to create an agglomeration of customers, producers and workers. Over and over we see how regional economies take off when we combine the right ingredients. Detroit and Silicon Valley are the best examples. Yet we can see this happen with tourism too, such as in Napa and Tahoe.  Leaving this to the whims of single entrepreneur with no coordination means it won’t happen. Instead we need a plan and ways to induce those entrepreneurs to come here. As you can see we have the right ingredients–now we need some chefs!

      4. Anya McCann

        Hello: You are correct that restaurants do not hear requests for offerings. That is largely because such diners are used to being disappointed and have given up trying. One of the things we do is encourage our supporters to always ask if there are plant-based options any time they go to a restaurant, even if they already know what is offered, so that the restaurants are able to better judge demand.

    2. Anya McCann

      Thank you for the positive response – COOL Cuisine can be reached on Facebook, or our website, and we also post invitations to members of   We post our “3rd Thurs” invitations on all 3 (as well as most Sac area related groups) and ask that guests respond on an invitation or email us so we can give restaurants notice for seating. We have had 20-25 guests at each 3rd Thurs. Right now we are voting with our dollars by patronizing establishments that are already doing a good job and will be adding in restaurants who agree to be responsive to our requests (adding more dishes, marking their menus, and educating their staff). See our web site for more details. Our recent events have been at Chickpeas, KetMoRee, Preethi Indian Cuisine, and Ding How. Climb aboard and join our movement!!

  2. Tia Will

    I also would love to see a stronger vegetarian/vegan presence in restaurants in Davis. My initial venture into being a vegan was a failure due to my lack of knowledge ( and disinterest in learning) about how to balance my food choices so as to maintain my weight which plummeted dangerously prompting a limited resumption of seafood/meat to my diet. I might have benefitted from the example provided by a good restaurant. As a public health advocate, I would welcome, and patronize restaurants that featured or had solely plant based selections.

    I think that the presence of UCD is explanation enough for why no one has made the realization that there might be a strong market here. Providing pizza, low cost noodles, or burgers for the 18-24 crowd is a surer deal than hoping to attract enough veggie/vegan folks to a small town. Niche marketing can succeed as Ficelle’s has demonstrated for tapas in Winters, however, it could be seen as a risky proposition.

    1. Richard McCann

      Tia, college towns are often great locations for high end restaurants. Gourmet Ghetto started in Berkeley because Cal’s professors patronized good food. Ann Arbor and Eugene are similar cities that have high end dining choices. The point is to attract people from out of town to dine here, not to rely on locals to make these restaurants go.

      1. Matt Williams

        Richard, I am part of an 8-person movie group that periodically goes to Carmel for a long weekend.  A core part of our activities is eating out.  In the course of our many discussions, the topic of eating out in Davis has come up very frequently.  Bottom-line, the inability to find a parking space downtown is the number one reason that the members of our group (both individually and collectively) very seldom eat downtown.  Seasons gets the bulk of the business because it has its own parking lot.

        What Anya is proposing will only take root if/when Davis comes to grips with its parking management problem.

        1. Anya McCann

          Matt- true, parking is a pain. For me, it is more the crazy traffic at a couple of key intersections in the middle of downtown that makes me hesitant to drive in. However, I cannot think of one time that I’ve had to park more than a 3 block walk from anyplace I go. Some people want more convenience, but we have a very compact downtown. If we do attract visitors who are staying in our local hotels, they will be more likely to hop on a rental bike or walk. Signage to parking lots that do exist would be a place to start to assist non-locals.

        2. Matt Williams

          Understood and agreed Anya, but perception is reality, and the very intelligent, very independent, very capable group of eight individually and collectively believe it isn’t worth the hassle.

          I went to a restaurant on E Street on Wednesday night after tabling at the Farmer’s Market. In addition to the (non-vegetarian) food being really good (better than I expected), two things are worth noting.  First, if a parking space on E Street had not opened up at just the right moment, I would have kept on going through the tunnel and eaten elsewhere.  Second, when talking to my outstanding waitress about the restaurant and Kyoto, she told me that they had been open for two years.  Given the quality of the food, the price, and the ambience, I should have eaten there at least a dozen times in those two years, and our group of eight, none of whom has eaten there should have done so multiple times as well.  It is hard for a restaurant to pay its bills if the customers never come through the door.  That is an economic development  problem we need to address.

        3. South of Davis

          Matt wrote:

          > Bottom-line, the inability to find a parking space downtown is the number

          > one reason that the members of our group (both individually and collectively)

          > very seldom eat downtown. 

          Many senior citizens still don’t have the Uber app (Matt has mentioned being at Cornell in the 60’s) but as more and more people like my (even older) parents (who were married with kids when Matt was an undergrad) get the Uber app and realize that it does not make since to drive out to a nice dinner any more (no hassles parking and you don’t have to worry about driving if you have wine with dinner “and” get a glass of port with dessert).

          P.S. I recently got the link below  and after my wife and I laughed we were guessing that the number of actual vegans in America that are not high school or college girls going through the “vegan stage” is probably about equal to the number of transgender people.

          1. David Greenwald

            According to some polling somewhere between 3 and 5 percent of Americans report being Vegetarian or Vegan, BUT up to one-third report eating vegetarian or vegan meals.

        4. Matt Williams

          SOD, I went out to the Uber App website, and as best as I can tell Davis is not one of the their cities.  The closest Uber city is Sacramento.

          Am I missing something?

        5. South of Davis

          I’m in a Downtown Davis right now and four Uber cars are two minutes away from me.

          I have been using Uber at least a month in town and for every airport trip for more than a year.

          P.S. Don’t take Uber to dinner in Winters since you will need to find another way home (ask me how I know)…

        6. Matt Williams

          SOD, they clearly need to upgrade the Uber website (see ).  When I open that page it very clearly displays a list of cities and the overlay message “Uber is in Sacramento” based on its GPS reading of where I am.

          Never having had any reason to go to the Uber website until today, I plead complete ignorance.  I can only go by what they tell me.

      2. Tia Will


        I completely agree that it would be necessary to attract people from out of town. I believe that this is a large part of the success of Ficelle’s as I doubt they could survive with Winter’s residents alone.  I do not believe however that this means that we need to build many more spaces for restaurants. Again, I think that we need to fully utilize what we have before we start building ever more as Frankly believes.

  3. cyclrn

    My wife and I are also long-time vegetarians who would welcome more vegetarian options.  We had dinner last night at Yeti in E Street Plaza, so yummy!.  Supporting existing “vegetarian-friendly” restaurants is important.  The possibilities are so exciting.  The article lists some links, but not for COOL Cuisine…how can we connect?

    1. Anya McCann  and and 

      We encourage guest to respond on the invites or send an email to confirm attendance. We like to make sure there is enough seating in advance. Yeti is one of those places that has vegetarian options which could easily be completely free of animal products, but prepare their spice mix in advance with ghee. I’ve mentioned how easy that would be to change, but they are not getting the hint. They had 3 dishes I could eat the last time I was there. I encourage others to go talk to them and ask why their vegetarian section could not be entirely vegan as well. It is so easy to use dairy free margerine or a variety of oils to replace ghee. It is this kind of easy change that does not disrupt their operation very much that we encourage. Please do suggest such replacements.


    1. Topcat

      Maybe Dan Wolk can get an ordinance passed that requires all Davis restaurants to offer more vegetarian options?

      <satire> Why stop there?  How about banning all meat sales in Davis? </satire>

  4. Frankly

    This article touches on something I have advocated continuously.  The missed opportunities abound.  UCD launches the careers of what go on to become some of the top food and beverage producing talent… And they all just disappear to benefit other communities.

    But Davis lacks the customers.

    Our greying population tends to be less and less interested in high-end cuisine and more and more interested in holding onto their dollars.

    Our growing youth population from UCD are also less likely to give up their scarce bucks for high-end meals and a good bottle of vino.

    But by increasing the number of young professionals working and living in the city we will also increase the customer-base for high-end cuisine.

    Also, as we develop an inventory of new venues, we will attract more visitors from the region.

    Ultimately we would need both.

    The financial model for a high-end restaurant compared to a pizza joint is profoundly different.  The raw material food costs combined with the labor costs of professional chefs and wait staff put high-end food service in a different business category of what is really entertainment.  In addition to providing general sustenance, a high-end restaurant is really delivering a sensory service to customers.  And the actual physical place is an important ingredient to that sensory service.  The food and service has to be good, but the design of the venue is also important.

    But Davis lacks inventory of physical place.

    And without good choices for where new restaurants can locate… Well all the other points are mute.

    It starts with space.  New development or redevelopment.



    1. Ron

      Frankly:  “Our greying population tends to be less and less interested in high-end cuisine and more and more interested in holding onto their dollars.”

      It may be true that older populations are less interested in status-type purchases (e.g., “high-end” cuisine, expensive wine, whatever).  I prefer to think of this as “wisdom”, but this opens up a whole different topic.

      Regardless, some ideas, including “higher-end” cuisine, bird watching, farm-to-fork, sports complex, hotels, etc., might be more suited for visitors.  Facilitating Davis as a “destination” (or a “stopover”, between the Bay Area and the Sierras), focused visitors, be a better/more achievable goal to raise funds.

      Regarding vegetarian cuisine, I was thinking of something more basic (e.g., “grill-type”), appropriate for everyone (residents, visitors).  You know – something that even us older cheapskates might patronize, as well as students. (Not necessarily something to “solve” budget problems.)

      Sometimes, it’s difficult to judge the demand for various offerings, prior to establishment.  Perhaps some entrepreneur will take a chance, at some point.

      1. Roberta Millstein

        It would be nice to have a mix of low-end and high-end vegetarian/vegan restaurants in town.  David mentioned Mendocino above, but Mendocino also has lower-end veg restaurants, as does Santa Cruz.  Both could be a tourist draw, especially if marketed in concert with our art scene and other attractions.  Plus a lot of students are vegetarian or vegan and would frequent such places.  I think it’s a mistake to think that all they want is ramen and pizza.  Most college towns have well-loved vegan/vegetarian places – think of something like Delta of Venus or Farmers Kitchen Cafe, but vegan/vegetarian.

      2. Frankly

        Nothing here that I can argue.  However, you don’t acknowledge the lack of space and the corresponding need to develop.  No on Measure A is actually counter to your points.

        1. Tia Will

          you don’t acknowledge the lack of space and the corresponding need to develop.”

          Where is this lack of space of which you speak ?

          The restaurant space right next door to the Co-Op, former home of Monticello Regional Cuisine and before that Osaka Sushi was available for months. Tucos former space also was available as was the space next to Bistro 33 until the poke shop went in. There have been three recent openings of pizza/ Italian restaurants in town. It seems to me that there is frequent turn over and thus availability of restaurant space both downtown and in our peripheral shopping centers.

        2. Ron

          Frankly:  “Nothing here that I can argue.  However, you don’t acknowledge the lack of space and the corresponding need to develop.”

          I realize that if Davis ultimately pursues large-scale commercial development (or other space-consuming options, such as a sports complex), it would likely require a larger footprint for the city.  However, I suspect that there’s plenty of space for new restaurants and other businesses serving customers within the existing footprint of Davis.  There are already plans for new hotels (e.g., on Second Street, and at Olive/Richards).

          Restricting peripheral development usually encourages/facilitates positive redevelopment of existing buildings.  In general, when cities continuously expand their footprint, downtown/central areas suffer.


        3. Roberta Millstein

          What Tia said.  I’d also add that there seems to be a “conservatism” in restaurants in Davis.  For awhile it was Thai-Thai-Thai, then Indian-Indian-Indian, now Italian-Italian-Italian.  I think someone branching out to something new could be very successful instead of coming in to compete with what we already have.

        4. Frankly

          The restaurant space right next door to the Co-Op, former home of Monticello Regional Cuisine and before that Osaka Sushi was available for months. Tucos former space also was available as was the space next to Bistro 33 until the poke shop went in.

          This caused me to chuckle out loud.

          The Monticello space sucked.  No windows… Basically a small box.

          Tucos failed because it was too small… Not enough table space for the rent cost.

          The space next to Bistro 33?  You meant the old record store that is now another Pizza restaurant?

          You are wrong on this.  There is not enough inventory of space.  We need to develop more.

        5. South of Davis

          Tia wrote:

          > The restaurant space right next door to the Co-Op, former

          > home of Monticello Regional Cuisine and before that Osaka

          > Sushi was available for months. 

          Not many people want to open a restaurant in a dying mall next to the railroad tracks and the “Hazardous Waste” site (see link below) that used to be the G Street Texaco…

      3. Anya McCann

        Ron/Frankly/Roberta: Having something that has general appeal is why I suggested a concerted effort to draw one of the excellent plant-based chain restaurants to Davis. Real Food Daily, Native Foods, and Veggie Grill are very popular and are places that the general, “omni” public also find satisfying meals. They also open people’s eyes to a nice variety of foods such as seitan, tempeh, and tofu prepared in a very tasty manner.

        I think it needs to be part of our development / growth strategy to have several higher end restaurants as well. Perhaps they will not be solely plant-based, but could have a farm to fork focus that includes a lively selection of plant based dishes. For instance, Localis, in Sacramento, has an incredible plant-based tasting menu. They do not have an order for it every night and diners call ahead 24 hours. But their chef also knows how to prepare a main dish on the fly. We need flexibility, diversity, fresh, local, seasonal. Tucos had a separate vegan menu for a while. Monticello missed their calling and was very resistant to growth in this manner. (By the way, that location is bad for the near future, because it needs cleanup of toxic waste…that is something to pressure the City about.)

      1. Frankly

        Matt – I think not.   Although I think parking is an issue, unless you have experience opening a restaurant or bar or…  There is an equilibrium of property size sought.  Too large and the upscale of the operation to compensate for the higher rent makes for a more difficult operation to manage.  Too small and you cannot get enough table turn-over to bring in enough revenue.

        One thing lacking in most restaurants in Davis are private party spaces and large tables.

        Ideally a city the size of Davis has an stronger inventory of different-sized venues.   Davis has small spaces and too few of those.

        1. Matt Williams

          Frankly, my son and daughter-in-law own two restaurants that they opened from scratch in Baltimore and run a third. I’m quite familiar with the issues you raise.

          The lack of private party spaces and large tables in Davis is in large part a response to the demographics of the Davis dining public.  Those demographics would not be as heavily weighted toward UCD students if the senior demographic and the family demographic found it easier to actually get to their tables.  Table turn-over is not as big an issue when you have empty tables begging for diners to use them.

  5. Tia Will


    Our greying population tends to be less and less interested in high-end cuisine and more and more interested in holding onto their dollars.”

    This is one of the more ridiculous stereotypes that you keep throwing out. It is only now, with significant “greying” that I find that I have the requisite time, interest and money to pursue high-end cuisine. The idea that older folks ( 50-80 ish) are more likely to want to hoard their money is quite absurd. Many of us are just now getting to the point where we can fully participate in restaurants, theater going, plays, music venues and the like having retired or cut back our hours, raised our children, cared for our own now deceased parents….and now have more time and financial resources with which to play.

    This idea that we need to import more young people of a certain age group to fill our currently non-existent restaurants is as backwards as it would be for Kaiser to declare that if we only build a hospital in Davis, then patients will flock to it because it exists ,only to discover that oops….the hospital itself was not enough, now we must build more and more businesses and more and more housing developments  to bring in enough folks to fill our hospital.  There must be a balance between need and service provision. As I am sure that you know far better than I, just because you build it, does not mean that they will come.

    1. Frankly

      Tia – you seem to be ignorant of the business demographics for food spending.  It is well known that 25-54 age group are the big dinning out spenders.  Over 54 the spending starts to decline significantly.

      And of course there is also an income level consideration.   People at higher income levels tend to spend more dining out.  That is why young professionals are so good for the food service business.  They are upper-middle class in income and tend to spend a higher percentage of their discretionary funds on entertainment… And that includes higher-end food service.

      So us old-farts that don’t dine out as much benefit from a larger choice of higher-end establishments sustained by the spending of these younger well-compensated customers.

  6. Tia Will


    It is well known that 25-54 age group are the big dinning out spenders.  Over 54 the spending starts to decline significantly.”

    I agree that this represents our past.  People are living much longer and in much better health. When I first started in medicine 30 years ago, we considered a 65  year old to be an old woman. I now have a number of very spry active women in their 80’s and early 90’s. I am a little surprised that someone with as much knowledge of business as you would have your eyes on the past instead of the future in terms of population trends.

    1. South of Davis

      Tia wrote:

      > I agree that this represents our past.  People are living much longer

      I just found a page with Google that says men in America are living 4.8 years longer today than in 1986.

      > I now have a number of very spry active women in their 80’s and early 90’s.

      I’m sure Tia does, but I can’t think of the last time I saw “spry active women in their 80’s and early 90’s when I was out to dinner”…



      1. Tia Will

        South of Davis

        Unless you are in the habit of asking their ages… may not realize how old they are. I frequently have to age verify these days.

      2. Anya McCann

        Out of 20-25 people at each COOL Cuisine 3rd Thurs event, we’ve had 2-3 that appear to be over 65. And usually about 10% are eating plant-based because their doctor told them they would die if they didn’t…those have been in the 35-50 age group. The people that attend the Interfaith Meatless Mondays (hosted by more than ten houses of worship in town) appear to me to be the over-50 crowd. I’m not sure if they go out to dinner…but there is a captive audience for restaurants with very targeted marketing. Send out a coupon to their organizer: “Come try the plant-based dishes we offer, $5 off on Meatless Mondays! For every table of 6, a free pitcher of beer.”  There are lots of opportunities here.

  7. Tia Will


    The Monticello space sucked.  No windows… Basically a small box.

    Tucos failed because it was too small… Not enough table space for the rent cost.

    The space next to Bistro 33?  You meant the old record store that is now another Pizza restaurant?”

    No, no and no.

    It would have come as quite a surprise to the highly successful for many years Osaka Sushi that their restaurant space sucked being just a small box. Until the recession that space was packed every weekend night for years and usually did a brisk weeknight business also. I know because I frequented it for many years. Monticello failed in my opinion because they offered mediocre food with poor service at a high price.

    Tucos failed in my opinion, not because it was too small. but rather because it priced itself out of existence. The Mustard Seed, also quite small seems to be doing well.

    And no, I was not referring to the pizza restaurant near Bistro 33 , but rather to the newly opened Zuma Poke and Lush Ice. Yes, it is small. But I don’t see how being small would preclude being vegan/vegetarian.

    1. Frankly

      So your point is that Monticello and Tucos died because they over-priced their menu?

      You are making my point for me.  Older people don’t want to pay for high-end cuisine.

      And then for the restaurant to survive they try to skimp… On raw materials… On employee talent (chef and servers).

      Leonardo of Osteria Fasulo looked at Tucos to relocate to.  It did not work.  Too small for the rent.

      The ambiance at Monticello was never good.  We used to like Osaka Sushi… But they had a similar problem in that there was not enough tables and the space was basically a dark box.

      That entire property needs to be redeveloped, but it has environmental problems.

      1. Matt Williams

        Frankly said . . . “You are making my point for me.  Older people don’t want to pay for high-end cuisine.”

        Your point is at best anecdotal . . . at best.  My experience is that older people are more than willing to pay for high-end cuisine, because high-end cuisine is much more likely to deliver a value that is commensurate with the value of the check.  If you had made your argument about middle-level cuisine, I might have agreed with you.

        1. Frankly

          The market data is simply the spending per age demographic.  I will find it and post it.  The amount of money spent on eating out declines with age starting in the mid-50s.

        2. Matt Williams

          That is a highly faulty statistic Frankly.  It lumps all the price ranges together.  I can completely understand seniors using low-range restaurants a whole lot less than other demographic groups.  For pure practicality reasons, parents with children will use low-range restaurants a whole lot more than seniors.  College age students will as well.  As I noted before, I believe seniors understand what poor value the mid-range restaurants deliver for the price, so any consolidated aggregate number is going to be meaningless in terms of drawing conclusions about high-end restaurant spending by seniors.

  8. Tia Will


    You are making my point for me.  Older people don’t want to pay for high-end cuisine.”

    Not so. We frequented Tucos at one point and did not significantly raise the age profile in the room single handedly. There always seems to be a mix of age groups including seniors at Osteria, The Mustard Seed and Seasons.  You make it sound as though restaurants only have one strategy which is to raise prices or “skimp” either on service or quality. And yet as both you and I pointed out, we do have upper end restaurants which have had long term success. Obviously they are making different decisions that allow them to not only survive but prosper.

  9. Frankly

    Here is a good resource for understanding the market trends for the restaurant industry.

    Here is some data on restaurant spending by age group.

    Two points.  One – place is important… More important than is parking.

    Second – the older the customer the less they spend dining out.

    1. Matt Williams

      From that report “54 percent of “super heavy” fast-food users (who eat fast food at least once a day) and 37 percent of “heavy” fast-food users (two to six times per week) are between the ages of 18 and 34, according to Technomic.”

      Supports the point I made earlier.  Low-end restaurants are where seniors spend less, not high-end restaurants.

      One key difference tht I believe exists is that seniors eat out as “an event for entertainment” while younger demographic groups eat out as “a meal for sustinance.”

  10. Anya McCann

    By the way, here is an interesting article about the expansion of one popular veg/veg chain, Veggie Grill.  Veggie Grill chief energizing officer Greg Dollarhyde says: 

    “Many people ask me if there are enough vegetarians to go to Veggie Grill,” Dollarhyde told NRN. “But 70 percent to 80 percent of any of our restaurants’ business is not vegetarian. We don’t expect you to come to Veggie Grill all the time. You’ll go have your fish sandwiches or burgers, but you’ll come to Veggie Grill on your rotation. We get people who just want to eat in the better-for-you space. This is a theme in America, now, I think.”


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