High Food, Ops Costs Scuttle Michelin Star Resto

We hear every day about how rising food prices are pushing more and more ordinary folks into a major dietary emergency. But we rarely hear about how rising costs are affecting those at the top end of the economic spectrum…

 Deane - © 2023 Deanes GroupAlex Greene and Michael Deane: Not quitting; just evolving…

Well… I’m here to tell you, rising food and other operating costs are starting to take a toll on the world’s most exclusive eateries.

Michelin Stars no protection

Even coveted Michelin Stars can’t shield a restaurant from the harsh realities of today’s economy. Case in point: A posh Northern Ireland dining spot called Deanes EIPIC. It’s the flagship fine dining restaurant of an empire that began in Belfast in 1996. Deanes earned its first Michelin Star in 1997.

But now, after 26 years feeding Northern Ireland’s elite, the landmark resto is closing its doors.

A bygone era?

“EIPIC as a whole wasn’t a restaurant that was dying,” Head chef Alex Greene told CNN Travel. But, “people have an expectation when walking through the doors. The cost of delivering that expectation has doubled since lockdown, the cost has spiralled out of control. And we can’t double the price.”

As high-end restos go, Greene says EIPIC’s menu prices were not totally out of line. No more expensive than comparable eateries in London or Paris. But Belfast doesn’t have as large a poplulation of wealthy diners as the latter international cities.

However, Greene observed, EIPIC has not been the only Michelin-starred resto to feel the pinch of soaring costs. “The more luxurious end of dining, white linen tablecloths and service and stuff, it seems to be becoming a bygone era.”

What’s next?

EIPIC is closing under that name. But the Deane Group plans to reopen the location under a new name, with a new, contemporary ‘value for money’ focus.

And the Deane/Greene team is also opening a new higher-end eatery in the countryside, south of Belfast. Greene describes it as, “more stripped back. […] You don’t have the white linen tablecloth, you don’t have the same level of service.” But there are countervailing plusses. The experience is more “economic[al] to deliver to the customer.”

Nature always finds a way

As the acerbic, eternally skeptical Dr. Ian Malcolm says in Jurassic Park (1993): Whatever the challenge a species faces, “Nature will always find a way,” to overcome it. He’s referring to the female dinosaurs that turned male under socio-demographic pressure, to ensure the continuation of their species.

But let’s scale that apocalyptic vision back down to the resto business. Deane and Green are simply adapting their vision of high-end dining to fit with today’s realities. Higher food prices. Higher operating costs. Shortages of highly-skilled kitchen staffers. And a lowering of diners’ expectations as they find they can no longer afford top, Michelin Star treatment.

Fine dining isn’t going away. It’s just evolving – to survive.

~ Maggie J.