Scott Conant on the Challenges of Opening New Restaurants
Chef Scott Conant might be a household name for a segment of the population that watches Food Network and is into fine dining, but that doesn’t mean that it's easy for him to open a restaurant anywhere he wants to. The chef has opened branches of Scarpetta in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Las Vegas, and Toronto, and each one has presented its unique challenges.
"I don’t have a name like Jean-Georges or Daniel Boulud, unfortunately," the chef told The Daily Meal. "I’ve put myself out there a little bit on TV, but that doesn’t solve the challenge of filling every seat all the time. The secret that I’ve found is to surround myself with the best people in every market."
By assembling a team that knows the market inside and out, he’s able to piece together what the restaurant should look and feel like. "The real challenge is trying to find a platform that will resonate," Conant added. "It can’t be just high-quality; the city needs to have a sense of ownership over it. We’re living within the confines of who we are, and working within that framework."
As for the differences between his restaurants in each of the cities, they might be subtle, but they’re definitely there. "We try to tap into the soul of every city we’re in. If every market was like Miami, it might be easier," he admitted. "In Miami you just turn the music up and create a vibe. We give more attention to fish in Miami. In Los Angeles we focus more on vegetables and produce. Vegas is a different vibe because you go there to have a good time, and then you go about the rest of your night."
When it all comes together, though, there’s no better feeling. "If it’s good, it’s the best high ever," he said. "It’s the best feeling in the world when people like it."