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16 Failed Celebrity-Owned Restaurants

16 Failed Celebrity-Owned Restaurants


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Just because they can act doesn’t mean they can run a restaurant

Far more restaurants fail than succeed, and a celebrity’s name doesn’t guarantee a restaurant’s success.

Failed Celebrity-Owned Restaurants

Far more restaurants fail than succeed, and a celebrity’s name doesn’t guarantee a restaurant’s success.

Britney Spears: Nyla, New York City

Ethan Miller/Getty Images/The Daily Meal

The marriage of postal abbreviations for New York and Louisiana must have seemed like a good idea. So did a pop star opening a restaurant in the Dylan Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. It didn't work out. Britney moved on after just six months, the menu changed from Cajun to Italian, and the business had incurred $400,000 in debts. The ex-teen queen then moved on to tackle many other personal issues.

Steven Spielberg: Dive!, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Barcelona

It took five years for Dive! to go under, and a location in Vegas (and a franchise in Barcelona) had to open first. But eventually the restaurant — a creation of director Steven Spielberg, owned in part by producer Jeffrey Katzenberg — did fail.

This goofy, submarine-themed restaurant served nautical-themed fare and "gourmet" subs — Spielberg's inspiration, because, supposedly, he couldn't find anyone to make a sandwich the way he liked it — in an environment with computer-generated "underwater" special effects, catwalks, exposed conduits, gauges, throttles, control panels, and "dives" every half-hour where sirens and lights go off while commands of "Dive!" echoed around the dining room.

Chrissie Hynde: VegiTerranean, Akron, OH

Pretenders vocalist Chrissie Hynde opened a vegan restaurant in downtown Akron in 2007, but four years later it closed for good. “We tried everything we could to keep the restaurant going but unfortunately due to the current economic climate this has not been possible,” Hynde said in a statement.

Ludacris: Straits, Atlanta

Rick Kern / Contributor / The Daily Meal / Getty Images

Rapper Ludacris (Chris Bridges) opened Straits, an Asian fusion restaurant, in Midtown Atlanta in 2008, and the fare from chef Chris Yeo, including “Kung Pow Lollipops,” was met with decent reviews. The prices were astronomical, however, and many of Ludacris’ fans stayed away for that reason. The restaurant closed in early 2012, ostensibly so Bridges could work on his second restaurant concept, Chicken N Beer, located in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.

Jill Hennessy and Benjamin Bratt: Irving Mill, New York City

Irving Mill was a New York phenomenon. Actors Jill Hennessy and Benjamin Bratt were investors, New York Magazine hyped its burger, and critic Gael Greene even gave it a nod. But the place didn't make it.

Stephen and William Baldwin: Alaia, New York City

Donato Sardella / Contributor / The Daily Meal / Getty Images

''We don't want this to be the next Moomba,'' said a party involved in the restaurant, quoted by The New York Times' Florence Fabricant . ''Those places come and go. We're here to stay.'' Sure, buddy.

Alaia was never meant to be. Despite half the Baldwin brothers investing time, money, energy, and Stephen Baldwin's older daughter's name into the place on Fifth Avenue at 13th Street in Manhattan, he and his brother William weren't able to make the place a hit. After opening early in 1999, they changed the name to Luahn, creating a sleek lounge with velvet chairs, then changed the name to Society 5, when Stephen ended his involvement. It shuttered not long after.

Kevin Costner: The Clubhouse, Costa Mesa, Calif.

Tommaso Boddi /Getty Images/The Daily Meal

You've got to admit, 10 years is a pretty good run, and you can hardly blame the entire failure of The Clubhouse on Kevin Costner. After all, according to the Los Angeles Times, the restaurant's general partners included Jerry Kleiner (Marche, Red Light, Vivo), Doug Zeif (Cheesecake Factory), and investing celebrities like Jack Nicklaus, Fred Couples, and Robert Wagner. But after opening in 1999 in Costa Mesa, the restaurant did eventually fade out, not unlike Costner's career, until it was reported as closing in 2009.

Hulk Hogan: Pastamania!, Minneapolis

This one's just too easy. Pastamania!, which opened Labor Day weekend in 1995 in Minnesota's Mall of America in Bloomington, was by all accounts created and financed by the Hulkster. Ads showed him decked out in yellow with a chef hat, holding a plate of spaghetti, and looking as surprised as you would be to see him doing so. Despite amazing menu options like "Hulk-A-Roos" and Hogan’s efforts to promote Pastamania! on WCW Monday Nitro, the restaurant closed within a year. Hogan is still involved in the restaurant game with Hogan’s Beach in Tampa, but now he’s battling accusations that its dress code is racist.

Sean Combs: Justin’s, Atlanta, New York, NY

Sean Combs opened Justin’s in New York City in 1997 (back in his Puff Daddy days), and the following year a second location of the restaurant, named after his son, opened in Atlanta. In 2007 the New York location closed (Combs claimed that they were looking for a larger space, but that never materialized), and in 2012 the Atlanta location shut down after reports that the restaurant was “dangerous and hazardous,” further exacerbated by a shooting in the parking lot.

Jennifer Lopez: Madre's, Los Angeles

Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock.com

Jennifer Lopez opened her Puerto Rican restaurant in Pasadena in 2002 (the Affleck period). As Eater LA reported when it closed in 2008, "With lackluster reviews but a pretty steady stream of people who wanted to taste what they thought J.Lo eats, Madre's lasted much longer than anyone, even J.Lo herself, anticipated." Despite its fairly decent run, just as her relationships with Affleck and Marc Anthony ended, so too did the restaurant eventually fail.

Scott Disick: RYU, New York

s_bukley/Shutterstock.com

One of the most epic restaurant disasters of 2012, this Meatpacking District Japanese restaurant co-owned by reality TV star Scott Disick lasted just five months before closing after Hurricane Sandy. Disick later bailed, the restaurant resorted to selling cheesesteaks and waffle fries through a to-go window, and less than a month later it closed for good.

Christy Turlington, Claudia Schiffer, Elle MacPherson, Naomi Campbell: The Fashion Café, New York City

JON LEVY/Getty Images/AFP/The Daily Meal

Fashion Café opened in New York's Rockefeller Plaza, backed by some of the hottest models of the '90s: Christy Turlington, Claudia Schiffer, Elle MacPherson, and Naomi Campbell. It drew enough attention that the critic for The New York Times, Ruth Reichl, stopped by to check it out.

The critic lost her appetite after waiting an hour for lunch on a Monday and being forced to see "so many skinny people in form-fitting clothes." Reichl eventually found the food "surprisingly decent," but she wasn't the only one to find the theme of sex and food tired; Fashion Café closed after a few years.

Flava-Flav: Flava-Flav’s Fried Chicken, Clinton, Iowa; House of Flavor, Las Vegas; Flavor Flav’s Chicken & Ribs, Detroit

Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images/The Daily Meal

Flava-Flav has had pretty bad luck with restaurants. His first try, an Iowa fried chicken restaurant, closed after four months due to bounced checks and low staff retention. House of Flavor closed within six months, and his most recent outing, Flavor Flav’s Chicken & Ribs, was evicted after less than a year in business due to unpaid rent.

Jermaine Dupri: Café Dupri, Atlanta

Bennett Raglin/Getty Images/The Daily Meal

Rapper and record producer Jermaine Dupri experienced success with his record label So So Def Recordings, but his culinary effort, Café Dupri, met indifferent palates. It opened in Atlanta's overwrought Buckhead in the summer of 2005, serving "high-quality menu items that are also healthy," with dreams of franchising locations in New York, Japan, "and elsewhere."

Eva Longoria: SHe by Morton’s, Las Vegas

Alvaro Cabrera/Getty Images/Getty Images Entertainment/The Daily Meal

In 2012, actress Eva Longoria opened an upscale “female-focused steakhouse” in a Las Vegas steakhouse, focused on smaller steaks for female clientele. Even though it was backed by restaurant behemoth Landry’s, it closed after two years, largely thanks to a health inspection that shut it down after 32 food violations.

Ashton Kutcher and Wilmer Valderrama: Dolce Enoteca e Ristorante, Atlanta

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images/The Daily Meal

The That ‘70s Show stars opened this “intimate Italian eatery” to generally positive reviews back in 2007, and coasted along for a while before quietly closing in early 2012. While it was good for people-watching, it was decidedly nothing special, even though Valderrama would occasionally hang out there.


Share All sharing options for: How a New York City Restaurant Loses Money on a $14 Sandwich

We often presume to understand restaurant economics because we know what a chicken breast costs at the supermarket. “I could make this dish at home for $5,” goes the refrain. Could we? Here, Eater looks at all the costs in a popular restaurant dish to see what goes into it, and how much profit comes out.

Like many restaurants, New York’s Dirt Candy was a different business before the pandemic. With a staff of 35, it served only a tasting menu (plus a half-dozen a la carte items available at the bar), guests leisurely eating courses of fennel tagine, seaweed caviar with creme fraiche, or beet yakitori. “The food [at] Dirt Candy doesn’t lend itself to delivery,” owner Amanda Cohen said in the spring of 2020, unsure when she’d be able to reopen. “We would’ve had to come up with a new menu.”

That’s exactly what she did. Since July 2020, Cohen and a much smaller crew of six have produced intricate soups (fava bean bouillabaisse), salads (pomelo and watercress), and sandwiches for takeout and delivery, and opened limited dine-in service on a street patio. Now that the staff is fully vaccinated, Dirt Candy is scheduled to reopen for lunch and dinner on May 20. Starting on the 21st, the takeout/delivery menu will only be available during the day. Here’s what it costs to make the $14 spinach croque-monsieur: a slice of country loaf topped with spinach bechamel thinly sliced celeriac that’s been smoked and confited in olive oil shredded gruyere sauteed spinach more spinach bechamel grainy mustard another slice of bread, smothered with a third layer of spinach bechamel spinach puree and more shredded gruyere, all popped into the oven until the cheese is bubbling and browning, and topped with an egg sunny side up. It’s been a popular item on Dirt Candy’s pandemic menu, but it also requires a lot of hidden work.

Menu price: $14

Total cost to the restaurant: $14.80
Profit (pickup): -.80 (loss)
Profit (delivery): -$2.92 to -$2.48 (loss)
Profit (outdoor dining): .90 (profit)

Food Costs: $3.45

Bread: .48
Bechamel: .27
Gruyere: .71
Celeriac: .34
Spinach (sauteed): .30
Spinach puree: .03
Grainy mustard: .05
Fried egg: .14
Butter: .03
Cornichon: .01
Packaging: $1.10

Overall, the business averages 20.7 percent food cost. By outsourcing bread (“Pain D’Avignon makes it way better than I ever could”) and using expensive cheese sparingly, the ingredients for this dish manage to stay just over 16 percent. Until we include packaging, a current requirement for the takeout and delivery sales on which restaurants depend. The choice of an oval container, made of biodegradable and compostable sugarcane pulp, hurtles food costs upward to 24 percent.

But the cost to make any dish at a restaurant goes beyond the food itself. There’s also paying the people who cook and serve it, owning and maintaining the equipment that enables them to do so, and, also the space in which to do it all in the first place. The price on the menu reflects the costs of operating the business here’s how.

Labor Costs: $7

Since relocating in 2015, Dirt Candy has been one of the handful of full-service American restaurants to operate without tipping. Paying employees a livable wage, rather than allowing their earnings to be subsidized by tips, is expensive. Comparable restaurants typically operate at around 30 percent labor cost. Dirt Candy runs closer to 50 percent. Because of that, workers’ wages account for half of what customers spend on the dish.

Fixed Costs: $4.34

With the shrinking of revenue, fixed costs (rent, insurance, bank charges, POS, garbage, dishwasher, security, exterminator, hood cleaning, phone, and so on) as a percentage of sales have effectively doubled, from 15 percent to 31 percent. The $14,500 rent has not gone down. Meanwhile, there are new costs, like heating a patio. Dirt Candy’s electricity bill jumped from $2,000 in February 2020 to $6,000 for February 2021.

Third-Party Delivery and Takeout Costs

Despite all that, the croque-monsieur is almost profitable, until third-party delivery commissions. Companies charge different rates to different clients. For Grubhub/Seamless, it’s 13.05 percent plus 30 cents. That’s $2.12 on a $14 order. Instead of using Grubhub’s couriers for orders placed through its app, Dirt Candy uses Relay for delivery. Relay charges $5.50 per order, which is passed on to the customer.

For DoorDash/Caviar, it’s 20 percent for delivery, adding up to $2.80. For pickup orders, DoorDash charges 12 percent, which is $1.68.

If you order through ChowNow, which charges a flat fee of $149/month, there is no commission, so the restaurant holds on to more revenue. Like Grubhub, ChowNow uses Relay for delivery, with the $5.50 fee charged to the customer.

Profit or Loss

These numbers show Dirt Candy is currently operating at a loss when it comes to selling food. The croque-monsieur’s math applies across the Dirt Candy pandemic menu, except for cocktails, which do generate profit. Over the last year, between forgivable Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan grants, Dirt Candy has been subsidized with about 27 percent of the projected revenue for a healthy year. It is effectively operating at a loss, with help, until economic and safety conditions allow Cohen to operate the kind of business she wants to again.

Until then, if you call in your order and pick it up yourself, Dirt Candy only loses 80 cents on the croque-monsieur. Placed through Grubhub, it costs the restaurant $2.92, and with DoorDash, $2.48.

“I think about closing at least once a week,” says Cohen, who supports the restaurant through side gigs, and is committed to making it to the other side of this cataclysm. “I don’t think the story of Dirt Candy is over. I don’t think we have done everything we are capable of doing. We get better year after year and I am always excited to see what’s going to happen next.”

What’s next is coming soon: When Cohen reopens the restaurant for indoor dining on May 20, she is raising prices to better compensate the staff she feels she failed this past year. This is a clear step forward on an issue long discussed among restaurateurs, who have argued that to pay everyone well, menu prices have to jump to a level that may scare off customers. Cohen has calculated that increase at an additional $30 for the tasting menu. She’ll be one of the first American restaurant owners to find out if diners are willing to pay the true value of a meal for which workers are fairly compensated.

“If you paid any attention to food media in 2020 you would have walked away thinking it was the year of the worker,” says Cohen. “That was the year we called restaurant workers and delivery drivers essential. We called them heroes, over and over again. We said we had their backs. Right now is when we all have to put those words into action.”


Share All sharing options for: How a New York City Restaurant Loses Money on a $14 Sandwich

We often presume to understand restaurant economics because we know what a chicken breast costs at the supermarket. “I could make this dish at home for $5,” goes the refrain. Could we? Here, Eater looks at all the costs in a popular restaurant dish to see what goes into it, and how much profit comes out.

Like many restaurants, New York’s Dirt Candy was a different business before the pandemic. With a staff of 35, it served only a tasting menu (plus a half-dozen a la carte items available at the bar), guests leisurely eating courses of fennel tagine, seaweed caviar with creme fraiche, or beet yakitori. “The food [at] Dirt Candy doesn’t lend itself to delivery,” owner Amanda Cohen said in the spring of 2020, unsure when she’d be able to reopen. “We would’ve had to come up with a new menu.”

That’s exactly what she did. Since July 2020, Cohen and a much smaller crew of six have produced intricate soups (fava bean bouillabaisse), salads (pomelo and watercress), and sandwiches for takeout and delivery, and opened limited dine-in service on a street patio. Now that the staff is fully vaccinated, Dirt Candy is scheduled to reopen for lunch and dinner on May 20. Starting on the 21st, the takeout/delivery menu will only be available during the day. Here’s what it costs to make the $14 spinach croque-monsieur: a slice of country loaf topped with spinach bechamel thinly sliced celeriac that’s been smoked and confited in olive oil shredded gruyere sauteed spinach more spinach bechamel grainy mustard another slice of bread, smothered with a third layer of spinach bechamel spinach puree and more shredded gruyere, all popped into the oven until the cheese is bubbling and browning, and topped with an egg sunny side up. It’s been a popular item on Dirt Candy’s pandemic menu, but it also requires a lot of hidden work.

Menu price: $14

Total cost to the restaurant: $14.80
Profit (pickup): -.80 (loss)
Profit (delivery): -$2.92 to -$2.48 (loss)
Profit (outdoor dining): .90 (profit)

Food Costs: $3.45

Bread: .48
Bechamel: .27
Gruyere: .71
Celeriac: .34
Spinach (sauteed): .30
Spinach puree: .03
Grainy mustard: .05
Fried egg: .14
Butter: .03
Cornichon: .01
Packaging: $1.10

Overall, the business averages 20.7 percent food cost. By outsourcing bread (“Pain D’Avignon makes it way better than I ever could”) and using expensive cheese sparingly, the ingredients for this dish manage to stay just over 16 percent. Until we include packaging, a current requirement for the takeout and delivery sales on which restaurants depend. The choice of an oval container, made of biodegradable and compostable sugarcane pulp, hurtles food costs upward to 24 percent.

But the cost to make any dish at a restaurant goes beyond the food itself. There’s also paying the people who cook and serve it, owning and maintaining the equipment that enables them to do so, and, also the space in which to do it all in the first place. The price on the menu reflects the costs of operating the business here’s how.

Labor Costs: $7

Since relocating in 2015, Dirt Candy has been one of the handful of full-service American restaurants to operate without tipping. Paying employees a livable wage, rather than allowing their earnings to be subsidized by tips, is expensive. Comparable restaurants typically operate at around 30 percent labor cost. Dirt Candy runs closer to 50 percent. Because of that, workers’ wages account for half of what customers spend on the dish.

Fixed Costs: $4.34

With the shrinking of revenue, fixed costs (rent, insurance, bank charges, POS, garbage, dishwasher, security, exterminator, hood cleaning, phone, and so on) as a percentage of sales have effectively doubled, from 15 percent to 31 percent. The $14,500 rent has not gone down. Meanwhile, there are new costs, like heating a patio. Dirt Candy’s electricity bill jumped from $2,000 in February 2020 to $6,000 for February 2021.

Third-Party Delivery and Takeout Costs

Despite all that, the croque-monsieur is almost profitable, until third-party delivery commissions. Companies charge different rates to different clients. For Grubhub/Seamless, it’s 13.05 percent plus 30 cents. That’s $2.12 on a $14 order. Instead of using Grubhub’s couriers for orders placed through its app, Dirt Candy uses Relay for delivery. Relay charges $5.50 per order, which is passed on to the customer.

For DoorDash/Caviar, it’s 20 percent for delivery, adding up to $2.80. For pickup orders, DoorDash charges 12 percent, which is $1.68.

If you order through ChowNow, which charges a flat fee of $149/month, there is no commission, so the restaurant holds on to more revenue. Like Grubhub, ChowNow uses Relay for delivery, with the $5.50 fee charged to the customer.

Profit or Loss

These numbers show Dirt Candy is currently operating at a loss when it comes to selling food. The croque-monsieur’s math applies across the Dirt Candy pandemic menu, except for cocktails, which do generate profit. Over the last year, between forgivable Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan grants, Dirt Candy has been subsidized with about 27 percent of the projected revenue for a healthy year. It is effectively operating at a loss, with help, until economic and safety conditions allow Cohen to operate the kind of business she wants to again.

Until then, if you call in your order and pick it up yourself, Dirt Candy only loses 80 cents on the croque-monsieur. Placed through Grubhub, it costs the restaurant $2.92, and with DoorDash, $2.48.

“I think about closing at least once a week,” says Cohen, who supports the restaurant through side gigs, and is committed to making it to the other side of this cataclysm. “I don’t think the story of Dirt Candy is over. I don’t think we have done everything we are capable of doing. We get better year after year and I am always excited to see what’s going to happen next.”

What’s next is coming soon: When Cohen reopens the restaurant for indoor dining on May 20, she is raising prices to better compensate the staff she feels she failed this past year. This is a clear step forward on an issue long discussed among restaurateurs, who have argued that to pay everyone well, menu prices have to jump to a level that may scare off customers. Cohen has calculated that increase at an additional $30 for the tasting menu. She’ll be one of the first American restaurant owners to find out if diners are willing to pay the true value of a meal for which workers are fairly compensated.

“If you paid any attention to food media in 2020 you would have walked away thinking it was the year of the worker,” says Cohen. “That was the year we called restaurant workers and delivery drivers essential. We called them heroes, over and over again. We said we had their backs. Right now is when we all have to put those words into action.”


Share All sharing options for: How a New York City Restaurant Loses Money on a $14 Sandwich

We often presume to understand restaurant economics because we know what a chicken breast costs at the supermarket. “I could make this dish at home for $5,” goes the refrain. Could we? Here, Eater looks at all the costs in a popular restaurant dish to see what goes into it, and how much profit comes out.

Like many restaurants, New York’s Dirt Candy was a different business before the pandemic. With a staff of 35, it served only a tasting menu (plus a half-dozen a la carte items available at the bar), guests leisurely eating courses of fennel tagine, seaweed caviar with creme fraiche, or beet yakitori. “The food [at] Dirt Candy doesn’t lend itself to delivery,” owner Amanda Cohen said in the spring of 2020, unsure when she’d be able to reopen. “We would’ve had to come up with a new menu.”

That’s exactly what she did. Since July 2020, Cohen and a much smaller crew of six have produced intricate soups (fava bean bouillabaisse), salads (pomelo and watercress), and sandwiches for takeout and delivery, and opened limited dine-in service on a street patio. Now that the staff is fully vaccinated, Dirt Candy is scheduled to reopen for lunch and dinner on May 20. Starting on the 21st, the takeout/delivery menu will only be available during the day. Here’s what it costs to make the $14 spinach croque-monsieur: a slice of country loaf topped with spinach bechamel thinly sliced celeriac that’s been smoked and confited in olive oil shredded gruyere sauteed spinach more spinach bechamel grainy mustard another slice of bread, smothered with a third layer of spinach bechamel spinach puree and more shredded gruyere, all popped into the oven until the cheese is bubbling and browning, and topped with an egg sunny side up. It’s been a popular item on Dirt Candy’s pandemic menu, but it also requires a lot of hidden work.

Menu price: $14

Total cost to the restaurant: $14.80
Profit (pickup): -.80 (loss)
Profit (delivery): -$2.92 to -$2.48 (loss)
Profit (outdoor dining): .90 (profit)

Food Costs: $3.45

Bread: .48
Bechamel: .27
Gruyere: .71
Celeriac: .34
Spinach (sauteed): .30
Spinach puree: .03
Grainy mustard: .05
Fried egg: .14
Butter: .03
Cornichon: .01
Packaging: $1.10

Overall, the business averages 20.7 percent food cost. By outsourcing bread (“Pain D’Avignon makes it way better than I ever could”) and using expensive cheese sparingly, the ingredients for this dish manage to stay just over 16 percent. Until we include packaging, a current requirement for the takeout and delivery sales on which restaurants depend. The choice of an oval container, made of biodegradable and compostable sugarcane pulp, hurtles food costs upward to 24 percent.

But the cost to make any dish at a restaurant goes beyond the food itself. There’s also paying the people who cook and serve it, owning and maintaining the equipment that enables them to do so, and, also the space in which to do it all in the first place. The price on the menu reflects the costs of operating the business here’s how.

Labor Costs: $7

Since relocating in 2015, Dirt Candy has been one of the handful of full-service American restaurants to operate without tipping. Paying employees a livable wage, rather than allowing their earnings to be subsidized by tips, is expensive. Comparable restaurants typically operate at around 30 percent labor cost. Dirt Candy runs closer to 50 percent. Because of that, workers’ wages account for half of what customers spend on the dish.

Fixed Costs: $4.34

With the shrinking of revenue, fixed costs (rent, insurance, bank charges, POS, garbage, dishwasher, security, exterminator, hood cleaning, phone, and so on) as a percentage of sales have effectively doubled, from 15 percent to 31 percent. The $14,500 rent has not gone down. Meanwhile, there are new costs, like heating a patio. Dirt Candy’s electricity bill jumped from $2,000 in February 2020 to $6,000 for February 2021.

Third-Party Delivery and Takeout Costs

Despite all that, the croque-monsieur is almost profitable, until third-party delivery commissions. Companies charge different rates to different clients. For Grubhub/Seamless, it’s 13.05 percent plus 30 cents. That’s $2.12 on a $14 order. Instead of using Grubhub’s couriers for orders placed through its app, Dirt Candy uses Relay for delivery. Relay charges $5.50 per order, which is passed on to the customer.

For DoorDash/Caviar, it’s 20 percent for delivery, adding up to $2.80. For pickup orders, DoorDash charges 12 percent, which is $1.68.

If you order through ChowNow, which charges a flat fee of $149/month, there is no commission, so the restaurant holds on to more revenue. Like Grubhub, ChowNow uses Relay for delivery, with the $5.50 fee charged to the customer.

Profit or Loss

These numbers show Dirt Candy is currently operating at a loss when it comes to selling food. The croque-monsieur’s math applies across the Dirt Candy pandemic menu, except for cocktails, which do generate profit. Over the last year, between forgivable Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan grants, Dirt Candy has been subsidized with about 27 percent of the projected revenue for a healthy year. It is effectively operating at a loss, with help, until economic and safety conditions allow Cohen to operate the kind of business she wants to again.

Until then, if you call in your order and pick it up yourself, Dirt Candy only loses 80 cents on the croque-monsieur. Placed through Grubhub, it costs the restaurant $2.92, and with DoorDash, $2.48.

“I think about closing at least once a week,” says Cohen, who supports the restaurant through side gigs, and is committed to making it to the other side of this cataclysm. “I don’t think the story of Dirt Candy is over. I don’t think we have done everything we are capable of doing. We get better year after year and I am always excited to see what’s going to happen next.”

What’s next is coming soon: When Cohen reopens the restaurant for indoor dining on May 20, she is raising prices to better compensate the staff she feels she failed this past year. This is a clear step forward on an issue long discussed among restaurateurs, who have argued that to pay everyone well, menu prices have to jump to a level that may scare off customers. Cohen has calculated that increase at an additional $30 for the tasting menu. She’ll be one of the first American restaurant owners to find out if diners are willing to pay the true value of a meal for which workers are fairly compensated.

“If you paid any attention to food media in 2020 you would have walked away thinking it was the year of the worker,” says Cohen. “That was the year we called restaurant workers and delivery drivers essential. We called them heroes, over and over again. We said we had their backs. Right now is when we all have to put those words into action.”


Share All sharing options for: How a New York City Restaurant Loses Money on a $14 Sandwich

We often presume to understand restaurant economics because we know what a chicken breast costs at the supermarket. “I could make this dish at home for $5,” goes the refrain. Could we? Here, Eater looks at all the costs in a popular restaurant dish to see what goes into it, and how much profit comes out.

Like many restaurants, New York’s Dirt Candy was a different business before the pandemic. With a staff of 35, it served only a tasting menu (plus a half-dozen a la carte items available at the bar), guests leisurely eating courses of fennel tagine, seaweed caviar with creme fraiche, or beet yakitori. “The food [at] Dirt Candy doesn’t lend itself to delivery,” owner Amanda Cohen said in the spring of 2020, unsure when she’d be able to reopen. “We would’ve had to come up with a new menu.”

That’s exactly what she did. Since July 2020, Cohen and a much smaller crew of six have produced intricate soups (fava bean bouillabaisse), salads (pomelo and watercress), and sandwiches for takeout and delivery, and opened limited dine-in service on a street patio. Now that the staff is fully vaccinated, Dirt Candy is scheduled to reopen for lunch and dinner on May 20. Starting on the 21st, the takeout/delivery menu will only be available during the day. Here’s what it costs to make the $14 spinach croque-monsieur: a slice of country loaf topped with spinach bechamel thinly sliced celeriac that’s been smoked and confited in olive oil shredded gruyere sauteed spinach more spinach bechamel grainy mustard another slice of bread, smothered with a third layer of spinach bechamel spinach puree and more shredded gruyere, all popped into the oven until the cheese is bubbling and browning, and topped with an egg sunny side up. It’s been a popular item on Dirt Candy’s pandemic menu, but it also requires a lot of hidden work.

Menu price: $14

Total cost to the restaurant: $14.80
Profit (pickup): -.80 (loss)
Profit (delivery): -$2.92 to -$2.48 (loss)
Profit (outdoor dining): .90 (profit)

Food Costs: $3.45

Bread: .48
Bechamel: .27
Gruyere: .71
Celeriac: .34
Spinach (sauteed): .30
Spinach puree: .03
Grainy mustard: .05
Fried egg: .14
Butter: .03
Cornichon: .01
Packaging: $1.10

Overall, the business averages 20.7 percent food cost. By outsourcing bread (“Pain D’Avignon makes it way better than I ever could”) and using expensive cheese sparingly, the ingredients for this dish manage to stay just over 16 percent. Until we include packaging, a current requirement for the takeout and delivery sales on which restaurants depend. The choice of an oval container, made of biodegradable and compostable sugarcane pulp, hurtles food costs upward to 24 percent.

But the cost to make any dish at a restaurant goes beyond the food itself. There’s also paying the people who cook and serve it, owning and maintaining the equipment that enables them to do so, and, also the space in which to do it all in the first place. The price on the menu reflects the costs of operating the business here’s how.

Labor Costs: $7

Since relocating in 2015, Dirt Candy has been one of the handful of full-service American restaurants to operate without tipping. Paying employees a livable wage, rather than allowing their earnings to be subsidized by tips, is expensive. Comparable restaurants typically operate at around 30 percent labor cost. Dirt Candy runs closer to 50 percent. Because of that, workers’ wages account for half of what customers spend on the dish.

Fixed Costs: $4.34

With the shrinking of revenue, fixed costs (rent, insurance, bank charges, POS, garbage, dishwasher, security, exterminator, hood cleaning, phone, and so on) as a percentage of sales have effectively doubled, from 15 percent to 31 percent. The $14,500 rent has not gone down. Meanwhile, there are new costs, like heating a patio. Dirt Candy’s electricity bill jumped from $2,000 in February 2020 to $6,000 for February 2021.

Third-Party Delivery and Takeout Costs

Despite all that, the croque-monsieur is almost profitable, until third-party delivery commissions. Companies charge different rates to different clients. For Grubhub/Seamless, it’s 13.05 percent plus 30 cents. That’s $2.12 on a $14 order. Instead of using Grubhub’s couriers for orders placed through its app, Dirt Candy uses Relay for delivery. Relay charges $5.50 per order, which is passed on to the customer.

For DoorDash/Caviar, it’s 20 percent for delivery, adding up to $2.80. For pickup orders, DoorDash charges 12 percent, which is $1.68.

If you order through ChowNow, which charges a flat fee of $149/month, there is no commission, so the restaurant holds on to more revenue. Like Grubhub, ChowNow uses Relay for delivery, with the $5.50 fee charged to the customer.

Profit or Loss

These numbers show Dirt Candy is currently operating at a loss when it comes to selling food. The croque-monsieur’s math applies across the Dirt Candy pandemic menu, except for cocktails, which do generate profit. Over the last year, between forgivable Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan grants, Dirt Candy has been subsidized with about 27 percent of the projected revenue for a healthy year. It is effectively operating at a loss, with help, until economic and safety conditions allow Cohen to operate the kind of business she wants to again.

Until then, if you call in your order and pick it up yourself, Dirt Candy only loses 80 cents on the croque-monsieur. Placed through Grubhub, it costs the restaurant $2.92, and with DoorDash, $2.48.

“I think about closing at least once a week,” says Cohen, who supports the restaurant through side gigs, and is committed to making it to the other side of this cataclysm. “I don’t think the story of Dirt Candy is over. I don’t think we have done everything we are capable of doing. We get better year after year and I am always excited to see what’s going to happen next.”

What’s next is coming soon: When Cohen reopens the restaurant for indoor dining on May 20, she is raising prices to better compensate the staff she feels she failed this past year. This is a clear step forward on an issue long discussed among restaurateurs, who have argued that to pay everyone well, menu prices have to jump to a level that may scare off customers. Cohen has calculated that increase at an additional $30 for the tasting menu. She’ll be one of the first American restaurant owners to find out if diners are willing to pay the true value of a meal for which workers are fairly compensated.

“If you paid any attention to food media in 2020 you would have walked away thinking it was the year of the worker,” says Cohen. “That was the year we called restaurant workers and delivery drivers essential. We called them heroes, over and over again. We said we had their backs. Right now is when we all have to put those words into action.”


Share All sharing options for: How a New York City Restaurant Loses Money on a $14 Sandwich

We often presume to understand restaurant economics because we know what a chicken breast costs at the supermarket. “I could make this dish at home for $5,” goes the refrain. Could we? Here, Eater looks at all the costs in a popular restaurant dish to see what goes into it, and how much profit comes out.

Like many restaurants, New York’s Dirt Candy was a different business before the pandemic. With a staff of 35, it served only a tasting menu (plus a half-dozen a la carte items available at the bar), guests leisurely eating courses of fennel tagine, seaweed caviar with creme fraiche, or beet yakitori. “The food [at] Dirt Candy doesn’t lend itself to delivery,” owner Amanda Cohen said in the spring of 2020, unsure when she’d be able to reopen. “We would’ve had to come up with a new menu.”

That’s exactly what she did. Since July 2020, Cohen and a much smaller crew of six have produced intricate soups (fava bean bouillabaisse), salads (pomelo and watercress), and sandwiches for takeout and delivery, and opened limited dine-in service on a street patio. Now that the staff is fully vaccinated, Dirt Candy is scheduled to reopen for lunch and dinner on May 20. Starting on the 21st, the takeout/delivery menu will only be available during the day. Here’s what it costs to make the $14 spinach croque-monsieur: a slice of country loaf topped with spinach bechamel thinly sliced celeriac that’s been smoked and confited in olive oil shredded gruyere sauteed spinach more spinach bechamel grainy mustard another slice of bread, smothered with a third layer of spinach bechamel spinach puree and more shredded gruyere, all popped into the oven until the cheese is bubbling and browning, and topped with an egg sunny side up. It’s been a popular item on Dirt Candy’s pandemic menu, but it also requires a lot of hidden work.

Menu price: $14

Total cost to the restaurant: $14.80
Profit (pickup): -.80 (loss)
Profit (delivery): -$2.92 to -$2.48 (loss)
Profit (outdoor dining): .90 (profit)

Food Costs: $3.45

Bread: .48
Bechamel: .27
Gruyere: .71
Celeriac: .34
Spinach (sauteed): .30
Spinach puree: .03
Grainy mustard: .05
Fried egg: .14
Butter: .03
Cornichon: .01
Packaging: $1.10

Overall, the business averages 20.7 percent food cost. By outsourcing bread (“Pain D’Avignon makes it way better than I ever could”) and using expensive cheese sparingly, the ingredients for this dish manage to stay just over 16 percent. Until we include packaging, a current requirement for the takeout and delivery sales on which restaurants depend. The choice of an oval container, made of biodegradable and compostable sugarcane pulp, hurtles food costs upward to 24 percent.

But the cost to make any dish at a restaurant goes beyond the food itself. There’s also paying the people who cook and serve it, owning and maintaining the equipment that enables them to do so, and, also the space in which to do it all in the first place. The price on the menu reflects the costs of operating the business here’s how.

Labor Costs: $7

Since relocating in 2015, Dirt Candy has been one of the handful of full-service American restaurants to operate without tipping. Paying employees a livable wage, rather than allowing their earnings to be subsidized by tips, is expensive. Comparable restaurants typically operate at around 30 percent labor cost. Dirt Candy runs closer to 50 percent. Because of that, workers’ wages account for half of what customers spend on the dish.

Fixed Costs: $4.34

With the shrinking of revenue, fixed costs (rent, insurance, bank charges, POS, garbage, dishwasher, security, exterminator, hood cleaning, phone, and so on) as a percentage of sales have effectively doubled, from 15 percent to 31 percent. The $14,500 rent has not gone down. Meanwhile, there are new costs, like heating a patio. Dirt Candy’s electricity bill jumped from $2,000 in February 2020 to $6,000 for February 2021.

Third-Party Delivery and Takeout Costs

Despite all that, the croque-monsieur is almost profitable, until third-party delivery commissions. Companies charge different rates to different clients. For Grubhub/Seamless, it’s 13.05 percent plus 30 cents. That’s $2.12 on a $14 order. Instead of using Grubhub’s couriers for orders placed through its app, Dirt Candy uses Relay for delivery. Relay charges $5.50 per order, which is passed on to the customer.

For DoorDash/Caviar, it’s 20 percent for delivery, adding up to $2.80. For pickup orders, DoorDash charges 12 percent, which is $1.68.

If you order through ChowNow, which charges a flat fee of $149/month, there is no commission, so the restaurant holds on to more revenue. Like Grubhub, ChowNow uses Relay for delivery, with the $5.50 fee charged to the customer.

Profit or Loss

These numbers show Dirt Candy is currently operating at a loss when it comes to selling food. The croque-monsieur’s math applies across the Dirt Candy pandemic menu, except for cocktails, which do generate profit. Over the last year, between forgivable Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan grants, Dirt Candy has been subsidized with about 27 percent of the projected revenue for a healthy year. It is effectively operating at a loss, with help, until economic and safety conditions allow Cohen to operate the kind of business she wants to again.

Until then, if you call in your order and pick it up yourself, Dirt Candy only loses 80 cents on the croque-monsieur. Placed through Grubhub, it costs the restaurant $2.92, and with DoorDash, $2.48.

“I think about closing at least once a week,” says Cohen, who supports the restaurant through side gigs, and is committed to making it to the other side of this cataclysm. “I don’t think the story of Dirt Candy is over. I don’t think we have done everything we are capable of doing. We get better year after year and I am always excited to see what’s going to happen next.”

What’s next is coming soon: When Cohen reopens the restaurant for indoor dining on May 20, she is raising prices to better compensate the staff she feels she failed this past year. This is a clear step forward on an issue long discussed among restaurateurs, who have argued that to pay everyone well, menu prices have to jump to a level that may scare off customers. Cohen has calculated that increase at an additional $30 for the tasting menu. She’ll be one of the first American restaurant owners to find out if diners are willing to pay the true value of a meal for which workers are fairly compensated.

“If you paid any attention to food media in 2020 you would have walked away thinking it was the year of the worker,” says Cohen. “That was the year we called restaurant workers and delivery drivers essential. We called them heroes, over and over again. We said we had their backs. Right now is when we all have to put those words into action.”


Share All sharing options for: How a New York City Restaurant Loses Money on a $14 Sandwich

We often presume to understand restaurant economics because we know what a chicken breast costs at the supermarket. “I could make this dish at home for $5,” goes the refrain. Could we? Here, Eater looks at all the costs in a popular restaurant dish to see what goes into it, and how much profit comes out.

Like many restaurants, New York’s Dirt Candy was a different business before the pandemic. With a staff of 35, it served only a tasting menu (plus a half-dozen a la carte items available at the bar), guests leisurely eating courses of fennel tagine, seaweed caviar with creme fraiche, or beet yakitori. “The food [at] Dirt Candy doesn’t lend itself to delivery,” owner Amanda Cohen said in the spring of 2020, unsure when she’d be able to reopen. “We would’ve had to come up with a new menu.”

That’s exactly what she did. Since July 2020, Cohen and a much smaller crew of six have produced intricate soups (fava bean bouillabaisse), salads (pomelo and watercress), and sandwiches for takeout and delivery, and opened limited dine-in service on a street patio. Now that the staff is fully vaccinated, Dirt Candy is scheduled to reopen for lunch and dinner on May 20. Starting on the 21st, the takeout/delivery menu will only be available during the day. Here’s what it costs to make the $14 spinach croque-monsieur: a slice of country loaf topped with spinach bechamel thinly sliced celeriac that’s been smoked and confited in olive oil shredded gruyere sauteed spinach more spinach bechamel grainy mustard another slice of bread, smothered with a third layer of spinach bechamel spinach puree and more shredded gruyere, all popped into the oven until the cheese is bubbling and browning, and topped with an egg sunny side up. It’s been a popular item on Dirt Candy’s pandemic menu, but it also requires a lot of hidden work.

Menu price: $14

Total cost to the restaurant: $14.80
Profit (pickup): -.80 (loss)
Profit (delivery): -$2.92 to -$2.48 (loss)
Profit (outdoor dining): .90 (profit)

Food Costs: $3.45

Bread: .48
Bechamel: .27
Gruyere: .71
Celeriac: .34
Spinach (sauteed): .30
Spinach puree: .03
Grainy mustard: .05
Fried egg: .14
Butter: .03
Cornichon: .01
Packaging: $1.10

Overall, the business averages 20.7 percent food cost. By outsourcing bread (“Pain D’Avignon makes it way better than I ever could”) and using expensive cheese sparingly, the ingredients for this dish manage to stay just over 16 percent. Until we include packaging, a current requirement for the takeout and delivery sales on which restaurants depend. The choice of an oval container, made of biodegradable and compostable sugarcane pulp, hurtles food costs upward to 24 percent.

But the cost to make any dish at a restaurant goes beyond the food itself. There’s also paying the people who cook and serve it, owning and maintaining the equipment that enables them to do so, and, also the space in which to do it all in the first place. The price on the menu reflects the costs of operating the business here’s how.

Labor Costs: $7

Since relocating in 2015, Dirt Candy has been one of the handful of full-service American restaurants to operate without tipping. Paying employees a livable wage, rather than allowing their earnings to be subsidized by tips, is expensive. Comparable restaurants typically operate at around 30 percent labor cost. Dirt Candy runs closer to 50 percent. Because of that, workers’ wages account for half of what customers spend on the dish.

Fixed Costs: $4.34

With the shrinking of revenue, fixed costs (rent, insurance, bank charges, POS, garbage, dishwasher, security, exterminator, hood cleaning, phone, and so on) as a percentage of sales have effectively doubled, from 15 percent to 31 percent. The $14,500 rent has not gone down. Meanwhile, there are new costs, like heating a patio. Dirt Candy’s electricity bill jumped from $2,000 in February 2020 to $6,000 for February 2021.

Third-Party Delivery and Takeout Costs

Despite all that, the croque-monsieur is almost profitable, until third-party delivery commissions. Companies charge different rates to different clients. For Grubhub/Seamless, it’s 13.05 percent plus 30 cents. That’s $2.12 on a $14 order. Instead of using Grubhub’s couriers for orders placed through its app, Dirt Candy uses Relay for delivery. Relay charges $5.50 per order, which is passed on to the customer.

For DoorDash/Caviar, it’s 20 percent for delivery, adding up to $2.80. For pickup orders, DoorDash charges 12 percent, which is $1.68.

If you order through ChowNow, which charges a flat fee of $149/month, there is no commission, so the restaurant holds on to more revenue. Like Grubhub, ChowNow uses Relay for delivery, with the $5.50 fee charged to the customer.

Profit or Loss

These numbers show Dirt Candy is currently operating at a loss when it comes to selling food. The croque-monsieur’s math applies across the Dirt Candy pandemic menu, except for cocktails, which do generate profit. Over the last year, between forgivable Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan grants, Dirt Candy has been subsidized with about 27 percent of the projected revenue for a healthy year. It is effectively operating at a loss, with help, until economic and safety conditions allow Cohen to operate the kind of business she wants to again.

Until then, if you call in your order and pick it up yourself, Dirt Candy only loses 80 cents on the croque-monsieur. Placed through Grubhub, it costs the restaurant $2.92, and with DoorDash, $2.48.

“I think about closing at least once a week,” says Cohen, who supports the restaurant through side gigs, and is committed to making it to the other side of this cataclysm. “I don’t think the story of Dirt Candy is over. I don’t think we have done everything we are capable of doing. We get better year after year and I am always excited to see what’s going to happen next.”

What’s next is coming soon: When Cohen reopens the restaurant for indoor dining on May 20, she is raising prices to better compensate the staff she feels she failed this past year. This is a clear step forward on an issue long discussed among restaurateurs, who have argued that to pay everyone well, menu prices have to jump to a level that may scare off customers. Cohen has calculated that increase at an additional $30 for the tasting menu. She’ll be one of the first American restaurant owners to find out if diners are willing to pay the true value of a meal for which workers are fairly compensated.

“If you paid any attention to food media in 2020 you would have walked away thinking it was the year of the worker,” says Cohen. “That was the year we called restaurant workers and delivery drivers essential. We called them heroes, over and over again. We said we had their backs. Right now is when we all have to put those words into action.”


Share All sharing options for: How a New York City Restaurant Loses Money on a $14 Sandwich

We often presume to understand restaurant economics because we know what a chicken breast costs at the supermarket. “I could make this dish at home for $5,” goes the refrain. Could we? Here, Eater looks at all the costs in a popular restaurant dish to see what goes into it, and how much profit comes out.

Like many restaurants, New York’s Dirt Candy was a different business before the pandemic. With a staff of 35, it served only a tasting menu (plus a half-dozen a la carte items available at the bar), guests leisurely eating courses of fennel tagine, seaweed caviar with creme fraiche, or beet yakitori. “The food [at] Dirt Candy doesn’t lend itself to delivery,” owner Amanda Cohen said in the spring of 2020, unsure when she’d be able to reopen. “We would’ve had to come up with a new menu.”

That’s exactly what she did. Since July 2020, Cohen and a much smaller crew of six have produced intricate soups (fava bean bouillabaisse), salads (pomelo and watercress), and sandwiches for takeout and delivery, and opened limited dine-in service on a street patio. Now that the staff is fully vaccinated, Dirt Candy is scheduled to reopen for lunch and dinner on May 20. Starting on the 21st, the takeout/delivery menu will only be available during the day. Here’s what it costs to make the $14 spinach croque-monsieur: a slice of country loaf topped with spinach bechamel thinly sliced celeriac that’s been smoked and confited in olive oil shredded gruyere sauteed spinach more spinach bechamel grainy mustard another slice of bread, smothered with a third layer of spinach bechamel spinach puree and more shredded gruyere, all popped into the oven until the cheese is bubbling and browning, and topped with an egg sunny side up. It’s been a popular item on Dirt Candy’s pandemic menu, but it also requires a lot of hidden work.

Menu price: $14

Total cost to the restaurant: $14.80
Profit (pickup): -.80 (loss)
Profit (delivery): -$2.92 to -$2.48 (loss)
Profit (outdoor dining): .90 (profit)

Food Costs: $3.45

Bread: .48
Bechamel: .27
Gruyere: .71
Celeriac: .34
Spinach (sauteed): .30
Spinach puree: .03
Grainy mustard: .05
Fried egg: .14
Butter: .03
Cornichon: .01
Packaging: $1.10

Overall, the business averages 20.7 percent food cost. By outsourcing bread (“Pain D’Avignon makes it way better than I ever could”) and using expensive cheese sparingly, the ingredients for this dish manage to stay just over 16 percent. Until we include packaging, a current requirement for the takeout and delivery sales on which restaurants depend. The choice of an oval container, made of biodegradable and compostable sugarcane pulp, hurtles food costs upward to 24 percent.

But the cost to make any dish at a restaurant goes beyond the food itself. There’s also paying the people who cook and serve it, owning and maintaining the equipment that enables them to do so, and, also the space in which to do it all in the first place. The price on the menu reflects the costs of operating the business here’s how.

Labor Costs: $7

Since relocating in 2015, Dirt Candy has been one of the handful of full-service American restaurants to operate without tipping. Paying employees a livable wage, rather than allowing their earnings to be subsidized by tips, is expensive. Comparable restaurants typically operate at around 30 percent labor cost. Dirt Candy runs closer to 50 percent. Because of that, workers’ wages account for half of what customers spend on the dish.

Fixed Costs: $4.34

With the shrinking of revenue, fixed costs (rent, insurance, bank charges, POS, garbage, dishwasher, security, exterminator, hood cleaning, phone, and so on) as a percentage of sales have effectively doubled, from 15 percent to 31 percent. The $14,500 rent has not gone down. Meanwhile, there are new costs, like heating a patio. Dirt Candy’s electricity bill jumped from $2,000 in February 2020 to $6,000 for February 2021.

Third-Party Delivery and Takeout Costs

Despite all that, the croque-monsieur is almost profitable, until third-party delivery commissions. Companies charge different rates to different clients. For Grubhub/Seamless, it’s 13.05 percent plus 30 cents. That’s $2.12 on a $14 order. Instead of using Grubhub’s couriers for orders placed through its app, Dirt Candy uses Relay for delivery. Relay charges $5.50 per order, which is passed on to the customer.

For DoorDash/Caviar, it’s 20 percent for delivery, adding up to $2.80. For pickup orders, DoorDash charges 12 percent, which is $1.68.

If you order through ChowNow, which charges a flat fee of $149/month, there is no commission, so the restaurant holds on to more revenue. Like Grubhub, ChowNow uses Relay for delivery, with the $5.50 fee charged to the customer.

Profit or Loss

These numbers show Dirt Candy is currently operating at a loss when it comes to selling food. The croque-monsieur’s math applies across the Dirt Candy pandemic menu, except for cocktails, which do generate profit. Over the last year, between forgivable Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan grants, Dirt Candy has been subsidized with about 27 percent of the projected revenue for a healthy year. It is effectively operating at a loss, with help, until economic and safety conditions allow Cohen to operate the kind of business she wants to again.

Until then, if you call in your order and pick it up yourself, Dirt Candy only loses 80 cents on the croque-monsieur. Placed through Grubhub, it costs the restaurant $2.92, and with DoorDash, $2.48.

“I think about closing at least once a week,” says Cohen, who supports the restaurant through side gigs, and is committed to making it to the other side of this cataclysm. “I don’t think the story of Dirt Candy is over. I don’t think we have done everything we are capable of doing. We get better year after year and I am always excited to see what’s going to happen next.”

What’s next is coming soon: When Cohen reopens the restaurant for indoor dining on May 20, she is raising prices to better compensate the staff she feels she failed this past year. This is a clear step forward on an issue long discussed among restaurateurs, who have argued that to pay everyone well, menu prices have to jump to a level that may scare off customers. Cohen has calculated that increase at an additional $30 for the tasting menu. She’ll be one of the first American restaurant owners to find out if diners are willing to pay the true value of a meal for which workers are fairly compensated.

“If you paid any attention to food media in 2020 you would have walked away thinking it was the year of the worker,” says Cohen. “That was the year we called restaurant workers and delivery drivers essential. We called them heroes, over and over again. We said we had their backs. Right now is when we all have to put those words into action.”


Share All sharing options for: How a New York City Restaurant Loses Money on a $14 Sandwich

We often presume to understand restaurant economics because we know what a chicken breast costs at the supermarket. “I could make this dish at home for $5,” goes the refrain. Could we? Here, Eater looks at all the costs in a popular restaurant dish to see what goes into it, and how much profit comes out.

Like many restaurants, New York’s Dirt Candy was a different business before the pandemic. With a staff of 35, it served only a tasting menu (plus a half-dozen a la carte items available at the bar), guests leisurely eating courses of fennel tagine, seaweed caviar with creme fraiche, or beet yakitori. “The food [at] Dirt Candy doesn’t lend itself to delivery,” owner Amanda Cohen said in the spring of 2020, unsure when she’d be able to reopen. “We would’ve had to come up with a new menu.”

That’s exactly what she did. Since July 2020, Cohen and a much smaller crew of six have produced intricate soups (fava bean bouillabaisse), salads (pomelo and watercress), and sandwiches for takeout and delivery, and opened limited dine-in service on a street patio. Now that the staff is fully vaccinated, Dirt Candy is scheduled to reopen for lunch and dinner on May 20. Starting on the 21st, the takeout/delivery menu will only be available during the day. Here’s what it costs to make the $14 spinach croque-monsieur: a slice of country loaf topped with spinach bechamel thinly sliced celeriac that’s been smoked and confited in olive oil shredded gruyere sauteed spinach more spinach bechamel grainy mustard another slice of bread, smothered with a third layer of spinach bechamel spinach puree and more shredded gruyere, all popped into the oven until the cheese is bubbling and browning, and topped with an egg sunny side up. It’s been a popular item on Dirt Candy’s pandemic menu, but it also requires a lot of hidden work.

Menu price: $14

Total cost to the restaurant: $14.80
Profit (pickup): -.80 (loss)
Profit (delivery): -$2.92 to -$2.48 (loss)
Profit (outdoor dining): .90 (profit)

Food Costs: $3.45

Bread: .48
Bechamel: .27
Gruyere: .71
Celeriac: .34
Spinach (sauteed): .30
Spinach puree: .03
Grainy mustard: .05
Fried egg: .14
Butter: .03
Cornichon: .01
Packaging: $1.10

Overall, the business averages 20.7 percent food cost. By outsourcing bread (“Pain D’Avignon makes it way better than I ever could”) and using expensive cheese sparingly, the ingredients for this dish manage to stay just over 16 percent. Until we include packaging, a current requirement for the takeout and delivery sales on which restaurants depend. The choice of an oval container, made of biodegradable and compostable sugarcane pulp, hurtles food costs upward to 24 percent.

But the cost to make any dish at a restaurant goes beyond the food itself. There’s also paying the people who cook and serve it, owning and maintaining the equipment that enables them to do so, and, also the space in which to do it all in the first place. The price on the menu reflects the costs of operating the business here’s how.

Labor Costs: $7

Since relocating in 2015, Dirt Candy has been one of the handful of full-service American restaurants to operate without tipping. Paying employees a livable wage, rather than allowing their earnings to be subsidized by tips, is expensive. Comparable restaurants typically operate at around 30 percent labor cost. Dirt Candy runs closer to 50 percent. Because of that, workers’ wages account for half of what customers spend on the dish.

Fixed Costs: $4.34

With the shrinking of revenue, fixed costs (rent, insurance, bank charges, POS, garbage, dishwasher, security, exterminator, hood cleaning, phone, and so on) as a percentage of sales have effectively doubled, from 15 percent to 31 percent. The $14,500 rent has not gone down. Meanwhile, there are new costs, like heating a patio. Dirt Candy’s electricity bill jumped from $2,000 in February 2020 to $6,000 for February 2021.

Third-Party Delivery and Takeout Costs

Despite all that, the croque-monsieur is almost profitable, until third-party delivery commissions. Companies charge different rates to different clients. For Grubhub/Seamless, it’s 13.05 percent plus 30 cents. That’s $2.12 on a $14 order. Instead of using Grubhub’s couriers for orders placed through its app, Dirt Candy uses Relay for delivery. Relay charges $5.50 per order, which is passed on to the customer.

For DoorDash/Caviar, it’s 20 percent for delivery, adding up to $2.80. For pickup orders, DoorDash charges 12 percent, which is $1.68.

If you order through ChowNow, which charges a flat fee of $149/month, there is no commission, so the restaurant holds on to more revenue. Like Grubhub, ChowNow uses Relay for delivery, with the $5.50 fee charged to the customer.

Profit or Loss

These numbers show Dirt Candy is currently operating at a loss when it comes to selling food. The croque-monsieur’s math applies across the Dirt Candy pandemic menu, except for cocktails, which do generate profit. Over the last year, between forgivable Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan grants, Dirt Candy has been subsidized with about 27 percent of the projected revenue for a healthy year. It is effectively operating at a loss, with help, until economic and safety conditions allow Cohen to operate the kind of business she wants to again.

Until then, if you call in your order and pick it up yourself, Dirt Candy only loses 80 cents on the croque-monsieur. Placed through Grubhub, it costs the restaurant $2.92, and with DoorDash, $2.48.

“I think about closing at least once a week,” says Cohen, who supports the restaurant through side gigs, and is committed to making it to the other side of this cataclysm. “I don’t think the story of Dirt Candy is over. I don’t think we have done everything we are capable of doing. We get better year after year and I am always excited to see what’s going to happen next.”

What’s next is coming soon: When Cohen reopens the restaurant for indoor dining on May 20, she is raising prices to better compensate the staff she feels she failed this past year. This is a clear step forward on an issue long discussed among restaurateurs, who have argued that to pay everyone well, menu prices have to jump to a level that may scare off customers. Cohen has calculated that increase at an additional $30 for the tasting menu. She’ll be one of the first American restaurant owners to find out if diners are willing to pay the true value of a meal for which workers are fairly compensated.

“If you paid any attention to food media in 2020 you would have walked away thinking it was the year of the worker,” says Cohen. “That was the year we called restaurant workers and delivery drivers essential. We called them heroes, over and over again. We said we had their backs. Right now is when we all have to put those words into action.”


Share All sharing options for: How a New York City Restaurant Loses Money on a $14 Sandwich

We often presume to understand restaurant economics because we know what a chicken breast costs at the supermarket. “I could make this dish at home for $5,” goes the refrain. Could we? Here, Eater looks at all the costs in a popular restaurant dish to see what goes into it, and how much profit comes out.

Like many restaurants, New York’s Dirt Candy was a different business before the pandemic. With a staff of 35, it served only a tasting menu (plus a half-dozen a la carte items available at the bar), guests leisurely eating courses of fennel tagine, seaweed caviar with creme fraiche, or beet yakitori. “The food [at] Dirt Candy doesn’t lend itself to delivery,” owner Amanda Cohen said in the spring of 2020, unsure when she’d be able to reopen. “We would’ve had to come up with a new menu.”

That’s exactly what she did. Since July 2020, Cohen and a much smaller crew of six have produced intricate soups (fava bean bouillabaisse), salads (pomelo and watercress), and sandwiches for takeout and delivery, and opened limited dine-in service on a street patio. Now that the staff is fully vaccinated, Dirt Candy is scheduled to reopen for lunch and dinner on May 20. Starting on the 21st, the takeout/delivery menu will only be available during the day. Here’s what it costs to make the $14 spinach croque-monsieur: a slice of country loaf topped with spinach bechamel thinly sliced celeriac that’s been smoked and confited in olive oil shredded gruyere sauteed spinach more spinach bechamel grainy mustard another slice of bread, smothered with a third layer of spinach bechamel spinach puree and more shredded gruyere, all popped into the oven until the cheese is bubbling and browning, and topped with an egg sunny side up. It’s been a popular item on Dirt Candy’s pandemic menu, but it also requires a lot of hidden work.

Menu price: $14

Total cost to the restaurant: $14.80
Profit (pickup): -.80 (loss)
Profit (delivery): -$2.92 to -$2.48 (loss)
Profit (outdoor dining): .90 (profit)

Food Costs: $3.45

Bread: .48
Bechamel: .27
Gruyere: .71
Celeriac: .34
Spinach (sauteed): .30
Spinach puree: .03
Grainy mustard: .05
Fried egg: .14
Butter: .03
Cornichon: .01
Packaging: $1.10

Overall, the business averages 20.7 percent food cost. By outsourcing bread (“Pain D’Avignon makes it way better than I ever could”) and using expensive cheese sparingly, the ingredients for this dish manage to stay just over 16 percent. Until we include packaging, a current requirement for the takeout and delivery sales on which restaurants depend. The choice of an oval container, made of biodegradable and compostable sugarcane pulp, hurtles food costs upward to 24 percent.

But the cost to make any dish at a restaurant goes beyond the food itself. There’s also paying the people who cook and serve it, owning and maintaining the equipment that enables them to do so, and, also the space in which to do it all in the first place. The price on the menu reflects the costs of operating the business here’s how.

Labor Costs: $7

Since relocating in 2015, Dirt Candy has been one of the handful of full-service American restaurants to operate without tipping. Paying employees a livable wage, rather than allowing their earnings to be subsidized by tips, is expensive. Comparable restaurants typically operate at around 30 percent labor cost. Dirt Candy runs closer to 50 percent. Because of that, workers’ wages account for half of what customers spend on the dish.

Fixed Costs: $4.34

With the shrinking of revenue, fixed costs (rent, insurance, bank charges, POS, garbage, dishwasher, security, exterminator, hood cleaning, phone, and so on) as a percentage of sales have effectively doubled, from 15 percent to 31 percent. The $14,500 rent has not gone down. Meanwhile, there are new costs, like heating a patio. Dirt Candy’s electricity bill jumped from $2,000 in February 2020 to $6,000 for February 2021.

Third-Party Delivery and Takeout Costs

Despite all that, the croque-monsieur is almost profitable, until third-party delivery commissions. Companies charge different rates to different clients. For Grubhub/Seamless, it’s 13.05 percent plus 30 cents. That’s $2.12 on a $14 order. Instead of using Grubhub’s couriers for orders placed through its app, Dirt Candy uses Relay for delivery. Relay charges $5.50 per order, which is passed on to the customer.

For DoorDash/Caviar, it’s 20 percent for delivery, adding up to $2.80. For pickup orders, DoorDash charges 12 percent, which is $1.68.

If you order through ChowNow, which charges a flat fee of $149/month, there is no commission, so the restaurant holds on to more revenue. Like Grubhub, ChowNow uses Relay for delivery, with the $5.50 fee charged to the customer.

Profit or Loss

These numbers show Dirt Candy is currently operating at a loss when it comes to selling food. The croque-monsieur’s math applies across the Dirt Candy pandemic menu, except for cocktails, which do generate profit. Over the last year, between forgivable Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan grants, Dirt Candy has been subsidized with about 27 percent of the projected revenue for a healthy year. It is effectively operating at a loss, with help, until economic and safety conditions allow Cohen to operate the kind of business she wants to again.

Until then, if you call in your order and pick it up yourself, Dirt Candy only loses 80 cents on the croque-monsieur. Placed through Grubhub, it costs the restaurant $2.92, and with DoorDash, $2.48.

“I think about closing at least once a week,” says Cohen, who supports the restaurant through side gigs, and is committed to making it to the other side of this cataclysm. “I don’t think the story of Dirt Candy is over. I don’t think we have done everything we are capable of doing. We get better year after year and I am always excited to see what’s going to happen next.”

What’s next is coming soon: When Cohen reopens the restaurant for indoor dining on May 20, she is raising prices to better compensate the staff she feels she failed this past year. This is a clear step forward on an issue long discussed among restaurateurs, who have argued that to pay everyone well, menu prices have to jump to a level that may scare off customers. Cohen has calculated that increase at an additional $30 for the tasting menu. She’ll be one of the first American restaurant owners to find out if diners are willing to pay the true value of a meal for which workers are fairly compensated.

“If you paid any attention to food media in 2020 you would have walked away thinking it was the year of the worker,” says Cohen. “That was the year we called restaurant workers and delivery drivers essential. We called them heroes, over and over again. We said we had their backs. Right now is when we all have to put those words into action.”


Share All sharing options for: How a New York City Restaurant Loses Money on a $14 Sandwich

We often presume to understand restaurant economics because we know what a chicken breast costs at the supermarket. “I could make this dish at home for $5,” goes the refrain. Could we? Here, Eater looks at all the costs in a popular restaurant dish to see what goes into it, and how much profit comes out.

Like many restaurants, New York’s Dirt Candy was a different business before the pandemic. With a staff of 35, it served only a tasting menu (plus a half-dozen a la carte items available at the bar), guests leisurely eating courses of fennel tagine, seaweed caviar with creme fraiche, or beet yakitori. “The food [at] Dirt Candy doesn’t lend itself to delivery,” owner Amanda Cohen said in the spring of 2020, unsure when she’d be able to reopen. “We would’ve had to come up with a new menu.”

That’s exactly what she did. Since July 2020, Cohen and a much smaller crew of six have produced intricate soups (fava bean bouillabaisse), salads (pomelo and watercress), and sandwiches for takeout and delivery, and opened limited dine-in service on a street patio. Now that the staff is fully vaccinated, Dirt Candy is scheduled to reopen for lunch and dinner on May 20. Starting on the 21st, the takeout/delivery menu will only be available during the day. Here’s what it costs to make the $14 spinach croque-monsieur: a slice of country loaf topped with spinach bechamel thinly sliced celeriac that’s been smoked and confited in olive oil shredded gruyere sauteed spinach more spinach bechamel grainy mustard another slice of bread, smothered with a third layer of spinach bechamel spinach puree and more shredded gruyere, all popped into the oven until the cheese is bubbling and browning, and topped with an egg sunny side up. It’s been a popular item on Dirt Candy’s pandemic menu, but it also requires a lot of hidden work.

Menu price: $14

Total cost to the restaurant: $14.80
Profit (pickup): -.80 (loss)
Profit (delivery): -$2.92 to -$2.48 (loss)
Profit (outdoor dining): .90 (profit)

Food Costs: $3.45

Bread: .48
Bechamel: .27
Gruyere: .71
Celeriac: .34
Spinach (sauteed): .30
Spinach puree: .03
Grainy mustard: .05
Fried egg: .14
Butter: .03
Cornichon: .01
Packaging: $1.10

Overall, the business averages 20.7 percent food cost. By outsourcing bread (“Pain D’Avignon makes it way better than I ever could”) and using expensive cheese sparingly, the ingredients for this dish manage to stay just over 16 percent. Until we include packaging, a current requirement for the takeout and delivery sales on which restaurants depend. The choice of an oval container, made of biodegradable and compostable sugarcane pulp, hurtles food costs upward to 24 percent.

But the cost to make any dish at a restaurant goes beyond the food itself. There’s also paying the people who cook and serve it, owning and maintaining the equipment that enables them to do so, and, also the space in which to do it all in the first place. The price on the menu reflects the costs of operating the business here’s how.

Labor Costs: $7

Since relocating in 2015, Dirt Candy has been one of the handful of full-service American restaurants to operate without tipping. Paying employees a livable wage, rather than allowing their earnings to be subsidized by tips, is expensive. Comparable restaurants typically operate at around 30 percent labor cost. Dirt Candy runs closer to 50 percent. Because of that, workers’ wages account for half of what customers spend on the dish.

Fixed Costs: $4.34

With the shrinking of revenue, fixed costs (rent, insurance, bank charges, POS, garbage, dishwasher, security, exterminator, hood cleaning, phone, and so on) as a percentage of sales have effectively doubled, from 15 percent to 31 percent. The $14,500 rent has not gone down. Meanwhile, there are new costs, like heating a patio. Dirt Candy’s electricity bill jumped from $2,000 in February 2020 to $6,000 for February 2021.

Third-Party Delivery and Takeout Costs

Despite all that, the croque-monsieur is almost profitable, until third-party delivery commissions. Companies charge different rates to different clients. For Grubhub/Seamless, it’s 13.05 percent plus 30 cents. That’s $2.12 on a $14 order. Instead of using Grubhub’s couriers for orders placed through its app, Dirt Candy uses Relay for delivery. Relay charges $5.50 per order, which is passed on to the customer.

For DoorDash/Caviar, it’s 20 percent for delivery, adding up to $2.80. For pickup orders, DoorDash charges 12 percent, which is $1.68.

If you order through ChowNow, which charges a flat fee of $149/month, there is no commission, so the restaurant holds on to more revenue. Like Grubhub, ChowNow uses Relay for delivery, with the $5.50 fee charged to the customer.

Profit or Loss

These numbers show Dirt Candy is currently operating at a loss when it comes to selling food. The croque-monsieur’s math applies across the Dirt Candy pandemic menu, except for cocktails, which do generate profit. Over the last year, between forgivable Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan grants, Dirt Candy has been subsidized with about 27 percent of the projected revenue for a healthy year. It is effectively operating at a loss, with help, until economic and safety conditions allow Cohen to operate the kind of business she wants to again.

Until then, if you call in your order and pick it up yourself, Dirt Candy only loses 80 cents on the croque-monsieur. Placed through Grubhub, it costs the restaurant $2.92, and with DoorDash, $2.48.

“I think about closing at least once a week,” says Cohen, who supports the restaurant through side gigs, and is committed to making it to the other side of this cataclysm. “I don’t think the story of Dirt Candy is over. I don’t think we have done everything we are capable of doing. We get better year after year and I am always excited to see what’s going to happen next.”

What’s next is coming soon: When Cohen reopens the restaurant for indoor dining on May 20, she is raising prices to better compensate the staff she feels she failed this past year. This is a clear step forward on an issue long discussed among restaurateurs, who have argued that to pay everyone well, menu prices have to jump to a level that may scare off customers. Cohen has calculated that increase at an additional $30 for the tasting menu. She’ll be one of the first American restaurant owners to find out if diners are willing to pay the true value of a meal for which workers are fairly compensated.

“If you paid any attention to food media in 2020 you would have walked away thinking it was the year of the worker,” says Cohen. “That was the year we called restaurant workers and delivery drivers essential. We called them heroes, over and over again. We said we had their backs. Right now is when we all have to put those words into action.”


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