Hit-Or-Miss Restaurants

This Restaurant Gives Families Reservations For Life

Rao’s is a legendary restaurant that you’ve likely heard of and much more likely never ever dined in. Don’t worry, that’s kind of why it’s famous. Largely accepted as the definitive “toughest place to get a reservation,” Rao’s caters to its historical place in classic New York City culture. It’s a very, very tiny eaterysay, a dozen tablesthat’s been a go-to for regulars and a wondrous mystery for the rest of the country for more than a century.

What’s its history?

If you read anything about the joint, from its regulars (such as Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese) to its decor (which has since been copied by Italian restaurants across the country), it’s quintessential New York City. Founded in 1896 in East Harlem, Rao’s wasn’t always famous for its near-impossible reservations. That didn’t start until 1977, when a three-star review by Mimi Sheraton of The New York Times made demand overwhelming, so they just started assigning tables to regulars and then they were booked forever.

How do you get a reservation?

New York Magazine’s blog Grub Street once declared it easier to score a dinner at the White House than Rao’s, pointing out there was a reason one of the restaurant’s owners, Frank Pelligrino, has been called “Frankie No.” So how do you get a table? You either own the table, you’re a guest of someone who does, or you’ve been loaned the table by someone who does. It’s like season tickets, really. There are weeklies, bi-weeklies, monthlies, and quarterlies. You just have to inform Pelligrino if nobody’s going to use your table when you have it reserved.

What’s the dining experience?

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Meals begin with a drink at the bar that’s served by Nick “The Vest” Zaloumis (nicknamed for his100+ colorful, sometimes shimmering vests). Someone pulls up a chair and lists off all the food options, since there are no menus. It gives you the chance to customize your dinnerany meat, any sauce, any pasta.

How has it changed?

The original New York spot really hasn’t changed, but in recent years, they’ve opened locations in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. While the Las Vegas Rao’s inside Caesar’s Palace seems to be closer to the original than the Los Angeles spot—even having something called “Rao’s Room,” which is essentially a restaurant within a restaurant that’s practically a reproduction of the NYC Rao’s—it seems to be widely agreed that you can’t recreate magic.


Yelp Launches New, Mostly-Free Online Reservation Service for Businesses


Yelp already lets restaurants take reservations from their Yelp listing page using third party booking apps such as Open Table, and last year, the crowdsourced review giant acquired its own reservation tool in the form of SeatMe.

Starting today, however, Yelp is making moves to better monopolize the whole restaurant dining experience. Yelp Seat Me is the new, proprietary reservation system from that allows restaurants and bars to reserve tables, manage guest and wait lists, provide text updates to customers, and more, all in one app.

Most significant to the update is the new, low overhead. Unlike Open Table, Seat Me users do not have to pay a percentage cover fee per reservation, nor do they have to pay the $650 set up fee, or $75 a month website fee. There is a $99 monthly subscription, though, because, you know, #newworldorder #capitalism #illuminati, #etc.

The purpose, reads the official blog announcement, is to provide “a great option for businesses that aren’t big or busy enough yet to need the robust functionality of Yelp Seat Me.” Three cheers for the little guy, huzzah!

H/T Tech Crunch + PicThx Yelp


Trend Report: A Day in the Life of a 2014 Foodbeast


The word “foodie” is dead. Or if it isn’t, it definitely should be. First coined on the completely made up date of September 29, 2004, “foodie” has become one of those words like “geek” and “weirdo” which applies to pretty much everyone with internet access. In fact, almost everything about the food landscape this past year has left us feeling just a little old hat.

Bacon, sriracha, Yelp, cronuts — here at Foodbeast, we think we’re all about ready to move on. To see what 2014 has in store for all us discerning eaters. To find what’s next.

What new technologies will we be using, will we still be waiting in line for hours for crazy hype foods, will #hashtags #finally #beused #thewaytheyresupposedto?

We don’t pretend to have all the answers, and we can’t even say next year will necessarily be all that different (yeah, Yelp is here to stay) — but we do believe big, big things are in the works. It’s about freaking time.

Here’s what we imagine next year’s trends will look like in the eyes of a 2014 Foodbeast:



Yelp: Haters Gonna Hate

2013 was the year of throwing Yelp under the bus. Despite negative allegations from users claiming they’re ‘unpaid writers’ and want off the ‘slave ship,’ and the ever-evolving conversation of Yelp’s ad team pinching small business owners for better review placement, Yelp continues being one of the most prominent properties on the Internet. With over 100 million monthly visitors and a year of valuable feature additions (check Health Grades for your local hole-in-the-wall!, the Wikipedia of restaurants isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

Even with 1 in 5 Yelp reviews supposedly being fake, the well-trafficked website continues to be the definitive gateway for potential customers to seek out places to eat and make sure they won’t get food poisoning. 1-star average? Well, 50 people can’t be wrong? Apparently this mentality is infectious, with a report revealing that even a half-star difference on Yelp can destroy a restaurant’s business.  Alexa traffic reports also reveals that the last quarter of 2014 was a great traffic period for Yelp, currently sitting as the 32nd most visited website in the United States, and for good reason. — Elie Ayrouth



So Long Sriracha

As much as we all love Sriracha, this is my cross to bear: Sriracha is on its way out in 2014. This is not to say that Sriracha won’t be available (we hope) nor will lose its mainstream popularity. Heck, we covered Sriracha 9 separte times in December alone. But it is practically impossible for Sriracha, specifically the Huy Fong variety, to have a bigger year than it did in 2013. Consider the following: a documentarynational headlines regarding public threats and judgements to stop productionfast food/convenience store/QSR/restaurant chain rollouts, candy canesvodkachips and more chipslip balm (late 2012), chocolate and stilettos. The much deserved hype for America’s favorite hot sauce has peaked. I said it. We predict more Sriracha-fied product rollouts from mainstream brands in 2014, but it’s to be expected from the “behind-the-times” restaurant chains and food manufacturers.  Yes, it is technically possible that cock sauce has a bigger 2014 if the #srirachapocalypse happens, and we all have to Battle Royale to feed our hot sauce addictions. But that’s not going to happen right? Sriracha, you’ve been commodified. — Geoff Kutnick



Food Trucks Out

It’s quite possible that Food Trucks could have been on the out list at the end of 2012, but in case they were hanging on to a single cultural thread — it’s about to be snipped. You can blame the following: a plethora of mediocre trucks flooding fragile local marketplaces, the price increases that came from the diminishing demand ($10 for fries and I have to head to the boonies?!), the novelty of stalking twitter updates becoming downright annoying, and most importantly, the increasing acceptance of pop-up restaurants and gourmet food courts (both to be addressed in this post). In what started as a organic place for food innovation and sensible investment, ultimately became a symbol for unrealistic $$$ and internet hype; enticing every two-bit line cook and wannabe restaurateur, and therefore killing much of the genius creativity that led to the gourmet truck boom. For the delicious minority that remains, we wish you the best of luck. — Geoff Kutnick



Foursquare: You May Not Hear Much About it in 2014, But Trust Us, It’ll Be There

Foursquare isn’t out, it’s just not what we thought it’d be when it first launched back in 2009. Once conceived as a location check-in based social network now finds one of its greatest utilities living on through its powerful API and database of venues.

Gone are the days of 2012 where you and your friends felt the need to check-in via Foursquare just to share the status in your Twitter feed. Foursquare’s value seems to be less in their own consumer-facing application, but more in how their infrastructure fits in with much more interesting applications, such as Instagram’s geo-tagging (yes, they’re using Foursquare).

While checking in to restaurants via Foursquare isn’t as sexy as it was back in 2011, Foursquare has paved the way for future food tech innovators to loop in with their system. Smartphone applications like Dine-O-Mat, DoFork, Tasterous and Pintley currently use Foursquare’s API to compliment their own user experiences and we expect a great deal of other applications to make use of the system into 2014. — Elie Ayrouth



The Death of the Casual Dining Sit-Down Restaurant

Large, overbearing portions are out and quality, smaller portions are in. Sorry, Olive Garden, there were only so many endless breadsticks we could take. While casual dining restaurants with die-hard fans like the Cheesecake Factory will stick around for awhile longer, chains such as West Coast-based Coco’s and even Olive Garden are on the decline. Why? We’ve gotten pickier, choosing quality over butter-drenched fettuccine that was probably microwaved in the oven. For the most part, sit-down chain restaurants like Marie Calendar’s (although their pies are still on point) have failed to excite the next generation that’s grown accustomed to expecting delicate cronuts and farm-raised beef burgers on every menu. Kids these days. — Charisma Madarang




Rolling/Ticketed Reservation Systems Continue to Grow

This year, Trois Mec’s 26 seats became the most coveted and most frustrating in Los Angeles, all thanks to the restaurant’s ticketed reservation system, which required would-be Mec-ers to book at 8 in the morning at least two weeks in advance. This year also saw another L.A. restaurant twitter-shaming reservation no-shows for being the reason “why restaurants overbook.” The ever-growing premium on hype alongside rising rents and ingredient costs mean hot-ticket tables are only going to get harder to snag in 2014. Which could actually be a good thing, you know, since now you can totally humble-brag about all the hard work you put in to get there. — Dominique Zamora 



Fast Casual-fication of Fast Food

The end of 2013, there was a promising road ahead in the world of fast food. Restaurants began to move towards the concept of fast casual, restaurants that are somewhat in-between fast food and fine dining. Hamburger chains began incorporating pretzel buns into their menu items and Carl’s Jr. and Hardy’s began switching out towards fresh-baked buns in an effort to produce a higher quality of product. For an additional fee, customers have the choice of a fresher component rarely availiable in the fast-food scene. The idea behind fast food is that you don’t have the time for a sit-down restaurant or to prepare it yourself. You’re in a rush and there’s no other options other than fast food then the option of a fresher ingredients is appealing.

The biggest change, however, came from the fact that fast-food behemoth McDonald’s began testing a Build-Your-Own-Burger concept at a couple of their stores across the U.S. Customers can now build their own burger at a fixed price (though bacon is extra). This gave customers the possibly of an even more hands-on experience in creating their burgers. Places like Five Guys, Pie-o-logy and Chipotle have been in the customization business for quite a while and McDonald’s BYOB tablets seem to not only offer that service, but also allow for a speedier customer-restaurant transaction process.

Craft beers have also been making headlines as they’ve become easier and easier to find every day. With chains like Chipotle adding craft beers to many locations towards the end of 2012 and early 2013.  It seems 2014 could be the missing link that finally incorporates drinking and fast food. We’ve spent our entire childhoods with either soda or chocolate milk as the only options when eating at a fast-food establishment. With craft beers on the rise, they’re no longer a small niche for beer enthusiasts but a viable pairing for those who enjoy a drink with their meal, expanding the relationship between brewers and fast-food, fast-casual chains.

The concept of chasing trends, à la Starbucks developing their Duffin, the chain’s own variation of the cronut and Subway’s conception of their creamy Sriracha sauce, are only the first steps in fast-food chains stepping out of their comfort zones and following popular food fads. — Peter Pham



Designer and Gourmet Food Courts


The word is out. Chicago’s Eataly is an enormous success. Metropolitan Americans have grown tiresome of tracking down food innovation (see: the demise of food trucks mentioned earlier), but the thought of being able to choose among a dozen food and beverage vendors all located in one place simply sounds glorious. In theory, gourmet food courts work for chefs and restaurateurs in all stages of their careers.

For upcoming chefs and restaurateurs, this provides them with a standalone-ish location that requires less overhead costs in comparison to opening a restaurant, thanks in part to the smaller kitchen, smaller staff, community seating, etc. In comparison to a food truck — you don’t have to pay for gas and completely rely on your social audience and catering for revenue streams. Plus, you also have an actual address and the potential for “walk-in” discovery.

For the more experienced, these stations/modules/counters allow for either increased experimentation OR the ability to sell popular niche foods to more of the masses. For example, your restaurant is famous for the burger. Guess what? The burger that you’re locally famous for is now available in more of a QSR format. Otherwise called the diversification of revenue streams. We haven’t begun to list the full set of pros and cons of gourmet food courts, BUT it is our belief that the American public is primed to support such ventures. So who’s going to be the Roy Choi of the new food court model? Only time will tell. — Geoff Kutnick



Craft Soda Will Actually Mean Something to People in 2014


If you haven’t heard about craft soda in 2012 and 2013, expect it to be in your ear for 2014. Craft soda’s popularity throughout 2013 was still in its infancy when juxtaposed with how craft beer took the main stage within the beer vertical.

As mantras such as localnatural and artisan continue to catch consumer attention, such adjectives will begin finding their way into our soda consumption. Alongside reports that Diet soda sales have fallen nearly 7 percent in the past year, indicating soda drinkers are growing skeptical of diet soda’s healthy claims. Finally the under-21 set can get its time in the hipster spotlight.  — Elie Ayrouth



Moar Frankenfoods

Call it a hybrid, mash-up, concoction, what-have-you; bizarre, buzz-worthy food combinations aren’t going anywhere. Earlier this year, Science Daily reported the reason we seem to love putting fried chicken in waffles and bacon on donuts is we’re secretly all binge-eating fatsos, which could very well be true. Or it could just be that these kung pao pastrami, cronut-y combos are the only ones worth tweeting about, and will continue to be the only ones worth tweeting in the coming year, particularly from the fast food/QSR set (read more about that under “fast-casualification”). — Dominique Zamora



Moar Single-Item Restaurants 


Why sweat over a hard-to-read menu with tons of different choices when you can dine at a place that has one really kick-butt dish? Single-Item restaurants are trends that look to fill a specific niche int he stomachs of foodies. Places like Sprinkles and Bo Nuage are a quick fix for those who are looking to satisfy their craving for sweets without having to pour over the menu as a line builds up behind them. Establishments that cater to Peanut Butter, Waffles and Meatloaf lovers now exist. There’s even a place in the world for a taquitos-only menu. Customers with a specific taste and appetite can enjoy a plethora of dishes focused around a core item.

Another forerunner is the advent of the grilled cheese restaurants. Places like The Grilled Cheese Spot take one dish, or sandwich, and allows a customer to create their own signature dish while keeping the grilled cheese theme. Customers at The Melt are able to order ahead of time online and check in via QR code immediately avoiding long waits thanks to indecisive patrons.

Single-Item eateries not only have become a fresh new concept, but it takes away from all the clutter of multi-item menus and allows for more creativity to be put into a single item. With a restaurant packed with so many different dishes, no one wants to be told they ran out of ingredients for their order. The trend of a single-item restaurant will continue as long as people are in demand of trendy and unique concepts on classic dishes with a simple and clean menu. — Peter Pham



Moar Trendy Health Restaurants


We’ve stuffed every burger imaginable with every sandwich imaginable. We’ve deep-fried butter, ice cream and even beer. Now that the novelty’s worn off, all that’s left is a stomach full of regret and a few clogged arteries. Binging on meat-filled burritos might have been totes cool in 2013, but it may not fly once 2014 rolls around.

With health food restaurants popping up more and more, it’s looking like fit is in. Restaurants such as Veggie GrillTender Greens and Native Foods have all been grilling up healthy eats and yummy treats. The idea behind a sit-down health food eatery is that customers pay for something both delicious and healthy in a comfortable and casual atmosphere. They can enjoy being fit, take a break from cooking at home and still gorge on something appetizing.

Restaurant patrons, especially in a fast-casual scenario aren’t looking for trans fat and processed foods when they order any more. A fair amount of people, if stuck going to fast-food, go immediately towards the less artery-clogging options. And while grilled chicken sandwiches and salads can be pretty tasty at a McDonald’s sometimes, they can get boring after a while. So is it too much of a stretch to think there’s an open market for more health food restaurants in the new year? — Peter Pham



Elusive & Temporary: Pop-Up Restaurants

We love the elusive, the fleeting, the temporary, which is why pop-ups and rare tastings are on the rise. Looking to satisfy our ever-evolving palates, innovative minds in the food industry are taking it upon themselves to create unique, once-in-a-lifetime offerings. Pop-Up restaurants that offer rare items — such as The Churro Borough’s Churro Ice Cream Sandwich or Craig Thorton’s much buzzed-about two-week pop-up within the Santa Monica Museum of Art — thrill our senses with their ability to show up literally anywhere, from an abandoned factory to someone’s private home. — Charisma Madarang



Moar Automated Food Ordering

2013 brought an increase in ordering via iPhone apps and the integration of iPads as a point-of-sale system. Though we also saw rewards systems in place such as your beloved Pinkberry card going digital we can definitely expect things to get a bit more technologic in 2014. You can bet ordering ahead will become the norm meaning no longer will you have to wait an unbearable five minutes to reach the barista. Sure, this ability will supposedly “streamline” ordering but let’s be real, we’ll just be psyched to avoid the small talk. iPad POS leaders Revel Systems also predicts that we can expect to see a increase in incentives aside from reward cards such as special recognition for being a milestone customer. We may even see ordering systems sync up with Nike Fuelbands to let you know what you can and cannot have based on your fitness goals. Pretty nifty eh? — Ashley Khawsy


Better Food Photography

Admittedly this one may be more wishful thinking, but with the uptick this past year of prosumer point-and-shoots, mirrorless cameras, and the release of the retro DSLR Nikon DF, budding street food photographers need no longer fear hauling their giant-ass cameras into restaurants in order to take decent images, since there are plenty of smaller (and cuter) cameras that can do just as good a job. IPhoneography can only go so far, after all. Let’s hope 2014 food porn is food porn actually worth looking at. — Dominique Zamora

Adapted from Baum + Whiteman 


Owned: Restaurant Uses Twitter to Put Blown-Off Reservation Guests on Blast


You know how sometimes you’re trying to make a dinner reservation but the restaurant you wanted doesn’t take reservations and your second choice doesn’t have the time you want and you end up calling a bunch of different places and making a bunch of different reservations just to be safe? And eventually as the day goes on and you whittle down your choices, you finally settle on somewhere but forget to call everywhere else to let them know you’ve cancelled? Ah well, after waiting a good 30 minutes to an hour, they’re bound to get the message right?

Wrong. Like standing someone up on a date or constantly switching around your Facebook RSVP just days before a big event, promising to be at a restaurant at a certain time and not being there is not only rude, it’s f*cking annoying. Which is why the actions of this Los Angeles restaurant owner probably seem totally justified, at least to anyone who’s been there.

According to The Consumerist, Eater L.A. recently interviewed the owner of the Red Machine restaurant, “which has been using its Twitter account to call out people who make reservations but don’t have the courtesy to show up or call to cancel.”

“Invariably, the assholes who decide to no-show, or cancel 20 minutes before their reservation (because one of their friends made a reservation somewhere else) ruin restaurants (as a whole) for the people who make a reservation and do their best to honor it,” the owner told Eater. “Either restaurants are forced to overbook and make the guests (that actually showed up) wait, or they do what we do, turn away guests for some prime-time slots because they’re booked, and then have empty tables.”

Check out just some of the passive-aggressive, albeit funny, tweets below:


Of course, there’s always a brightside. I mean, at least they weren’t Instagramming.

H/T + PicThx Consumerist, This is Money