How Seattle's Most Creative Restaurants Got That Way
Seattle's restaurant boom is good for everyone—creative restaurateurs, landlords, foodie residents and visitors—but it's also a challenge for restaurants to stand out. (There can be only one "best caprese salad in town.")
The speakers at our the 2nd Annual Seattle Restaurant Summit at the Triple Door this week pointed out that there are about 100 new restaurants in Capitol Hill alone—at least one restaurant in every new space. The newer ones get the attention, so how do more established ones keep people coming in? It's important to develop internal feedback loops to understand what your clients think of new food items and service levels, for one thing. Light remodels—that is, putting money into the restaurant after it's been open a while—are important as well, since they help keep the staff excited.
Despite the plethora of new restaurants, the restaurateurs on our panel admitted that they're constantly coming up with new ideas for new places—and that if you know what will fit into your neighborhood, the right new concept will work there, because new experiences are important to Seattle's booming young population. About 200 people came to the Triple Door to mingle and hear our restaurant pros, who included Derschang Group CEO Linda Derschang; Tom Douglas Restaurants president Tom Douglas; Lake Union Partners principal Pat Foley; and Huxley Wallace Collective founder and chef Josh Henderson.
The creative process that goes into a restaurant is complex, our speakers explain. Some ideas kick around for a long time before they're realized. For example, putting bocce ball courts in a restaurant didn't fly earlier, but is quite popular now at Rhein Haus (pictured: formerly Von Trapp's). Part of the art of a restaurant is helping the landlord see your vision, so that he or she wants to work with you. Our speakers also included: Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream owner Molly Moon; Downtown Seattle Association retail program manager Andi Pratt; WeimannMaclise Restaurants owner James Weimann; and Wild Ginger & Triple Door owner Rick Yoder.
Landlords can be immensely important in helping a restaurant succeed, especially by going beyond ordinary TI when it comes to the storefronts. In Seattle, a unique, inviting storefront is very important. "Nothing says stay away in the city like strip mall-like storefronts," one speaker explained. Restaurants need to work with their landlords to "put their soul" into a storefront and in the restaurant behind it, even if it costs a little more. If the design speaks to the customers, they'll be back. Seattle Pacific Realty partner Jeff Rosen and Dynamik CEO Melanie Corey-Ferrini were the event's moderators.