(Bloomberg) — When Daniel Boulud throws open the doors to his high-ceilinged Upper East Side dining room on Sept. 30, the restaurant will look very different than it did before the Covid-19 pandemic—and not just because of mandated safety precautions.
The storied chef is reincarnating his restaurant as Boulud Sur Mer. Along with the name change will come a completely different look, one that calls to mind the south of France with vibrant swoops of fabric and wallpaper that evoke the sailboats, trees, and bright colors of the Mediterranean. The restaurant will also recognize several companies that helped create the space: luxury brands sponsoring the temporary restaurant.
Evian water, Lavazza Premium Coffees Corp., and Daou Vineyards all donated product and undisclosed amounts of money to help restart indoor dining at Boulud’s flagship. Money went for renovations and such costs as new uniforms.
“We wanted to create an illusion of something different,” says Boulud in a phone interview. “No one went to the south of France this summer. I thought, ‘Let me take them there.’ We will make it like a party in Cannes, a party in St. Tropez.”
Boulud says he couldn’t afford to redesign the dining room himself. “You see the restaurant world. No one is making any money—it is about survival,” he notes. He says brands approached him with offers of help. The cost of creating his temporary spot is “five figures,” a fraction of what it costs to open a restaurant ordinarily.
Designer and architect Stephanie Goto used Hermès Feuillage wallpaper to “transform the classical space,” she says. “To bring people somewhere else.”
“The artistic director at Hermès is a long-time customer and friend. He said, ‘Let me know how I can help,” says Boulud.
“During a challenging time for the restaurant industry, we are excited to be a part of an innovative dining concept by a chef who has risen to meet the moment,” said Davide Riboni, president of Lavazza Americas, in an email.
The Boulud Sur Mer menu will feature southern French staples such as salt-baked whole fish with herbs of Provence, and a classic, fragrant bouillabaisse. Prices will be about 20% lower than they were before the pandemic, with a prix fixe menu served inside for around $125. Outside, an à la carte menu will be served to customers seated in colorful customized cabanas that will be introduced next week for colder weather.
Boulud says the sponsors will be name-checked.
”We will have a place on the menu that’s a ‘Thank You’ to the collaborators. We are being transparent here,” says the chef.
Companies make donations to restaurants for charity events or pop-ups. Boulud has used such sponsors as American Airlines Group Inc. and Patron tequila for events like his Citymeals on Wheels Sunday Supper. And American Express Co. has been a high profile partner with Eleven Madison Park on its seasonal jaunts to New York’s Hamptons and Aspen, Colo. But Boulud says this is the first time he is using money from a company for his restaurant, and he hasn’t heard of others that are doing so beyond pop-ups.
The landscape Boulud is working within is challenging. According to a study by OpenTable Inc., as of Sept. 22, sit-down dining in New York was down 85%, compared to the preceding year. That’s sharply worse than the global decrease of 45% and the national decrease of 52%.
Boulud Sur Mer is currently scheduled to stay open until Nov. 30. If it’s successful, Boulud might keep it through the holidays before he returns to some version of restaurant Daniel.
In the future, the chef would like to team up with a fashion brand the way another star chef, Massimo Bottura, has worked with Gucci. “I see Ralph Lauren restaurants, I see Armani restaurants. I’m looking forward to a collaboration with a house. They can really work well.”
For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.