Talking to Ted: Daniel Boulud Is Excited About Sausages and Beer

By Ted Kruckel May 26, 2009, 9:00 AM EDT

Daniel Boulud

Photo: Melanie Dunea for BizBash

This is the fifth in a series of five conversations with event pros about what's working now.

Chef Superb Daniel Boulud had an excuse to be worried last fall, re-opening his flagship Daniel after a multi-million dollar facelift just as the market tanked. But a re-garnering of four stars in the The New York Times has led to new rush of gourmands. His other restaurants are, of course, Café BouludDB Bistro Moderne, and his newest will be a Lower East Side beer and sausage bistro, DBGB, which is scheduled to open officially June 8. And don’t forget Feasts & Fêtes, his catering arm.

So business at Daniel is good. How do you do it?
There are challenges. Corporate business has been soft. But we’re trying to show our customers that we’re willing to offer more for the dollar. For example, we now offer a prix fixe five-course tasting menu with wine pairings for $98 at early hours. The same meal without wine is normally $105. Our regular customers are responding to that.

Any other new deals?
At DB Bistro Moderne, if you come in with that night’s used theater ticket, you get 20 percent off food and beverage. And there’s a $24 lunch at Café Boulud: three courses at a three-star restaurant.

But you must be feeling some effects?
Of course. Critical mass has decreased. And we’re doing a lot more prix fixe business, more than ever before. There’s some softness in events and catering, more so from the corporate side. And we’re negotiating more on the event business we do have.

How are your events affected?
We’re doing more buffet style serving, that’s for sure. That saves you on rentals and staff, so you can focus your budget on good food. But clients who know quality are smart, 97 percent know that you get what you pay for. So we work with them to cut off the expense without cutting off the pleasure.

Contrast your “regulars” versus “occasional” guests.
Our regulars feel safe and comfortable with us at DB restaurants; that’s what’s not dropping. Some of our regulars didn’t go to Aspen this season. Compared to a chalet in Chamonix or Gstaad, Daniel is a bargain.

What about wine?

First of all, we’ve always done a lot of wine by the glass, since so many of our menus offer wine pairing. This works for everybody, the customers get to taste a great wine with their food, without having to make a major investment in a big bottle. The restaurant can move more quality wines because we’re opening and decanting more. And we’ve always had a good pyramid of wines; at Daniel, you can order a $30 bottle of wine.

You can?
All our restaurants have very affordable, good base wines.

Are guests still tipping?

We try to make sure that people are really happy, and that is what affects tipping. Glad to say that there is no problem there.

What’s new in the world of Chef Boulud?

Well, I feel very lucky that a few years ago I decided to try something on the less expensive scale. DBGB is a bistro style restaurant on the Lower East Side. It will offer sausages and beer from all over the world. There are Austrian kaiser and krenner, French lamb merguez, even English bangers and quid. There will be micro-brews from Belgium and Germany, 24 different drafts. Plus a full French bistro/brasserie style menu, with fruits de mer platters and, of course, roast chicken.

So what is Daniel Boulud serving for his personal entertaining this summer?

Sausages and beer, all the time. I can’t wait.

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