Balthazar is my favorite restaurant in New York City. Sometimes when I visit, I eat both lunch and dinner at the SoHo brasserie. It's good that I don't live in NYC because I'd be washing dishes there to work off my addiction to their steak frites. Apparently, one in 10 people order the steak frites. I learned this from Willy Staley's fascinating New York Times Magazine article this week, "22 Hours in Balthazar":
…In many ways, Balthazar still operates like a factory. Quite literally, raw materials enter through one side early each morning, moving through various stations, where 150 to 200 employees, each playing a narrowly defined role, produce finished, value-added and marked-up goods and serve them directly to end users. During the busy season — roughly fall Fashion Week to Memorial Day — the restaurant spends $90,000 a week on food to feed some 10,000 guests."22 Hours in Balthazar"
Over the course of what I will be repeatedly told is a slow day, 1,247 people will eat here. (Normally, it’s about 1,500.) But within a narrow range, Balthazar knows how many people will come through its doors every single day of the week, and it can predict roughly what it will sell during every meal. It mass-produces high-quality food and pushes it out to customers, and its production numbers are as predictable as the system that churns out the food itself. Just about everyone who works at Balthazar calls it a machine.