Browsing over my predictions last year for 2017, my first prediction on the list hit the nail on the head. From restaurateur Kelley Lee’s Ban Ban by Sproutworks concept, to Poke Poke nipping at our beloved Little Catch, “bowls” have populated menus across Shanghai. While all restaurants do their bowls slightly different, expats are prone to sticking with the first concept that makes waves, namely, Little Catch’s loyal following. Kelley’s concept is good, but Ban Ban incorporates flavors of multiple cuisines, making it suitable for a more local clientele. Which concept will win the title of Super Bowl 2018? We will just have to wait and see.
From this, we will start to see more specific genres, like single dish-focused concepts popping up to minimize on offerings while maximizing on limited space. Expect a surge of this in the coming year.
The biggest story to break this year was “Franckgate .” To catch up those of you who just arrived in Shanghai last week—restaurateur Franck Pecol had his F&B empire essentially shuttered overnight after a former employee blew the whistle on his use of expired flour. Franck skipped town, and people were infuriated. I was informed multiple times by Franck supporters that the media doesn’t know the whole story, and Franck isn’t entirely at fault. I’ve yet to be told this “whole story” and await the second coming of Franck to clear his name and help the unlucky French national whom he left holding the bag and is still rotting in jail. But in this scandal’s wake, one fallen giant has allowed many smaller boutiques to flourish, like Pate, Madeleine Bakery, and Bread ETC.
In the big business sector AB InBev set their sights on cornering the craft beer market, gobbling up Kelley Lee and Lee Tseng’s Boxing Cat Brewery and Liquid Laundry, along with the Kaiba group, adding to that their own Goose Island Brewhouse. Is no brewery restaurant safe? Shanghai Brewery continues to hold its own and hopefully will continue.
On the upside, the Beer Lady may in fact be plotting her own take over of AB InBev, opening two massive venues. What does this all mean for the craft brewers scene in China? Opening any type of F&B concept is challenging enough without having to combat conglomerates. I imagine this will discourage any new ventures unless they have deep pockets, such as competitor brands. AB InBev has surely done their homework and bought out any true competition before doing market entry for craft brews.
Those cast out of Yongkang Lu sought refuge in Found 158, to which I suggest we change the name to “Yongkang II,” because it is known that Yongkang was not a place but rather its people. Business stays steady on the weekends. But on weekdays it’s proving to be more difficult to convince diners to sunken strip mall. Let’s be honest, wouldn’t we all rather get delivery instead? Why walk to lunch when we can have it delivered for mere peanuts?
Last but not least, there has been a lot of chefs shuffling. Pierre Gagnaire dropped to mixed reviews, as did Marc Meneau’s spot in Wanda Reign Hotel, which was quickly scrubbed of his name for reasons yet unknown. Visa laws ramping up certainly contribute to the lack of new talent. A lot of chefs, unfortunately, don’t have a bachelor’s degree in cooking.
Chefs in the scene are moving onto (hopefully) bigger and better steps in their careers, myself included. To my peers, I wish all of you good luck in your new endeavors.
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