Magazine article American Theatre

Conni's Love in Layers Lasagna

Magazine article American Theatre

Conni's Love in Layers Lasagna

Article excerpt

Connie Hall, producing director, Connie Avant Garde Restaurant:

Conni's Avant Garde Restaurant could be described as a live episodic show about a fictional theatre ensemble that is running a restaurant. As a company, we have all "done time" in New York's downtown, experimental theatre scene. Many of us have worked in restaurants--I attended the Culinary Management Program at the Institute of Culinary Education in order to learn that the best restaurateurs are stage magicians. They are traffickers not of food, but of live experience. Consider the "theatre" of the New York City hamburger: I gladly pay $12 for a $3 hamburger when it is delivered to me on an interesting geometric plate by a friendly, well-dressed server surrounded by soft lighting, savory aromas and good music.

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In a restaurant that is doing well, food costs make up just 25 percent of the sales price. What's in the margin? Sets, lights, costumes and live interaction. In not-for-profit theatres, tickets are so heavily subsidized by contributed income that audiences often have no idea what their experience actually costs. Restaurants have done a much better job of conveying this information. People pay for theatre every time they go out to eat.

The most successful restaurants have staff that, like the best theatre artists, have a sense of ownership and sincerely care about the whole experience they provide. This is what we try to do at Conni's: bring theatricality to the restaurant and hospitality to the theatre. …

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