Is fine dining ready for a comeback?

Ruth Reichl, former restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times, and then restaurant critic for the New York Times, says formal fine dining is going to make a comeback within five years.
(Richard Drew / Associated Press)

There are a lot of smart people in the food world, but not many smarter than Ruth Reichl. So when she says formal fine dining is going to make a comeback, maybe it’s a good idea to pay attention.

Reichl was the restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times in the 1980s and ‘90s, then restaurant critic for the New York Times, editor of Gourmet magazine and author of a series of best-selling food memoirs.

I was talking to her for a story I’m working on when she pointed out that “the people who really spend a lot of money in restaurants now are the 20-30somethings and they really think of restaurants as an important part of their lives. They have no money but eat out all the time. It’s a whole new clientele that has never been part of the American restaurant scene before.


“I predict this group of people is going to suddenly want that experience. They’re spending a lot of money eating out already and they care about food and are knowledgeable about food. And pretty soon they’re going to start wanting that other piece of the restaurant experience, which is the thrill of grand dining, the privilege of being taken care of.

“I think within a few years there’s going to be an extreme backlash. Those places they’re eating now aren’t cheap. I predict you’re going to start seeing -- not this year or next year, but within five years -- the comeback of the formal dining experience. They’re going to want to go out and get more for their money than just another place you can get good food and shout at each other.”


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