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Picnic, the restaurant


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#1 Rail Paul

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Posted 19 January 2010 - 09:31 PM

Bill Pitcher has a report on his blog that Christine Nunn, the acclaimed caterer, will be opening a restaurant in the Radburn section of Fair Lawn. Although I've only had two opportunities to sample her food, Picnic's reputation is exceptionally good.

Nunn is taking over the space now occupied by Quiznos at Fair Lawn’s Radburn Plaza in the spring. In the interim, Picnic’s catering will continue, out of a borrowed space.


“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman


#2 picnicchef

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 09:25 PM

Indeed, Picnic, The Restaurant is opening in June! I've always found these forums helpful and insightful, and would love to hear any suggestions of what you all look for in fine dining in Bergen County. Wish me luck! Cheers,Christine


#3 pierre

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 10:39 PM

QUOTE(picnicchef @ Apr 18 2010, 07:25 PM) View Post
Indeed, Picnic, The Restaurant is opening in June! I've always found these forums helpful and insightful, and would love to hear any suggestions of what you all look for in fine dining in Bergen County. Wish me luck! Cheers,Christine

Good quality ingredients, simply prepared Versus pretentious preparations.BYO .
Good luck

#4 Rail Paul

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Posted 20 April 2010 - 11:56 PM

QUOTE(pierre @ Apr 20 2010, 06:39 PM) View Post
QUOTE(picnicchef @ Apr 18 2010, 07:25 PM) View Post
Indeed, Picnic, The Restaurant is opening in June! I've always found these forums helpful and insightful, and would love to hear any suggestions of what you all look for in fine dining in Bergen County. Wish me luck! Cheers,Christine

Good quality ingredients, simply prepared Versus pretentious preparations.BYO .
Good luck


Good advice.

The tone set by the front of the house is also very important. I can't count the number of times that a perfectly prepared, artfully plated dinner is presented by somebody asking "OK, who gets the duck?"

Sincere, well trained people will help any establishment reach its potential.

Manage your reservation process efficiently, and don't overbook. Have your reservationist call the day before to verify / remind guests. If you use OpenTable, note the guest's customer history for no-shows and plan accordingly.

Allow enough time for guests to enjoy their dinner, and pace the kitchen to turn out a quality product. One place that does a superb job of this is Lorena's in Maplewood. They do 2.5 turns on a Saturday and only occasionally have people briefly stacked up in their tiny entry way.

Also, following up on Pierre's comment of BYO. Good glassware is essential if you intend to draw people packing excellent wines. In my judgment, you can't stint on glassware. You don't need 20 different sizes and shapes, but you do need 4 or 5 basic shapes, and train your people to know which glasses to present.

Lorena's (again) has developed a good wine reputation for a BYO. There are often wine groups dining, with custom arranged menus on Wednesday / Thursday evenings. Humberto is always willing to create unique menus around special wines or themes. Fascino is also very good in this regard. Adding 15-20 diners on a midweek evening is a big plus for revenue.

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman


#5 menton1

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 04:29 PM

Real tablecloths, changed every turnover, no paper place mats (ugh!) no glass-over tablecloths. Makes a big difference for me.

Not-so-sudden service! Good meals are worth lingering over. Don't bring the next course as soon as I finish the last bite. I want to spend at least 90 minutes at a nice meal.

I miss your great lunches from Emerson, Christine! Looking forward to this new place! Bon chance!

#6 picnicchef

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Posted 21 April 2010 - 04:46 PM

Great advice so far! Keep in coming:

Here are our plans to date

An ever-changing array of fine New American Cuisine

Six local specials every evening

Of course, real table cloths, changed EVERY time, and if someone spills

Wine lockers for our good customers to keep their wine at Picnic, so that when they make a reservation, we can have their wine pre-chilled, decanted, whatever, and the appropriate fine stemmed wine glasses pre-set on their table

34 seats, to keep in intimate. Initially, hopefully, reservations only.

Open for dinner Tuesday - Sunday

Lots of cool things on the menu from a dozen or so small plates

Many seafood entrees, including a special twist on my lobster roll

I'm sticking to what I do best, which is let the ingredients speak -- no foam, no weird sauces or garnishes, just pretty plates of hopefully great food.

Keep the suggestions coming!

Best,
Christine

#7 Rail Paul

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 12:07 AM

QUOTE(picnicchef @ Apr 21 2010, 12:46 PM) View Post
Great advice so far! Keep in coming:

Here are our plans to date

An ever-changing array of fine New American Cuisine

Six local specials every evening

Of course, real table cloths, changed EVERY time, and if someone spills

Wine lockers for our good customers to keep their wine at Picnic, so that when they make a reservation, we can have their wine pre-chilled, decanted, whatever, and the appropriate fine stemmed wine glasses pre-set on their table

34 seats, to keep in intimate. Initially, hopefully, reservations only.

Open for dinner Tuesday - Sunday

Lots of cool things on the menu from a dozen or so small plates

Many seafood entrees, including a special twist on my lobster roll

I'm sticking to what I do best, which is let the ingredients speak -- no foam, no weird sauces or garnishes, just pretty plates of hopefully great food.

Keep the suggestions coming!

Best,
Christine


Have you considered an "early bird special" to draw additional clients between 5.30 and 6.30? Perhaps in the context of a fixed price, limited choice offering. Or, Matisse in Rutherford has been quite successful with a 15% cash discount for patrons who are seated between 5 and 5.30 (used to be 6pm), or between 9pm and 10. They order from the full menu, but get the discount if they pay cash. Early on, the deal was all evening for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, but it's been cut back.

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman


#8 marauder

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 02:51 PM

I've done early birds--don't dare call it that--with much success since the "downturn." It works, if you label it correctly.

Not to sound pollyanna, but be careful offering incentives to pay in cash. The provision against that is usually on page 1 of your Amex merchants guide. They no like-y. Assuming you will be accepting Amex--they should wear a mask and a gun when they collect your money, but that's another topic all together...

#9 menton1

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 03:11 PM

QUOTE(marauder @ Apr 26 2010, 09:51 AM) View Post
I've done early birds--don't dare call it that--with much success since the "downturn." It works, if you label it correctly.

Not to sound pollyanna, but be careful offering incentives to pay in cash. The provision against that is usually on page 1 of your Amex merchants guide. They no like-y. Assuming you will be accepting Amex--they should wear a mask and a gun when they collect your money, but that's another topic all together...


I don't think the type of experience you are aiming for at Picnic will fit in at all with "early birds". The New American upscale crowd dines late and later. (As in Europe.)

As far as discounts for cash, how come 90% of the gas stations are getting away with that for the last year?

#10 marauder

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 05:20 PM

QUOTE(menton1 @ Apr 26 2010, 11:11 AM) View Post
QUOTE(marauder @ Apr 26 2010, 09:51 AM) View Post
I've done early birds--don't dare call it that--with much success since the "downturn." It works, if you label it correctly.

Not to sound pollyanna, but be careful offering incentives to pay in cash. The provision against that is usually on page 1 of your Amex merchants guide. They no like-y. Assuming you will be accepting Amex--they should wear a mask and a gun when they collect your money, but that's another topic all together...


I don't think the type of experience you are aiming for at Picnic will fit in at all with "early birds". The New American upscale crowd dines late and later. (As in Europe.)

As far as discounts for cash, how come 90% of the gas stations are getting away with that for the last year?


They don't dine "later and later" on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night in Jersey. Believe me. In fact, they rarely dine at all. There are plenty of ways of to create an incentive to get people to come in "early," without conjuring up images of blue haired old ladies eating 3 loaves of free bread and splitting an entree.

#11 menton1

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 06:43 PM

I don't even come home from work until 7. Weekday dinner, 7:30/8 at the earliest. Who would you attract at 5:30 if not the "bluehairs?"

#12 Rail Paul

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Posted 26 April 2010 - 10:11 PM

QUOTE(menton1 @ Apr 26 2010, 02:43 PM) View Post
I don't even come home from work until 7. Weekday dinner, 7:30/8 at the earliest. Who would you attract at 5:30 if not the "bluehairs?"


I've hit the Matisse early evening deal from time to time, and the clientele is definitely mixed. Some young parents, occasionally with kids. A few younger dating couples. A fair number of early retirees / consultants (like me). Given the prices, I'd say the clientele is moderately upscale.

Marauder is definitely on point with the need to avoid triggering AmEx's legal beagles. I suspect a place to Matisse could tell AmEx to shove it, if the Amex people protested.

To the point of how the gas stations get away with cash/credit prices in NJ, it's mostly because the stations all did it at the same time, and the credit card companies didn't have the ^&*( to take them on. Many company owned stations didn't jump on the wagon until they had been clobbered by the independents.

In Christine's case, getting fannies in seats on Wednesday and Thursday nights will be critical. Whether it's a cash discount, or a discount on the total bill if it's over $100, free desserts, or prix fixe bargains, or some time based discount, the key is getting customers in, and impressing them.

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman


#13 pierre

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 01:47 AM

Another important element is Pricing.In Paris there is a new trend by young up and coming Chefs of offering 2 or 3 course lunches or dinners at an attractive price 15 to 20 euros (1 euro=$1.33) and 25 to 30 euros for dinners.Total cost includes taxes and service.
This approach ,specially in today's economy has been successful .I have spoken to many of them.Its an issue of being a good manager in controlling costs and motivating employees.I believe ,there is a great opportunity for such as restaurant in NJ that offers an attractive menu at a reasonable cost.

#14 marauder

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 11:59 AM

QUOTE(menton1 @ Apr 26 2010, 02:43 PM) View Post
I don't even come home from work until 7. Weekday dinner, 7:30/8 at the earliest. Who would you attract at 5:30 if not the "bluehairs?"


I attract all sorts of people before prime time dining hours. That's the point. Otherwise, the seats go "un-sat upon." If you think I'm wrong, next time you have a Tuesday or Wednesday off, cruise around the state's better establishments on Mon-Wed and report back as to how crowded they are. Not very will be your answer. NJ is not NYC. People in this state dine Thurs-Sun. Everybody wants to sit between 7-8:30 and nobody wants to spend more than 90 minutes eating. Sad, but indisputable. The only places I've been involved with that bucked this trend were places that had a unique inherent advantage. Copeland is a prime example. If the hotel was booked with business travelers during the week, the restaurant was full too. Many weeks, we did more covers on Monday than Friday. Total aberration compared to the rest of the state.

Now, a small 30+ seater like what is being talked about on this thread is potentially a different kettle of fish. Good reviews, solid pricing--establishing it as a "regular" destination and capitalizing on the farm to table trend, can potentially keep it filled nightly. POTENTIALLY.

#15 Rail Paul

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Posted 27 April 2010 - 12:24 PM

QUOTE(marauder @ Apr 27 2010, 07:59 AM) View Post
QUOTE(menton1 @ Apr 26 2010, 02:43 PM) View Post
I don't even come home from work until 7. Weekday dinner, 7:30/8 at the earliest. Who would you attract at 5:30 if not the "bluehairs?"


I attract all sorts of people before prime time dining hours. That's the point. Otherwise, the seats go "un-sat upon." If you think I'm wrong, next time you have a Tuesday or Wednesday off, cruise around the state's better establishments on Mon-Wed and report back as to how crowded they are. Not very will be your answer. NJ is not NYC. People in this state dine Thurs-Sun. Everybody wants to sit between 7-8:30 and nobody wants to spend more than 90 minutes eating. Sad, but indisputable. The only places I've been involved with that bucked this trend were places that had a unique inherent advantage. Copeland is a prime example. If the hotel was booked with business travelers during the week, the restaurant was full too. Many weeks, we did more covers on Monday than Friday. Total aberration compared to the rest of the state.

Now, a small 30+ seater like what is being talked about on this thread is potentially a different kettle of fish. Good reviews, solid pricing--establishing it as a "regular" destination and capitalizing on the farm to table trend, can potentially keep it filled nightly. POTENTIALLY.



I'd agree with this. I think that's one reason why studying the success of places like Divina's in Caldwell, Lorena's in Maplewood or Matisse (which is a little bigger than 35 seats) helps create a template against which to model the new restaurant.

“Jazz musicians just get better and better as the years go by. I think chefs are the same way. You know who you are.”

 

...Jonathan Waxman