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Why Now is the Time to Open a Restaurant Rents are dropping, talented chefs are up for grabs and, most important, smarter diners are looking for value, not glitz.

By Regina Schrambling

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Why Now is the Time to Open a Restaurant

Last year, Philip Hoffman did something most people would call crazy in this economy: He opened a restaurant.

Taking over the lease on a failing French bistro in New York's Greenwich Village, Hoffman and his team stripped out the Gallic bric-a-brac, leaving the room with a cool, spare look. They hired a tiny staff and created an eclectic, accessibly priced menu--overseen by a chef with three-star experience. Then they threw open the doors, and lo and behold, The New French, as they slyly named it, has been such a success that sales were up 7 percent this summer over last. Now the restaurant is expanding, with a sidewalk cafe and possibly into a space next door. On a recent holiday weekend, chef Livio Velardo served 150 brunchers in a single afternoon.