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.
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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.