Residents-only eateries die out due to costs, erratic business

432 Park Avenue, 15 Central Park West are notable exceptions
November 15, 2013 02:18PM

Private, residents-only restaurants were once a common feature in New York City’s residential buildings. But the soaring operational costs, as well as the typical headaches of the food service industry, have made them increasingly rare.

Harry Macklowe’s 432 Park Avenue will include an 8,500-square-foot private restaurant serving three meals per day, only to owners and their guests. Fifteen Central Park West operates a similarly exclusive eatery, which opened in 2008 and has become a popular Mother’s Day brunch and Thanksgiving breakfast spot. At 825 Fifth Avenue, a residents-only private restaurant with a formal dining room has been in operation since the property was built in 1927.

These days, however, such off-the-radar dining spots rarely generate enough cash to cover their expenses, which private restaurant managers said can cost $1,000 per day or more for staffing alone. Residents generally help foot the bill with additional fees, like 825 Fifth’s $732 monthly “catering charge” and minimum annual restaurant tab of $2,000.

“The restaurant business is not as tough as the development business, but it’s up there,” Arthur Zeckendorf, who developed 15 Central Park West along with his brother William, told the Wall Street Journal.

Even deciding to include a private restaurant at 15 Central Park West was fiercely debated, Zeckendorf told the Journal, because of concerns about finding a back-of-house prep area and the challenge of finding a chef up to residents’ high standards. The flow of traffic can also be tricky to predict, as many of Manhattan’s high-end condo buildings are not even occupied full-time.

Turning away hungry diners on an exceptionally busy day isn’t an option, Club Metropolitan General Manager Thomas McLoone told the Journal, because “everybody’s a regular.” [WSJ]Julie Strickland