Is Restaurant Expansion Always a Good Thing?

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘M.V. Jantzen’
There’s no doubt about it that one of my most hated conversations is one that ends with, “we’ll have a table ready for you in 45 minutes.” But I’m hungry now. So it would seem like a little more space for me to plant my hungry butt would be a good thing. And a lot of times, it is. When Ardeo+Bardeo increased their seating with their recent makeover, it was great. Same goes for Lauriol Plaza when it moved up the street a few years ago to its current feat of massive architecture.

But there are other restaurants that draw a lot of their exclusivity and mystique from just how small they are and just how hard it is to get a table. When I went to Komi last year, the sense of accomplishment I got by finally getting through the reservation line and finding something that worked probably made the food taste better. Minibar, which is nothing if not tough to get a stool at on any given day let alone the one you actually want, draws a lot of its power from the fact that you chosen six worked harder for your reservation than the rest of those jokers in the main dining room of Cafe Atlantico.

With the recent news that Komi would be expanding in to the drycleaning space below the dining room, I was a little leery of the change. Sitting in that dining room, I counted no more than fourteen other tables of lucky and dedicated folks who, like me, sold their souls for a prime Friday night reservation. And one of the best things about Komi (second only to the food) was the service — there were at least three servers with us at all times. I doubt that the new space will be counter service, but I can’t help but think some of the superb service will be compromised once the tables more than double. And truthfully, I can’t imagine a meal there without a direct view of Johnny Monis working away in the kitchen, and unless they’re installing a periscope in the new dining area, I think that’s out of the question.

Before the news broke of the Komi expansion, the rumors were flying that Jose Andres would be expanding the restaurant-within-a-restaurant space of Minibar. Though it looks like the Minibar expansion has been put on hold while Andres works on some of his new ventures around the country, it seems like it’s still inevitable. He is playing things close to the vest on the details, but the rumors originally were to more than double the amount of seating at the coveted counter service culinary chemistry lab. An expansion like this probably will do away with part of the fun of Minibar — that first conversation you have with your fellow diners that starts, “let me tell you how I got a reservation…”

I seriously doubt that either of these restaurants will go the way of The Olive Garden once their table count grows, but I still will long for the days when I could glance at the select few other diners in these practically unattainable restaurants and think, “I worked hard for this table, and I’m going to love this meal.”

Ashley Messick

Ashley is a born and bred Washingtonian who left for college but came running back to the District as fast as her little legs could carry her. By day she is a Capitol Hill brat, but by night she is a lean, mean, eating machine. It’s her goal in life to steal Anthony Bourdain’s job…by whatever means necessary. Contact her at Ashley (at) welovedc (dot) com or follow her on Twitter.

3 thoughts on “Is Restaurant Expansion Always a Good Thing?

  1. ugh, what a load of pretentious crap this post is. With all of the problems in the world, the best we can do is worry about whether a restaurant expansion will harm our fragile egos (while making sarcastic comments about Sarah Palin).

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