Famed chef shutters his Market restaurant
Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten owns 11 restaurants in New York City, two in Las Vegas, a pair in Shanghai, another in Paris, and has a hand in more than a dozen other popular dining establishments in the glittering capitals of the world.
But the famous chef and restaurateur has turned out the lights at his only Boston establishment. Market, Vongerichten’s highly rated farm-to-table restaurant in the W Boston Hotel, closed in late December.
“It proved to be a challenging operating environment,” said Max Buccini, a spokesman for Culinary Concepts Hospitality Group of New York, which owns the restaurant and collaborated with Vongerichten. “Due to the rising costs of labor in the hotel landscape in Boston, it became increasingly difficult to operate.”
Buccini declined to comment further on the reason for the closure.
Market opened in October 2009 to considerable fanfare, with some calling it a homecoming for the now world-renowned chef.
Boston was Vongerichten’s first stop when he came to the United States 30 years ago. He cooked at Le Marquis de Lafayette, a few blocks from the W now stands, and later moved on to New York.
Market received a 3-star review from the Boston Globe and was named one Boston’s best restaurants by Improper Bostonian and Boston Magazine in 2010 and 2011.
But many believe its location in the Theatre District presented a challenge too difficult to overcome.
Bob Luz, president of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, said restaurants in the Theater District often fill up early before the shows and then struggle to pull in guests as the night progresses.
“Location is a critical feature of any successful restaurant,” he said. “In theory, would I choose to go to a 7:30 p.m. dinner in the Theatre District if I wasn’t going to the theatre? I would not.”
Its place within a hotel did not help much either.
Andrea Foster, vice president of PKF Consulting USA, said trends in hotel restaurants are changing.
Now instead of wanting to eat at a traditional sit-down restaurant in a hotel, guests prefer convenience.
“Think of it as Starbucks on steroids,” she said.
“They want to have a drink, maybe get a meal, and sit and eat with people and be social. They want to have an Internet connection to sit and work while they eat,” she added.
Travelers who want to dine at a traditional restaurant have many choices in Boston and are more likely to venture off to well-known restaurant neighborhoods like the Back Bay or the North End, instead of the restaurant on the main floor of their hotel, she said.
“I don’t think Market was top of mind to a lot of people,” Foster said. “Hotel guests tend to want to get out and see the city and explore.”
The closure does not appear to be related to the performance of the hotel, which is said to have stabilized after struggling earlier.
Just months after the W opened, the owner of the property filed for bankruptcy in 2010, dragged down by slow sales of high-priced condos.
The hotel was purchased by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.
A spokeswoman for Starwood said the residences are now more than 90 percent occupied and hotel room occupancy is greater than 80 percent.
Paul Sacco, president of the Massachusetts Lodging Association, said he was not surprised to learn of Market’s closure.
“All hotel restaurants, even though they have an excellent product and service, always struggle for the bottom line,” he said. “It’s a very fragile market.”
A spokeswoman for the hotel said it will continue to serve breakfast in the restaurant and increase lunch and dinner options at the existing W Lounge. The hotel intends to bring a new tenant to the space in the future.