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Trends to Savor



It is a famously competitive and difficult industry. More of its businesses seem to close their doors than open in any given week, month or year, yet it continues to grow in total sales and number of operations. It requires a delicate balancing act combining art and creativity with a savvy business plan and, above all, a commitment to serve.

The good news about the restaurant business in general is that it is becoming more diverse and sophisticated. The better news for local food lovers is that Oklahoma City’s dining scene is thriving.

“Although it’s extremely competitive and always has been, if you are going to be in the restaurant business anywhere, Oklahoma City is a good place to be,” says Jim Hopper, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association. (See “By the Numbers.”)

A delicious duo – Asian Beef Carpaccio and Meatloaf Cupcakes – at Local in Norman - photo by David CobbHopper points to the success of the Thunder, MAPS 3 and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation as factors in the positive climate for restaurants. It is universally agreed in the business that the four pillars of a successful operation are quality food, atmosphere, cleanliness and service. But beyond these, certain trends are becoming apparent on the local scene.

“There is a strong growth in independent restaurants that are concentrating on one specialty area or unique concept, such as coffee, tacos or chicken,” says Margaret Holloway of Café 501 and Boulevard Steakhouse. “There also seems to be a rise in supporting our local resources, local produce and other growers.”

“More and more people are aware of what they consume and they expect their restaurants to provide lots of options,” adds Melissa Scaramucci of Local in Norman. “The modern diner is becoming very well educated.”

Young chefs are introducing new ideas to Oklahomans. Hopper cites the nationally renowned internship program run by Kurt Fleischfresser at The Coach House as a breeding ground for creativity in cuisine. That creativity is moving Oklahoma City beyond its heritage as a “steak and potatoes” town.

“More restaurants than ever have been introducing new and unique items into the market,” says Keith Paul of A Good Egg Dining Group. “We are seeing more adventurous diners than ever before.”

Scaramucci agrees. “I see diners who are discerning and well-traveled and their expectation level for great food is high. They know when their risotto is cooked well, they appreciate a wild-caught fish and they want to know about the bok choy we got from a farm near Tulsa.”

Despite certain very real concerns – the ongoing drought, which has led to higher commodity prices, and the fear of a fallback into recession – Hopper foresees the industry continuing to grow. “Lots of restaurateurs are looking for new concepts, expanding beyond what they have done before. It’s a good time for restaurants in Oklahoma City.”


Trials and Triumphs

Three restaurateurs with varying degrees of experience share some personal anecdotes about highs and lows in the industry

Margaret Holloway, Café 501 and Boulevard Steakhouse

The high: “An elderly lady told me that she had driven to Boulevard to pick up a gift certificate for her son, who had just survived brain tumor surgery. She wanted to surprise him and celebrate his recovery. I gave her a complimentary gift certificate. Six months later she came in with her whole family, and it was wonderful; they had a great time and I could tell it was a special time for them as a family.”

The low: “We try to make a difference in the lives of the employees who work in the restaurant. Trying to decide when they need a break and a second chance or when it is time to say goodbye is difficult. We try to be role models for them, but sometimes their best lesson is the hardest one to swallow. Learning that the grass isn’t always greener is one learned over time.”

Keith Paul, A Good Egg Dining Group

The high: “Our focus from day one has been on our people, so the best moments come when longstanding employees gradually move up through the company. Our lead cook at Cheever’s and very good friend, Juan, has been by my side for all 12 years in business. His son, who was 10 years old when Juan started, is now the lead grill cook at Red PrimeSteak.”

The low: “The most frustrating moment came when another local restaurant decided to question our ethics, our mission and operations via social media. Most of us have a certain mutual bond to stick together, help each other out when needed, [but] this has happened a couple of times and unfortunately, I expect it will happen again.”

Melissa Scaramucci, Local

The high: “We had a web reservation for two on the patio, [but] our patio was booked for a party that same night. The couple had gotten engaged on our patio, though, and were getting married on Friday, and were eating with us to celebrate. So we got some beautiful new plants, some new furniture, moved some of our existing patio furniture and furnishings and created a wonderful dining environment just for them, and for the big party. We made them a little red velvet cake and toasted them with champagne – it was an awesome ‘make it work’ moment and I’m thrilled to say we did it. Being part of someone’s life event is absolutely the best part of owning a restaurant.”

The low: “We constantly strive for perfection. We call it ‘Respect the Soup’ here. We put so much effort into just making soup – from sourcing our food direct from farmers to processing it ourselves. But all that hard work vaporizes as soon as someone has to wait for their water to be refilled, or their ravioli is cold, or someone’s steak isn’t temped correctly; and then that customer doesn’t come back and all the work was for nothing. So constant training, vigilance and flawless execution in the front and back of the house is critical to our philosophy and success. We have to Respect the Soup.”

By the Numbers

» Oklahoma restaurants will generate a projected $4.9 billion in sales in 2012.
» There are over 5,800 eating and drinking establishments in Oklahoma.
» Every dollar spent in Oklahoma’s restaurants generates an additional 95 cents in sales for the state economy.
» In 2012 restaurants in Oklahoma employ over 153,000 people, which is 10 percent of all employment in the state.

(Statistics courtesy Oklahoma Restaurant Association)

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Calendar

January 2019

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Celebrate during MLK weekend with fun! From Saturday 1/19 through Monday 1/21, experience our Winter Fun Pass for just $19.95! This pass includes unlimited laser tag, bumper cars, frog hopper, kidz...

Cost: 19.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park
3300 Market Place Dr
Norman, OK  73072
View map »


Sponsor: Andy Alligator's Fun Park
Telephone: 405.321.7275
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Celebrate during MLK weekend with fun! From Saturday 1/19 through Monday 1/21, experience our Winter Fun Pass for just $19.95! This pass includes unlimited laser tag, bumper cars, frog hopper, kidz...

Cost: 19.95

Where:
Andy Alligator's Fun Park
3300 Market Place Dr
Norman, OK  73072
View map »


Sponsor: Andy Alligator's Fun Park
Telephone: 405.321.7275
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

Presented By Painted Sky Opera By Leonard Bernstein Sam and Dinah may appear to be the picture of 1950s suburban marital bliss in this jazz-influenced opera by the composer of West Side...

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall - City Space
201 N Walker
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Painted Sky Opera
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
McKinney, TX  75069
View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City, OK  73111
View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

America’s largest interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: $59.95

Where:
The Skirvin Hilton
1 Park Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

More information

The 8th annual “A Perfect Finish” will feature a night of wine & beer tasting, an auction, food and fun benefiting the OKC RIVERSPORT Junior Crew.  The proceeds from this...

Cost: $75

Where:
McClendon Whitewater Center
800 Riversport Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73129
View map »


Sponsor: RIVERSPORT OKC
Telephone: 405.552.4040
Contact Name: Luke Reynolds
Website »

More information

Presented By OKC Philharmonic Alexander Mickelthwate, conductor Yolanda Kondonassis, harp Bernstein - On the Town: Three Dance Episodes Brian Eno - An Ending (Ascent) Higdon - Concerto for...

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall-Thelma Gaylord Theater
201 N Walker
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: OKC Phil
Telephone: 405.842.5387
Website »

More information

Presented By Painted Sky Opera By Leonard Bernstein Sam and Dinah may appear to be the picture of 1950s suburban marital bliss in this jazz-influenced opera by the composer of West Side...

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall - City Space
201 N Walker
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Painted Sky Opera
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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