Oklahoma City is in the middle of a perfect storm composed of three waves that will continue to affect the hospitality industry. The first is the opening of more and more new restaurants, a trend which seems not to have reached its zenith – surely at some point there will be a decline. (We said that in 2017, too, and no sign of it yet.) By the time this issue hits the streets, Gun Izakaya, an 84 Hospitality concept in the Paseo, and New State Burgers in the Plaza District will be open for business.
July brings even more openings. Humankind Hospitality’s Frida in the Paseo, Jimmy Mays’ concept The Hamilton (with Stephanie Miller, Chris Kana and Michael Paske) in The Shoppes at Northpark and A Good Egg’s Mexican Radio are all scheduled to open in July. There is a strong possibility that Andrew Black’s third Deep Deuce restaurant Grey Sweater will open the same month. Dates are still tentative.
The surge of openings has led to the second wave, a dearth of trained hospitality professionals. Restaurant owners and managers around the city are now regularly admitting that the lack of trained servers, bartenders and cooks is creating service issues. Many concepts are short-staffed, and in many more, it’s apparent that the level of service has declined. This situation will likely get worse, even as some hospitality companies have turned to counter-service concepts to reduce the need for trained staff.
Finally, the growth of legal marijuana has created a demand for trained hospitality professionals, as well, which is increasing the problem. That might come as a surprise, but the spheres aren’t dissimilar in some ways: As Ford Austin, CEO of Apco Med, put it, “When we started hiring in Oklahoma City, we looked for hospitality veterans. Dispensaries are basically service industry concepts.”
MAKING A SPLASH
Rachel Cope’s favorite “move” (as she calls it) off the diving board is the cannonball, so this heat-beating frozen drink at Revolucion takes its name from summer play. “Credit where credit is due,” Cope says, “I saw a drink like this at Gracias Madre in L.A., and it was delicious. We top our house margarita with sangria syrup to riff on a swirl.”
The 17th annual Odyssey de Culinaire’s OKC feast will be July 25 at the Skirvin Hilton. The Oklahoma Restaurant Association’s event raises funds to support culinary education, and features a good-natured contest between Tulsa and OKC chefs. This year, local chefs Kevin Lee, Josh Valentine, Theron Jessop, Michael Paske and Dominic Trapanese hope to enjoy the taste of victory.
IN THE CLUB
Non-alcoholic cocktails are one of the fastest-growing trends in the hospitality industry, but bartenders no longer need be troubled to make virgin versions of popular drinks – not when excellent lines such as Casamara Club sodas are arriving in the market. Available at Barkeep Supply in Midtown, they put high-quality botanicals into low-sugar leisure sodas that will allow you to keep drinking with your friends when you’ve hit your limit.