Why Seattle’s Restaurant Boom is Making Local Chefs Nervous

Seattle isn’t only the home of some of the best coffee shops in the country, but now more chefs are flocking to the city. 


In a month and a half in the summer, 40 new restaurants opened. In the first quarter of 2017, Seattle had 2,696 restaurants, which is a 25% increase from a decade ago, according to the Department of Revenue.

Not to mention, the majority of the restaurants stick it out their first year. 87% of restaurants survive in the city within the first year. 

But that doesn’t mean that even the most renowned chefs don’t struggle in the city and aren't nervous about what the future holds for Seattle's culinary landscape. 

James Beard Award-winning chef Maria Hines’ Ballard restaurant, Golden Beetle. It served all-organic, adventurous takes on Mediterranean food, but the neighborhood balked at paying more for a gyro. “My heart aches,” she said upon changing the place to a family-friendly, conceptually easy-to-swallow gastropub earlier this year. But she still couldn’t get out from under the debt. Hines closed Golden Beetle this spring to concentrate on her other two restaurants, Tilth and Agrodolce,” writes "The Seattle Times."

The consumer trend of eaters looking for much more approachable and affordable dining options has had an impact on Seattle. 

That’s why Chef Monica Dimas has steered away from opening a fine dining restaurant.

“I’m just not interested in that world anymore — I still frequent them, but owning that kind of place doesn’t really fit my vibe,” said Dimas, owner of Tortas Condesa, Neon Taco, and Sunset Fried Chicken Sandwiches. “I don’t have investors. “t’s just me. I can be small and still offer my employees health insurance and provide a good work environment.”

Pizza chains, in particular, are on the rise, especially in upcoming popular residential neighborhoods like Capitol Hill. However, there are now maybe too many.

“Capitol Hill needed five more pizza places, and it got, like, 10,” said Brandon Pettit, owner of Dino’s. 

The biggest issue for operators is that there is already a shortage of workers.

Seattle chef Miles James even posted “Good news: We have a dishwasher tonight. Bad news: His name is Miles, he’s old and slow and complains a lot” on Facebook. 

With the impending minimum wage spike to $15-an-hour, there will be a whole new problem. 

Chef Edouardo Jordan supports the increase, but knows it will ultimately impact his restaurant customers. 

“But our customers have to support that … We’re gonna have to raise our prices, or change to a service charge,” said Jordan, owner of Junebaby and Salare.

Read more about the city’s restaurant boom at "The Seattle Times."