Celebrity Chefs Are Being Used to Lure Employees Back to the Office. Here’s How.

Companies have deployed the carrot and the stick in their attempts to get workers back to the office, without a lot of success. Now, New York City real estate developers are hoping a more gourmet carrot will do the trick.

That’s what’s behind the recent wave of big-name chefs who commercial developers have recruited to open up restaurants within their buildings, the New York Post reported. While the trend isn’t new, it is happening in increased numbers, as both real-estate groups and companies try to lure tenants and employees back to Midtown office buildings.

“Distinguishing an office property in the current market is critical to leasing success,” Peter Riguardi, the tristate chairman and president of the commercial real estate company JLL, told the Post. “There are a host of ways to do this, from amenities to hospitality services, but bringing in a celebrated restaurateur is especially powerful, adding a new dimension to the building while raising visibility among tenants, visitors and people throughout the city.”

Among those setting up shop within Manhattan’s glass towers are chefs like David Burke, Gabriel Kreuther, and Daniel Boulud. Burke is gearing up to open the 7,000-square-foot Park Avenue Kitchen at 277 Park Avenue in the fall, while Kreuther is working with Tishman Speyer at the Spiral to launch a 5,700-square-foot restaurant and an all-day café. Boulud, for his part, will oversee a French-inspired steakhouse at SL Green’s One Madison (he also has Le Pavillon at the developer’s One Vanderbilt).

Daniel Boulud

Daniel Boulud is working on a steakhouse at One Madison.

Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Elsewhere, the hospitality group behind the beloved Korean steakhouse Cote has teamed up with the Olayan Group for a 15,000-square-foot restaurant and café at the former Sony Tower. The “Asian concept eatery,” as the New York Post called it, will be designed by the top-tier architect David Rockwell.

The terms of the various deals between restaurateurs and developers haven’t been disclosed, but brokers and restaurant owners told the Post that these sorts of arrangements usually include revenue sharing. In addition, a landlord will typically contribute to building costs and provide cheap starting rents, especially as Midtown works to come back from the pandemic.

While both the building owners and the chefs are hoping that their collaborations will lure people back into Manhattan, some are less optimistic. “You could have 10 Michelin stars in your building,” one anonymous broker told the tabloid, “but they won’t fill all the offices being put up for sublease.”

Having a notable name like Boulud attached to your building certainly can’t hurt, though.

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