Hannah Wallace of the Oregon Business Magazine talks with Chef David Machado and others about the Portland dining scene and why everyone you know is eating out. Read what Chef Machado has to say below.
Oregon Business Magazine / October edition
September 23, 2016
Written by Hannah Wallace
“The Portland dining public is way more sophisticated today than it was 25 years ago,” observes longtime Portland chef David Machado, whose former restaurants Lauro Kitchen and Vindalho were the first to colonize Southeast Division (in 2003 and 2005, respectively). Today, at his two restaurants Nel Centro and Altabira City Tavern, he sees chiefly two main demographics: boomers and millennials.
“Those boomers have traveled. They’ve had that pasta that you serve on the menu — they’ve had it in Italy,” Machado notes. Many of these boomers have also taken cooking classes and watch more than one cooking show, he says. Portland millennials, too, are well traveled; they’ve been to all the latest restaurants in New York and San Francisco, and they want to stay on top of the latest spots in their hometown, too.
“They are college educated, have a good job, are married — or not. But they’re experimenting with food, ordering hand made cocktails and wines.” Add these two groups together and you get a group of curious, adventurous eaters who want to eat out all the time.
“Everyone is just so much damn smarter about food,” says Machado. On-demand and sharing economy trends are also helping fuel the frenzy; today, when people want food, they want it now. Restaurants — co-eating venues, as collaborative economists might say — fit the bill.
There’s no authoritative statistic on which demographics eat out the most in Portland. But Zach Hull, vice president of business development at Boulevard — the software company that designed Chew, Kurt Huffman’s new restaurant loyalty app — says almost 50% of Chew’s 6,000 active users are between the ages of 25 and 35 (25% are in the 35 to 45 age group).
It doesn’t hurt that the price of eating out at a nice restaurant (or food cart) is still relatively affordable in Portland, when compared to other major American cities. “The price that you pay for a meal, an entree in a restaurant today, is the same or less than you did 10 or so years ago,” says Machado. In Portland, he adds, there are certain benchmarks you can’t exceed.
“Portlanders don’t like to spend more than $30 on an entree, or $14 or $15 on an appetizer.”