Jump to content
pras

Isabella Eatery, Mike Isabella Lends his Name to a 41,000-Square-Foot Eatery at Tysons Galleria - Closed

Recommended Posts

I wonder how the execution of this, a single restaurateur with multiple restaurants, will compare to Anthony Bourdain's Food Market.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wonder how the execution of this, a single restaurateur with multiple restaurants, will compare to Anthony Bourdain's Food Market.

Do you think either one of them care? :)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't help but assume that, with this step, the Isabella empire will descend (opinions vary, but I find Kapnos quite good, and he did Sous at Zatinya) into the sort of shopping mall mediocrity that seems to have consumed Bryan Voltaggio's Range, about which nothing now is ever heard.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Had a couple of reactions:

1.  Struck me as more business news than fine dining news so I looked at the Washington Business Journal article

2.  41,000 feet...lots of different entities.   Boy that is a big effort and ballsy, risky, imho.

3.  Malls are expensive and the Post article references lots of small plate foods.   If that doesn't suggest that small plate presentations are the epitome of high mark ups than I don't know what does.

4.  Its a big effort and big risk plus lots of work to implement for Isabella and team.  If it works (commercially) more power to him and his team.  Its actually a great experiment for the mall and owners. Its 40,000 feet in an 800,000 foot mall, for an ownership group that has an inventory of over 100 million feet of retail/mall space.  If it works here, they'll replicate it elsewhere.

5.  ....and back to the food.  Lots of stalls with lots of food in heated chafing dishes, doled out at lunch....(plus sit down).  It just reads as far more businessy than foody to me.

But Good luck

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Had a couple of reactions:

1.  Struck me as more business news than fine dining news so I looked at the Washington Business Journal article

2.  41,000 feet...lots of different entities.   Boy that is a big effort and ballsy, risky, imho.

3.  Malls are expensive and the Post article references lots of small plate foods.   If that doesn't suggest that small plate presentations are the epitome of high mark ups than I don't know what does.

4.  Its a big effort and big risk plus lots of work to implement for Isabella and team.  If it works (commercially) more power to him and his team.  Its actually a great experiment for the mall and owners. Its 40,000 feet in an 800,000 foot mall, for an ownership group that has an inventory of over 100 million feet of retail/mall space.  If it works here, they'll replicate it elsewhere.

5.  ....and back to the food.  Lots of stalls with lots of food in heated chafing dishes, doled out at lunch....(plus sit down).  It just reads as far more businessy than foody to me.

But Good luck

I completely agree with you, but want to point out that I doubt Mike himself has much (if any) equity in this project. So I don't consider it "risky" so much as a reasonable business plan for General Growth Properties (I had always thought the Lerners owned the mall until just now).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I completely agree with you, but want to point out that I doubt Mike himself has much (if any) equity in this project. So I don't consider it "risky" so much as a reasonable business plan for General Growth Properties (I had always thought the Lerners owned the mall until just now).

The Lerners developed it, but sold it years ago.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My impression of the Galleria is that it is not meant for drones like me, but rather for people who departed their home countries silently and quickly with lots of cash stuffed in suitcases.

  • Like 7

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I very much thought of Range when I heard this.  Large space, lots of different parts to manage, in a mall, I wish him luck, but I think it's a very hard task ahead of him.  It will be interesting, especially with Lebanese Taverna and Legal Seafoods already in that space and having been for some time.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My impression of the Galleria is that it is not meant for drones like me, but rather for people who departed their home countries silently and quickly with lots of cash stuffed in suitcases.

Fellato and Putana? (Or their parents?)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I walked that space today, and I looked around. This is the Galleria, where the typical person walking around is the wife of a tech exec, wielding his platinum card, and the local office staff who think Starbucks is good coffee. I'm not sure why this concept will be a success here.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If it is a success, it will be because of the food court aspect, is my thought.  There really isn't much in the way of a quick bite for office workers and mall workers on their meal breaks, and some of the uber-shoppers want just a snack while they shop and not a sit-down big-menu restaurant meal.  Also with the Silver Line running, the hope is that there will be mall-crawl folks from DC and Arlington coming out to the high-end mall to look around or buy one particular high-priced item and not drop much cash anywhere else.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I walked that space today, and I looked around. This is the Galleria, where the typical person walking around is the wife of a tech exec, wielding his platinum card, and the local office staff who think Starbucks is good coffee. I'm not sure why this concept will be a success here.

I don't understand your last line.

Why won't those tech wives eat at one of these places?  To me it seems like those folks would be more likely to eat at "trendy, hip, DC spot" as opposed to just another chain like Chik-fil-A

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My (not-so-bold) prediction for this little venture; it starts off with fanfare and pretty good food, although plenty of service and other glitches.  Isabella is there to show face initially, shake hands, etc, and is never seen at the place after month 1 of operation.  The food steadily declines for the next year, after which time the parties involve "mutually agree" to remove Mike's name from the venture, which won't matter because the damage to his reputation will have been done (see "Todd Gray's Watershed" for proof point). Another uneventful year or two goes by with the occasional horror story about crummy food and worse service until the space closes altogether and gets repurposed into something else.

I'll be back in 2018 to check on this and will be shocked if 80% of what I wrote above did not come true.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My (not-so-bold) prediction for this little venture; it starts off with fanfare and pretty good food, although plenty of service and other glitches.  Isabella is there to show face initially, shake hands, etc, and is never seen at the place after month 1 of operation.  The food steadily declines for the next year, after which time the parties involve "mutually agree" to remove Mike's name from the venture, which won't matter because the damage to his reputation will have been done (see "Todd Gray's Watershed" for proof point). Another uneventful year or two goes by with the occasional horror story about crummy food and worse service until the space closes altogether and gets repurposed into something else.

I'll be back in 2018 to check on this and will be shocked if 80% of what I wrote above did not come true.

Sounds like the life cycle of the Iron Chef Morimoto-affiliated restaurant at Tysons.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My (not-so-bold) prediction for this little venture; it starts off with fanfare and pretty good food, although plenty of service and other glitches.  Isabella is there to show face initially, shake hands, etc, and is never seen at the place after month 1 of operation.  The food steadily declines for the next year, after which time the parties involve "mutually agree" to remove Mike's name from the venture, which won't matter because the damage to his reputation will have been done (see "Todd Gray's Watershed" for proof point). Another uneventful year or two goes by with the occasional horror story about crummy food and worse service until the space closes altogether and gets repurposed into something else.

I'll be back in 2018 to check on this and will be shocked if 80% of what I wrote above did not come true.

I can envision everything you say, except that I don't think Mike's reputation will be damaged no matter what happens - my guess (and it's only a guess) is that he's going for max publicity, good or bad, and all publicity is useful publicity. Bandolero didn't hurt him, and I don't think Watershed hurt Todd Gray any more than Market Salamander did. I've been to every one of Mike's restaurants (except for whatever he's doing at Nationals Park), including the Richmond Graffiato, and the only one I think is newsworthy is Yona, and that's because of Jonah Kim. I don't mean to sound condescending, but the media pulled the wool over everyone's eyes with the original Graffiato, and that's what started everything (aside from Top Chef, that is). Business-wise, my guess is that Mike has parlayed his Top Chef loss as well as anyone in history. It's funny, I don't even know what the man sounds like: I've never heard him speak.

All that said, I think your post is very insightful, and could quite possibly come to pass.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My impression of the Galleria is that it is not meant for drones like me, but rather for people who departed their home countries silently and quickly with lots of cash stuffed in suitcases.

And as someone else mentioned, there is relatively little foot traffic in this mall. The place caters to the very wealthy; Nieman Marcus, Saks, Tumi, Omega, and even a RItz Carlton.

My wife works for a well-know a retail kitchen kitchen company which has stores in Galleria and Corner. The Corner store is magnitudes busier. (As is the Starbucks, btw)

I haven't been to America Eats Tavern in some time, but I haven't read anything that indicates it is a destination restaurant. I like Isabella's restaurants (with the exception of the now-closed Bandolero), but barring some sort of amazing transformation, I don't see how this concept will work at the Galleria.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't understand your last line.

Why won't those tech wives eat at one of these places?  To me it seems like those folks would be more likely to eat at "trendy, hip, DC spot" as opposed to just another chain like Chik-fil-A

My point, however awkwardly made, is that my empirical observations of the Galleria reveal two distinct crowds -- one that is well-heeled, parading around to be seen, lingering over the Maseratis on display, overpaying for Prada and Ralph Lauren, and meeting up with the girls at the patisserie. The second crowd is the millennial tech worker flocks that have the Starbucks menu memorized and never see the world beyond the palm of their hand, which is always keeping that smart phone right in their face. If this Isabella concept was designed to appeal to these two crowds, I don't understand their research.

And as someone else mentioned, there is relatively little foot traffic in this mall. The place caters to the very wealthy; Nieman Marcus, Saks, Tumi, Omega, and even a RItz Carlton.

My wife works for a well-know a retail kitchen kitchen company which has stores in Galleria and Corner. The Corner store is magnitudes busier. (As is the Starbucks, btw)

I haven't been to America Eats Tavern in some time, but I haven't read anything that indicates it is a destination restaurant. I like Isabella's restaurants (with the exception of the now-closed Bandolero), but barring some sort of amazing transformation, I don't see how this concept will work at the Galleria.

Ditto. The concept that would work here might be bottled water from glaciers at $20 per bottle for the well-heeled, or else a nouvelle hamburger concept for the millennials.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 and never see the world beyond the palm of their hand, 

Great line!  I don't know if you coined it or saw it somewhere else, but I love it!

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Even though I wasn't particularly fond of him on his season of Top Chef, I developed a soft spot for Mike Isabella, after watching him cook, in a 'Top Chef' style cook off, against the university president at the GMU parents' weekend. I had a prime spot on the balcony above,& it was the highlight of my day (parents who've gone to these kind of things will understand). I let my husband & younger child do the 7 am 'fun run'.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is an interesting document circa 2012 describing the then rent roll of some tenants at Tysons Galleria.  It is on page 7 of the long document and includes some of the restaurants.   It is the result of a mortgage being issued on the property at that time.  The description also suggests that rents post 2012 were being negotiated at far higher rates than the older rents from then existing tenants.  Also that partial list of tenants were all subject to lease renewals between 2012 and now...so who knows what they are paying today.

Now having worked in that universe for a couple of decades its not unusual to see dramatically different rents for two adjacent retailers either in malls, in downtown DC, Bethesda, Reston, or Rockville Pike.   The retail market is always imperfect.

Some other observations about the Galleria and Tysons Mall.  Supposedly from some other real estate news I read current sales per sq. ft at the Galleria surpass that of Tysons Mall and Pentagon City...two malls that are and have been great national "producers" for a long time.   Still while I don't get up there as much as I did in the past, it still appears to me that foot traffic at Tysons is hugely different and far more packed than at the Galleria.  OTOH;  the stores at the Galleria can sell a $50,000 piece of jewelry that might not be available at Tysons...and that one sale (per square feet) outweighs the sale of thousands of pairs of jeans at Tysons.

Now how will Isabella's group do with all this???   I'm not going to bother predicting.   Time will tell.   Even with a mix of quality its still a large sit down eatery.  Those type places live and die on foot traffic.  But its going to be "fancier".

I guess this is where the marketers and the PR people earn their keep.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I see articles of this sort my old real estate leasing "mind" and rent vs revenues plus # of employees needed(payroll) mental gymnastics go to work.  Will this work?   The following are a partial compilation of facts after a little research:

The Isabella eatery and enclosed restaurants  will have 600 seats.  Total occupancy is 41,000 feet.  By comparison per some older articles, Clydes at Gallery Place has a little less than 600 seats at about 23,000 feet and Carmines in DC has 700 seats at 20,000 feet.

Per the Morningstar rating analysis referenced above, the actual size of the Galleria is about 308,000 feet, with the entire mall being 820,000 feet with the difference being the anchor department stores that own their own properties.  In any case 41,000 feet is over 13% of the mall.  Its a substantial space from the perspective of the landlord.  But when they describe this, I'm guessing they are including what used to be common area space that didn't attach to specific stores...but whose costs were allocated to all the tenants for shared costs.

Per older experience from leasing, rents in malls (like anywhere) can and do vary depending on the location within the mall.  The central locations with the most foot traffic command the highest rents/foot.  Typically lower floors with the most and easiest access command highest rents.  The Isabella location is on the third top floor.  To a certain and important extent the merchandise displayed on the top floors of the department store anchors often factor into foot traffic on the floor.  If the department stores place most of the merchandise that attracts most customers on the 1st and 2nd floors...then the top/third floor sees less foot traffic.

I went back and looked at the rents at the Galleria from 2012 per the Morningstar analysis.  While they are all over the board there seems to be relevance connected to when the leases were first written and location, with different elements factoring into the base rent.     Wildfire, the Chicago based steak/seafood restaurant was paying a higher rent per sq foot than some others and was on the third floor.  But they opened in 2007.  The higher rent might be a function of significantly increased rents in the entire region that exploded in the 2000's.  Meanwhile Piazza de Georgio which was on the third floor and vacated had 8700 feet at $27/foot.  Big rent/sq foot difference.

Some other little factoids:

Tysons, in an area a little more than 4 square miles reportedly has a daily working population of over 100,000 (that would make it about the 12th largest employment center in the US) and a current residential population of about 19,000.  Downtown DC has 3-400,000 daytime employees in an area possibly about 2.5 square miles, plus a rather enormous hotel population and daily visitor count.  Of course Tysons gets about 55,000 shoppers/weekday (and presumably a lot more on weekends)   (all data from various sources I'm too lazy to cite).  Clearly DC can draw from large nearby population bases, but so does Tysons and possibly or probably it has an ability to pull from a larger and more affluent population base from the suburbs than does downtown DC--though DC pulls from thousands of daily hotel occupants)

I looked at page 13 of the Morningstar report which had income statements for the Galleria including some actual statements from 2010 and 2011 and some projected statements.  Three things to note:  On the income side there is something called percentage rents, roughly showing at 10% or more of the rents per the lease.  Percentage rents arise when tenants do REAL WELL in the malls and tenants pay some kind of percentage rent above its base all calculated on some formula.  Simply speaking there are and have been excellent sales per foot, regardless of the observed foot traffic.

The other two items from the income statements are called rent reimbursements (or common area maintenance-CAM) on the income side and expenses on the Expense side.  Simply and typically in a mall tenants pay their share of the costs of running the mall including everything from pro rata share of real estate taxes to probably paying for the paper and supplies the management office purchases during the year.   The expense reimbursements seem to suggest that a tenant at the mall could anticipate paying around $30/foot for their share of the mall's operating costs.  Add that to the base rents.  Expensive.

After all the above, I haven't the foggiest kind of idea what Isabella is paying in rent.  For 41,000 feet though it will be expensive.  I suspect it will be a challenge to get diners to the third floor at the Mall.  Good luck.

Lastly this little exercise reminded me of when I started out in leasing and was on a project wherein we were working to lease up something akin to the Galleria.  I was a rookie and mostly followed the seniors around, did their chores, carried their books and plans, and absorbed everything they said and did.   I was with a senior leasing guy and we were meeting with a then interesting retail tenant with a nifty store...a local...not a chain.

We went over the project and layout of the project and finally got around to the base rents.  The tenant said that was fine.  Then my colleague described the extra shared costs of the mall; the CAM.  The tenant flatly responded "I'm not paying for that".  My colleague/senior responded with something like:   But its only FAIR.  Everyone has to share in the costs.

The tenant's response (verbatim)    "FAIR.   Fairs are where pigs shit.  This is business".   Needless to say we did not make a deal with that tenant.

In any case good luck to Isabella.  Lots of challenges.  Interesting opportunity

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×