Don't bet on the purchase of the Patina Group by a New York-based group being the beginning of an East Coast invasion for the hearts and taste buds of Angeleno diners.
Actually, Restaurant Associates, which is acquiring the group of restaurants operated by famed restaurateur Joachim Splichal and known largely through its flagship Patina has operated in L.A. for several years, providing food services at the Music Center and catering parties after major events like the Academy Awards. .
Analysts consider the purchase of the Patina restaurants, which include Splichal's "Pinot" bistros, four museum cafes and a catering company, to be a sensible way of getting into L.A.'s high-end restaurant market. Restaurant Associates itself was acquired last year by British-based Compass Group for $87.5 million.
"(Compass) sees Patina as a growth vehicle for us in the Los Angeles area," said spokesman John Harding. "(Compass) wants us to expand quickly, and Los Angeles is the main focus on the West Coast."
Restaurant Associates operated the Acapulco chain of 41 Mexican restaurants for about 15 years in California before spinning off the division last year following its purchase by Compass. In addition, the investment firm that owned the firm before its sale last year has a stake in California Pizza Kitchen, and Restaurant Associates chief executive Nick Valenti has served as an advisor to the chain.
Experts dish out varying opinions on whether L.A. restaurants will attract other restaurateurs from New York. Barbara Fairchild, executive editor of Bon Appetit, doesn't think so.
"We've had a quiet year in terms of restaurant openings here in Los Angeles, which is disturbing," she says. "Most people have been flocking to Las Vegas to start their ventures."
But Darlene Heskamp, a restaurant specialist at Beitler Commercial brokerage in Brentwood, says she has seen stepped-up interest n L.A. from New York investors.
"Right now, I'm working with a couple of restaurant people out of New York who are interested in the Los Angeles market," she said. "A lot of them in New York cater to the design and entertainment industry. They want to be where these people are in Los Angeles, especially on the Westside."
Still, Heskamp points out that the local restaurant culture differs from that in New York, often making it more challenging to open here. "L.A. has a lot of limitations, especially when it comes to acquiring liquor licenses. Last call here is 2 a.m. and in New York, they can stay open till 4 a.m. and make more money," she said.
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