Tuesday, January 2, 2024

New 2024 Trend: Think Tank Tasting Menus?

Here is more from Axios:

A pioneering "nonprofit fine dining restaurant" M. Frances is opening near Union Market this spring from The LEE Initiative.

Why it matters: Think tanks and tasting menus rarely coexist — the founders are touting the restaurant as "the first of its kind in America" — and the place has lofty goals to create solutions for the many issues independent restaurants face.

Catch up fast: Kentucky-based celebrity chef Edward Lee (who's also behind D.C.'s Succotash) and industry veteran Lindsey Ofcacek co-founded The LEE [Let's Empower Employment] Initiative in 2017 with the goal of creating programs to make the hospitality industry more diverse, equitable, sustainable, and compassionate.

Zoom in: LEE's mentorship program for women in food and spirits — which includes six months of training and funded externships — inspired the idea for M. Frances.

How it works: The intimate restaurant and cocktail bar aims to recruit top chefs — locally and nationally — to run a yearlong residency program for up-and-coming talents. The collective will create local, seasonal tasting menus throughout the year.

  • Price is TBD, but Ofcacek says, "We're tapping out at $175. We want to be fine dining, not super luxury."

Zoom out: M. Frances is designed to be a live experiment and think tank. The nonprofit is teaming up with schools and big-name sponsors like Chase Sapphire and OpenTable to test best business and employment practices, from fair wage modeling to environmental sustainability.


While this will not be a traditional think tank, Think Tank Watch would rather visit this than most of the 400+ "think tanks" currently in Washington, DC.