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For Hot Restaurants, Going Out of Business Can Be Big Business

Restaurants recoup some losses by refusing to go quietly into the night
For Hot Restaurants, Going Out of Business Can Be Big Business
Alamy (8), Getty Images (1)

Later this month, WD-50, chef Wylie Dufresne’s hub of molecular gastronomy, will serve its last supper on New York’s Lower East Side. Since the restaurant opened in 2003, its tables have been crammed with customers eating delicacies such as scrambled egg ravioli and oysters with edible “shells.” One man, an art dealer named Stewart Waltzer, booked a seat more than 300 times. But as other, hotter joints have arrived in town, business has slowed. There weren’t enough Waltzers to buy out the building; it will soon be torn down to make room for luxury condos.

When the closure was announced in July, diners began coming out en masse. Some revisited $155 tasting menus from previous outings, while others tried knotted foie gras for the first time. All had likely seen the dramatic countdown clock Dufresne had installed on his website. “It seemed reasonable to remind people that we were still here,” he says. “Once we picked the date, why not just have some fun with it?” It was also clever marketing—most remaining reservations evaporated.