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Is Now a Terrible Time to Open a Restaurant in Portland?

Kurt Huffman thinks so, in his recent interview on Right at the Fork, and he also responds to the Lardo-ownership dispute.

Kurft Huffman
Kurft Huffman

Founder of the ChefStable restaurant group, Kurt Huffman is the man behind many of Portland's best-known restaurants, like Ox, St. Jack, and Lardo, and he recently declared early 2016 the worst time in recent memory to open a restaurant in Portland. Speaking on the Right at the Fork podcast, hosted by Chris Angelus, Huffman said (begins at 44:45 minutes):

  • ChefStable has "been in business now for about eight and a half years in Portland, and never in eight years have I been getting so many calls from restaurant that are struggling."
  • "There's been so many openings, and there's such a fury around opening restaurants that I think we're going to have more closures in the first half of 2016 than we seen in 10 years."
  • "It's gonna be places that surprise people. There are some very popular restaurants that just aren't making money."
  • "Maybe there's more supply right now than demand."
  • "It's the hardest time by far that I've seen in the past eight years in Portland."

Huffman's point of view comes after a slew of end-of-the-year closings, including Gruner (ChefStable's second-ever restaurant), Pizza Maria, Levant, and The Farm Cafe.

In the podcast, Huffman also addressed the current battle for ownership of Lardo, the sandwich shop with a craft-beer backbone. In the interview (at 27:30 minutes), Huffman says the issue is a breakdown in relationships. It's "like being in a three-man musical group when two of the guys don't want to hang out with the third anymore."

Additionally, Huffman gave fans of Ox restaurant something to get excited about: He says that Superbite, the restaurant from the team behind Ox, aims to open in March.