KJZZ is a service of Rio Salado College,
and Maricopa Community Colleges

Copyright © 2024 KJZZ/Rio Salado College/MCCCD
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Phoenix's strong local dining scene helped bring more celebrity, high-end restaurants here

A number of high-end restaurants have opened in the Valley recently, including from celebrity chefs like Giada De Laurentiis.

Phoenix has had this kind of dining for a while, but it's somewhat new to have these types of chefs and restaurants from other places opening here. That's according to Jeff Green, a partner in Hoffman Strategy Group, which does retail site selection and expansion around the country.

Full interview

MARK BRODIE: Jeff, what do you make of the fact that the Phoenix area is seeing an expansion of high-end and celebrity chef restaurants opening up?

JEFF GREEN: Yes. And I mean, some of it's from, some of them are concepts from other places. Like I don't know if you're familiar with Ambrogio15, which just opened in the Biltmore, in the former California Pizza Kitchen location. They're from San Diego, they're upscale Italian. And then obviously you have Giada coming into the Caesar's development.

BRODIE: Right, the hotel, yeah.

GREEN: But at the same time, you also have, well, I think I would call Sam Fox now a national chef, but he's got the two new, what the steakhouse and Mediterranean concepts in his new hotel in Phoenix.

BRODIE: Is it notable at all that some of these are opening in hotels?

GREEN: No, I, you know, they just opened a new upscale restaurant in the Four Seasons. Latin-inspired restaurant. So, no, a lot of these are going into hotels and it's interesting, you know, years ago we all thought restaurants and hotels were not exactly where you'd want to be in terms of quality, but that's changed a lot.

BRODIE: So, what does it say about Phoenix, if anything, that these all these restaurants are opening here?

GREEN: Right. Well, I think that the difference is, is with Phoenix, we've always had some very strong local chefs stronger than most other markets in the U.S. And I think that had to do with the fact that many of them came to work in the hotels locally and love Phoenix and decided to stay and then open their own concepts. But what we're seeing now is the fact that we're taking the next step upscale. A great example is that is, is when Scottsdale Fashion Center decided, you know, to do the upscale area, which was sort of the restaurant hub with Nobu, Francine, Ocean 44. These were all really, these are really high-end restaurants.

BRODIE: Well, so you mentioned that Phoenix has always had sort of a strong local chef scene in this area. Why do you think it is now that maybe chefs from elsewhere are, are coming in?

GREEN: Basically because of the success of some of these local chefs. And they realize that there's a huge demand here and a huge demand for upscale restaurants.

BRODIE: Is that different than in other cities? In the sense that we started out, as you say, with sort of our own chefs, if I can say our own, you know, folks from here.

GREEN: Homegrown chefs, yeah.

BRODIE: Is it, is that the way it is in other cities where we, you start, they start out with homegrown chefs and then others come in?

GREEN: No, because you have some place like Las Vegas, where it's the, you know, these well-known national operators who came in. There's really not a lot of local chef driven things there.

BRODIE: That seems like such a difficult apples to apples comparison though, right? Because Vegas is such a tourist destination and those upscale restaurants are very often in casinos and hotels.

GREEN: Yes, except that, I mean, Scottsdale is also very tourist based, very upscale and yet it was driven for quite a while by local chefs, especially in Old Town.

BRODIE: Are local chefs still able to open those kinds of restaurants, given that more national folks are coming?

GREEN: They're doing very, very well. They, they have such a local community following, especially in Phoenix. Much more so than Scottsdale. Because tourists would rather probably be upscale national, as opposed to the city of Phoenix. You know, uptown, north central, the Biltmore Corridor. Those folks are very, very focused on their local chefs.

BRODIE: What kinds of trends are you seeing in terms of the types of these restaurants that are opening? You mentioned, you know, sort of an upscale Italian. We know there's a Mediterranean restaurant at the Sam Fox hotel. Are you seeing that they tend to be more sort of international cuisine? Does it tend to be more sort of locally inspired stuff?

GREEN: No, it's a mix. I mean, you've got Latin, you've got Mediterranean, but you also have new steakhouses. So, which I don't understand how all those can compete with one another, especially in Scottsdale, but they seem to all be doing well well.

BRODIE: So let me ask you about that competition. I mean, given that, as you say, you know, homegrown chefs are continuing to, to do well in open restaurants, outside chefs are opening restaurants now, is there room and, and a market for all of that?

GREEN: I think we'll reach saturation fairly quickly in the upscale national category.

BRODIE: And what happens then? I mean, who, who sort of loses out at that point, do you think?

GREEN: The older chains that have been around a long time. People want something that's, that's different or unique and some of those older chain wide places are not doing well.

BRODIE: So for how much longer do you think all this is sustainable? Like you mentioned that you, you expect us to see saturation in the not too distant future? Are we, are you looking for more expansion up until that point at some point down the road?

GREEN: Yes, except for the, the population growth may obviously stem some more growth in that restaurant category. Except that it's a younger, it's, it's growth of a younger demographic and they're much more focused on locals, local chef driven restaurants.

BRODIE: Are local diners also interested in the higher-end stuff?

GREEN: Not as much as the tourists are, but certainly for special occasions.

BRODIE: What does all of this say about Phoenix's place? Maybe in the the culinary scene nationwide or the the retail scene nationwide?

GREEN: Well, Phoenix has always been a place that's been overlooked for its quality, for its upscale demographic. There is a sense that Phoenix is an older market, which is not true. It's a younger affluent demographic that national chains really don't know that. I mean, I'm from Detroit originally and I know that, you know, you can get a certain image that may not be true.

BRODIE: So does it help then to have high-end or at least well known chefs opening restaurants here? We mentioned Giada De Laurentiis, Guy Fieri, of course has places here, Scott Conant has places here. Like does that help the the image of this place?

GREEN: Oh, yeah, very much so. Especially when, I mean, even for say Convention and Visitors Bureau, you know, you you can tout the fact that we are a very robust and varied restaurant scene.

BRODIE: In terms of the upscale restaurants. Are you seeing those concentrated in Scottsdale and, and maybe downtown Phoenix?

GREEN: Yes, those two places, Scottsdale and downtown Phoenix. Not particularly in the Biltmore area or some of the other strong neighborhoods, if you will.

BRODIE: Would you expect that to continue going forward?

GREEN: Yes, I think Scottsdale is known as a place of better demographic. Therefore, the restaurant chains believe they, they can support, you know, their optimal location would be in those areas.

KJZZ's The Show transcripts are created on deadline. This text may not be in its final form. The authoritative record of KJZZ's programming is the audio record. 

More stories from KJZZ

Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.