- Since the 2016 presidential election, restaurants inside Trump-branded properties have suffered as chefs have left and business has dwindled.
- The restaurant Koi, which was located inside the Trump SoHo hotel, closed in April.
- The space has a new restaurant called Spring & Varick, which opened this month.
Operating a business in a Trump-branded property comes with a unique set of challenges in this political era.
Take the Trump SoHo hotel in New York as an example. Once a regular for corporations and pro sports teams, the hotel has lost clients, lowered room rates, and been forced to lay off some staff after a reported decline in business. After the election, a restaurant in the hotel, called Koi, closed after foot traffic declined. Its replacement, Spring & Varick, opened this month, but John Creger, the new restaurant’s head chef, isn’t worried about filling seats.
“I was looking for [a space] back down lower in the city. I wanted to do something with a different clientele that was looking to spend a little more money,” Creger told Business Insider.
When the owners of Trump SoHo got in touch, Creger was eager to get into the space. Still, he said that opening a restaurant associated with the Trump name was a “challenge.”
Recent investigative reporting done by ProPublica, WNYC, and the New Yorker revealed the sordid past of the Trump SoHo’s development, which involved condo buyers suing the Trump Organisation over misleading sales numbers. The Trumps eventually settled the civil suit with the buyers, who had alleged that Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. had lied about the number of units that had sold.
And, post-election, some Trump brands are suffering as negative consumer perception grows.
“We know that it’s a challenge absolutely, but that said, everything we do here is a challenge — no matter what kitchen you’re in, what building you’re in, in a city [where] there’s thousands of restaurants and tons of people who don’t like this and that,” Creger said.
Drawing upon techniques he’s learned during his time at restaurants like Le Cirque, Creger has developed an internationally inspired menu that includes edamame falafel, fish and chips, and a house burger served with comté cheese. See a sample of dishes below.
While Spring & Varick does have its own entrance, the main front door is the Trump SoHo's lobby. The restaurant is named after the intersection where the hotel is located in Downtown Manhattan.
'You come into (Spring & Varick) to have a completely different experience that is not political ... it's just to come in and enjoy food and learn something,' Creger said.
Keeping politics out could be easier said than done. Celebrity chef José Andrés, who was going to open a restaurant inside the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, backed out of the deal in 2015, citing comments by then-candidate Trump that Andrés said were 'disparaging immigrants.' The two parties have since settled in court.
In the time since the presidential campaign, Trump SoHo itself has been the site of some boycotts. Sports teams are no longer staying there, paparazzi photographers have noticed that famous regulars have stopped showing up, and in August, an image of Putin was projected onto a wall above the hotel's signage.
Inside the Spring & Varick space, you won't find any Trump-branded items. The new space features paintings from local artists.
This salad is served with thick-cut slices of heirloom tomato and avocado. Sprinkled on top are cotija cheese, radish, and wasabi greens. A sherry vinaigrette tops it off.
The S&V Burger is served on a pretzel bun with a hefty slice of comté cheese, which is fried in tempura batter. Balsamic caramelised onions add a hint of tart flavour.
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