A Kosher Compromise

In Brussels, two neighborhood restaurants were only open for lunch, and still both restaurants lost money because they couldn’t cover their fixed costs. Members of the Lubavitcher Hasidic group came to both owners and offered the following: make one restaurant dairy only, the other meat only (to abide by religious requirements), and we will make your restaurants profitable at dinner, and your lunch business will improve too. The owners agreed-and lo and behold, lunch business boomed, and the restaurants were full at dinner too. Clearly, there had been an excess demand for kosher restaurants in the area; and the increased demand at dinner spilled over into the related market at lunch. Resources that had stood idle (at dinner time) were now being utilized. A clear Pareto improvement.


Eileen Wyatt

This sounds like an economics midrash.

I've been through four kosher-restaurant databases for Brussels and can find only one restaurant that's kosher for dairy, Da Bruno. This Italian restaurant did go kosher after being approached by the local Jewish community (details here.)

However, the owner's story mentions no adjacent restaurant that went kosher-for-meat. The meat-kosher restaurants online, Chez Gilles and Balthazar, are in different neighborhoods from Da Bruno.

Granted, it's possible that these restaurants are somehow never aggregated into online databases, but since every kosher-dining site complains about lack of kosher restaurants in Brussels, one would think two adjacent successful restaurants might have attracted notice.

PaulD

Being one of the goyim don't know the fine points of kosher. Does it go without saying that the owners of the restaurants were Jewish? That is, would the Jewish community in Brussels (or elsewhere) accept as kosher a restaurant run by non-Jews?

DonBoy

It's only a clear-cut Pareto improvement if business didn't drop off at other, unspecified restaurants, isn't it?

Ari

@PaulD ( i assume to relation to Pauly D from the Jersey Shore)

Not necessarily. There is no need for a restaurant to be owned by Jews, but generally there would need to be a Mashgiach, or an overseer who makes sure all kosher standards are adhered to.

Similarly many items available at your grocery store are labeled kosher while the products are manufactured by non Jews, those items have been tended to to verify they are kosher.

Eric M. Jones

And you really have to wonder what's in the secret sauce produced by underpaid kitchen help. ....Just sayin'....

Moshe

@PaulD

Yes, it is perfectly fine for a Kosher restaurant to be owned by a non-Jew as long as there is (constant) supervision by a Jew who is well-versed in the laws of Kosher.

MalcolmS

Almost all Jewish communities not located in Israel will grant kosher certification to a restaurant owned and operated by non-Jews. However there must be a Mashgiach or kosher supervisor on the premises at all times, and only he can have keys to the kitchen and freezers to insure that the kosher standards are upheld (many certifying organizations do this regardless of the ethnicity of the owner).

PaulD

@Ari and Moshe -- thanks for your responses.

@ Ari - No, I live about 10 miles north of the Santa Monica Shore (though for some reason we always call it the "beach" not the "shore.") But to hear Anthony Bourdain tell it, I would like to sample the food in Jersey some day!

Conor

Pareto improvement?

What about the patrons of the poorly perfroming restaurants who were displaced when he menus changed and as a result didn't want to eat there...?

Phil

Eileen: Da Bruno is dairy and it's about 300 yards away from Balthazar, the meat restaurant. Chez Gilles closed long ago and was in another part of town.

Volf

Sounds more like a cartel to me.

Are you sure this is an economics blog? Think about this.

Hitek

Going to specific restaurants to ensure that no meat is in the presence of dairy, and vice versa? In the year 2010? Really? I hope the restaurants are not adjacent to each other and share facing open windows...

patnb

Huh, the same thing happened in London, England.
Orli's Kosher Dairy 108 Regent's Park Road
Burger Bar 110 Regents Park Road, N3 3JG

Jonathan Hahn

I missed the word "Lubavitcher" in the 2004 National Spelling Bee (I tied for 8th). This is the first time I've seen the word in context online. Thank you.

And its good to hear that Lubavitchers are smart economists... if only they could economize their name and get rid of that unnecessary "t."

Maurits

Da Bruno (http://www.dabrunorestokosher.com, rue Froissart 43): seems OK as a vegatarian restaurant as well.

Balthazar (http://www.resto.com/balthazar/, rue Archimede 63), doesn't describe itself as kosher, at least not online.

hf

@ Maurits: Yes, but if you look at the menu for Balthazar, you'll notice that there are no dairy or non-kosher meat items. (no seafood, no pork, etc.)