The recent backlash in Paris between Le Petit Cambodge and resident associations revive the eternal question of the role of restaurant within the life and evolution of a neighbourhood. Restaurant opening, or in this case building an extension, in an area is a sign of gentrification, but it is not the first sign of the neighbourhood evolving. More often, it is the second step of the four steps cycle.
01 — Coffee and bars.
When city center becomes too expensive it is common to see population moving to the outskirt, looking for more affordable rent. Usually the first population moving to those area are creatives and young professionals. Unfortunately this exode is made to the detriment of minority who are already leaving there. Because creatives like to live, work and socialize in the same area, coffee and bars will open shortly after they moved to a neighbourhood. Leading to the second step.
02 — New concepts.
Because they operates on narrow profit margins, Chefs whose concept still require to prove are financially viable, or who are not backed by large investors, are also looking for cheaper rent. Their cuisine are innovative; either totally new concept or inspired by the cultural roots of the locals. It translates the evolution of the neighbourhood, being a mix between old residents and new becomings.
03 — Copycat.
When the concept becomes successful they attract more attention and crowds, then the third step begins. More people will start settling in the area, the second wave of new comer have higher incomes driving in return more business opportunities and so on. But the second wave of business opening, even if having more investment power are less creatives and tend to open copycats restaurant of the first concepts. Those copycats saturates the market, increasing the appetite of landlords who also increase rents.
04 — Big chains.
When rents increase, only the big chains and fast food can afford it. And inevitably the cycle of restaurant start all over again with smaller concept and creative chef being push in another area.