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Who Is This Restaurant For? Pt. 3: One Sign In Arabic, Another In English

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Oct 12, 2016

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player or iTunes/Podcasts app. (And please subscribe!)

(Editor's note: This is Part Three of our special series on race and culture in restaurants. We recommend staring with Part One.)

How do restaurants appeal to very different groups of customers at the same time?

In the third episode in our special series, Who Is This Restaurant For?, three New York City chefs tell us about the subtle signals they use to attract their target customers.

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In this episode, chefs Amanda Cohen (above right), Sohui Kim (above center-left), and Hasan Diab (above center-right) join Dan live onstage at Taste Talks in Brooklyn to break down the signals they purposely built into their restaurants -- from menus and language to decor and staff.

For Amanda Cohen at vegetarian hot spot Dirt Candy, that meant writing a funny, playful menu (below) to win over adventurous omnivores who might otherwise be skeptical about a restaurant with no meat on the menu.

"A lot of vegetarian restaurants…[are] thought to be really serious," Amanda says. "We really wanted people to know right away that we were unlike every other...restaurant out there -- that we could laugh at ourselves."

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Hasan Diab wanted to encourage younger folks moving into Astoria, Queens to try his Middle Eastern restaurant, Duzan Mediterranean Grill. So he renovated the dining room to give it a trendier look.

"When you say hipster, you say reclaimed wood and reclaimed bricks," Hasan says.

But Hasan didn't want to lose his loyal Middle Eastern customers. So he painted a mural just for them -- in Arabic:

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Sohui Kim also incorporated multiple languages into her Brooklyn restaurant Insa, which caters to people in the neighborhood looking for a good time and Koreans craving legit Korean cooking.

"Aesthetically I think the Korean written language is very beautiful. So it was an aesthetic choice and also a choice to appeal to everybody," Sohui says. "I wanted to appeal to the Koreans and the non-Koreans."

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Listen in to the full episode to hear what these chefs do to try to attract women (and men!) to their restaurants.

Plus, Hasan explains how he sends different signals to his Israeli and Palestinian customers.

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player or iTunes/Podcasts app. (And please subscribe!)

Connect with Dan on TwitterInstagram and Facebook!

Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music:

- "Hot Night" by Calvin Dashielle

- "Dreamin'" by Erick Anderson

- "Legend" by Erick Anderson

Photos: Anne Noyes Saini, Evan Sung/courtesy of Dirt Candy, Gretchen Robinette/courtesy of Taste Talks, Craig LaCourt/courtesy of Insa

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