In this New York Times magazine feature, writer Willy Staley goes behind the scenes at the 180-seat New York bistro Balthazar. “It may look like a rustic bistro, but behind the scenes, it is a highly efficient, well-oiled potato-chipping machine,” he writes.

While the New York restaurant is now famous worldwide, it is still part of a small group of restaurants started and owned (none have closed) by chef and entrepreneur Keith McNally. Around here, we always enjoy seeing how other small businesses (even bigger, famous ones) work.


Roughly one in 10 people who enter Balthazar orders the steak frites. It is far and away the restaurant’s best-selling dish, and Balthazar can sell as many as 200 on a busy day. A plate of steak and potatoes requires a tremendous input of labor if you’re going to charge $38 for it. At a smaller restaurant, cooks are typically responsible for setting up their own mise-en-place — preparing food for their stations — before each service begins, but at Balthazar, things are necessarily more atomized. The fries, for example, go through numerous steps of prep, done by a few different people, before they wind up on a plate.

Read the full story, but not on an empty stomach: “22 Hours in Balthazar,” (New York Times Magazine)

(Photo: Jun Seita via Flickr)

The 150-Year History of the Term ‘Small Business’

Until the end of the 19th century, there were few big businesses so the history of the term “small business” is less than 150 years. Today, no other phrase comes close to describing companies up to 500 employees.