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How Did ElBulli Make Money?

foodrink Aug 10, 2011 11:00 AM

I have never been but I hear it was a "bucket list" kind of place. I watch Anthony Bourdain segment recently and I did the math very simplistically and I can see how they make a profit. Any thoughts?

  1. r
    Rauxa Aug 11, 2011 05:38 AM

    Colman Andrews here.... El Bulli never made money -- in the old days because nobody came much of the year and in more recent times because raw materials, staff, research, etc. cost so much and they only served about 8000 diners per year. As other replies have noted, income was generated by what I guess could be called "brand extensions" -- books and DVDs, product endorsements, catering operations (formerly), etc. These to a large extent subsidized the restaurant and the off-season workshop, or Taller. It should also be noted that the owners of El Bulli, Ferran Adrià and Juli Soler, live pretty simply -- no fancy cars, no opulent villas, no designer clothes. (Ferran drives an '08 Suzuki.) Ferran's biggest expenditures are probably food and travel -- and a lot of that is subsidized. The elBullifoundation that will open on the site of the now-closed restaurant in 2014 will be a non-profit (intentionally, in this case), subsidized by a number of corporate sponsors.

    1. twyst Aug 10, 2011 05:24 PM

      It was losing well over a million dollars per year, but Adria was making tons of money doing speaking tours and book sales and he put all that money back into the restaurant. There were also people donating money to keep the place up and running. The price of dinner there was obscenely low for what you were getting. (the 50ish course tasting menu was only about $225)

      3 Replies
      1. re: twyst
        tastyjon Aug 10, 2011 08:57 PM

        I saw that pricing and thought they must make a a decent profit from drinks/wine.

        Often the suggested drinks menu with tasting meals is just as much, with the bevs delivering a bigger profit margin. Even if that option wasn't chosen by non-wine folks like me, I'd still feel the need to order some top notch drinks/bottles, simply due to the occasion/effort/journey.

        But it did seem remote, which is possibly a negative to drinking. Perhaps a trendy motel next door would have helped!

        1. re: tastyjon
          Maximilien Aug 11, 2011 03:45 AM

          "I saw that pricing and thought they must make a a decent profit from drinks/wine."

          not even, all reports tell of a (relatively) low price point for wines.

          1. re: Maximilien
            Delucacheesemonger Aug 12, 2011 05:37 AM

            l was there three times all before the euro. His wine prices were laughingly inexpensive. Whatever French or Spanish wines drunk were far less expensive than the same product at a wine store. All of my meals were for two persons, and ranged from $ 225 to $ 355 with at least two bottles of GREAT wine, and once a third bottle.

      2. cowboyardee Aug 10, 2011 12:06 PM

        I've heard that it never (recent past, anyway) made a profit but was kept open by some very rich backers and also with revenue from book sales. I cannot confirm this though.

        Ironically, they probably could have charged 3-5x as much per meal as they did and still had just as many people trying to get a table. I've read stuff about people making one-day trips to Spain just because they got a table as El Bulli.

        1. e
          escondido123 Aug 10, 2011 12:02 PM

          I read something that said the restaurant itself was in the hole for about $700,000 and it had never made a profit...that came from cookbooks, appearances etc.

          1 Reply
          1. re: escondido123
            wreckers00 Aug 10, 2011 05:09 PM

            I don't know the exact details, but the restaurant had been losing money for years.

            Most of the staff though is made up of unpaid stagiers, so the restaurant wasn't paying that many staff members. Ferran (and the restaurant) got money from all the cookbooks, sponsorships, tv stuff, speeches, etc

          2. f
            fm1963 Aug 10, 2011 11:59 AM

            I haven't seen it yet but there's a documentary on El Bulli at the Film Forum which might shed some light. There's also a Q&A with an alumnus (now at Per Se) on August 15.


            2 Replies
            1. re: fm1963
              EatsWine Aug 11, 2011 06:36 AM

              That movie sheds zero light on anything. I actually thought it did a terrible disservice to Ferran Adria. Not worth the $12.50...better yet, not worth the 2 hours.

              1. re: EatsWine
                Sooeygun Aug 12, 2011 05:29 AM

                Hmm, I saw that movie yesterday. I enjoyed it a lot. I only wish there would have been more explanation of what the different processes were to make the food. Other than that (and I wish I spoke Spanish), found it quite fascinating.

                How do you think it did a disservice to Adria?

            2. p
              porkpa Aug 10, 2011 11:28 AM

              That's probably the reason they just closed down.

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