Boston empire-builder Barbara Lynch is back in the kitchen at Menton, her French-Italian fine dining restaurant. The Boston Globe reports that investors are concerned about its financial viability, and Lynch is working to appease them, in part, by stepping in as chef for the first time since it opened nearly eight years ago.
Menton, known for luxurious, hours-long meals, was meant to be the crown jewel of the Barbara Lynch Gruppo restaurant group, which includes essential Boston restaurant Sportello, among others. Although the restaurant has won acclaim, including an elite Relais & Châteaux designation, according to the Globe, it’s not financially successful, and investors fear the restaurant’s failure could harm Lynch’s reputation and that of the entire group.
In a note to staff shared with Eater, Lynch was hopeful for the Menton’s future. “Rome wasn’t built in a day either, and we too are capable of greatness,” she wrote. The chef also expressed regret that the newspaper decided to pursue a story based on an investor’s frustration, but said Gruppo was working on pleasing investors. “Though we first learned about the investor’s concerns from the reporter, we have used the opportunity to work on enhancements to all investor communications,” she said in the note.
The concerns have led to a difficult time in the Menton kitchen, according to the Globe. The menu was recently revamped with lower prices, and Gruppo’s director of operations and culinary director left the company. Although Lynch is now working to restore the restaurant to her initial vision, the Globe reports that some investors feel that her fine-dining vision is responsible for the restaurant’s problems.
Lynch told the Globe that investors shouldn’t expect to be paid back so soon; Menton, she says, shouldn’t be expected to achieve financial viability until the 10-year mark. “Investors invest in restaurants, and most investors never get paid back at all, and that is the risk you take,” she said.
Lynch has been the subject of increased scrutiny over the past year. In April, she published her memoir, Out of Line (in it, she wrote that investors in No. 9 Park, B&G Oysters, and the Butcher Shop were paid back within just a few years). That same month, she appeared on Time’s list of 100 most influential people and announced ambitions to one day open a bank for women. In July, the chef was charged with operating under the influence after crashing her car on her way home from work — an incident that gave investors even more cause for concern, according to the report.
But, in her message to staff, Lynch was confident in her ability to continue leading a successful restaurant group. “If you look at the average lifespan of restaurants, it’s clear why I am fiercely proud of how my businesses have performed,” she wrote. “I trust my instincts as a business owner, and they haven’t led me astray thus far. It’s no secret that I’m a dreamer and a risk-taker, and I encourage all of you to dream big and take risks too.”