Jessica Biel Opened a Fancy Restaurant with On-Site Child Care Because She Is a Genius
I take back every snarky thought I ever had about Jessica Biel’s new restaurant, Au Fudge. Back when it was first announced last year, it was described as a “fine-dining restaurant for kids” and “Soho House for Kids” — Soho House being a fancy members-only club with a restaurant and spa attached. It sounded like a twee place for rich Hollywood kids to have exclusive birthday parties and eat chocolate fondue. But what Jessica Biel actually built was a nice restaurant with on-site childcare, and now I’m convinced she is a genius.
Eater LA went to the opening, and it looks like Au Fudge owes a spiritual debt to the McDonald’s Play Place. Au Fudge occupies a large space on Melrose Ave. in West Hollywood, and half the space is a giant playroom that looks like it fell fully formed out of a Pottery Barn catalog. There are spaces for arts and crafts and activities, and children in the play area will be supervised by staff members that the restaurant calls “au pairs.” (The whole thing is a bit pretentious, but if someone agrees to watch my toddler while I have dinner, that person can call herself a “childcare artist” for all I care.)
This seems like a pretty great idea to me. Gyms have used this model to excellent effect for years. Plenty of health clubs around the U.S. have “gym daycare,” where a person can leave a child for some supervised playtime while the parent goes to exercise. It’s brilliant, and why shouldn’t that model work for restaurants as well?
Kids are welcome in the dining rooms, so they can eat with their families, and then if the kids get a bit antsy they can be checked into the playroom for a while so the parents can continue eating. People could go without their kids if they wanted to, and the menu sounds appealing enough that even childfree people would want to go. (There is a very well-stocked bar, and the dessert menu looks like it was made by angels.)
It’s a pretty fancy place and everything looks like it probably has the Gwyneth Paltrow seal of approval, but it could fit well in the very fancy neighborhood it’s in. Besides, it allows parents to avoid paying for a babysitter, and to avoid the annoyance of having the babysitter cancel at the last moment. I find myself feeling optimistic that this will do really well and other restaurateurs will realize it is a brilliant idea, and then maybe a nice restaurant with on-site childcare will open up in my neighborhood, too.