Check out this story at Slate by Jordan Weissmann on how Katz’s stays in business:
The newer generation of artisanal delicatessens that have risen up in recent years—restaurants like Brooklyn’s Mile End Deli and Washington, D.C.’s DGS Delicatessen—are fundamentally different. They serve their own excellent, obsessively sourced variations of house-cured and smoked pastrami (or Montreal-style “smoked meat,” in Mile End’s case). But volume isn’t really part of their equation. Instead, they emphasize profitable alcohol sales and have more varied menus with higher margin main dishes. And crucially, they can pack less meat onto the plate, which would be anathema at an old-school deli like Katz’s.
“Katz’s is super-special. It’s the only thing of its kind in the entire world,” Mile End’s founder, Noah Bernamoff, tells me.
The reason Katz’s was able to live on while its competitors disappeared largely boils down to real estate. As Sax writes in Save the Deli, New York’s delicatessens can basically be divided into two groups: those that rent their buildings and those that own. Famous renters, like the Stage Deli and 2nd Avenue Deli, have closed in the face of rent hikes. Famous owners, like Carnegie and Katz’s, have lived on. (And when 2nd Avenue Deli reopened, it bought a building … on New York’s 3rd Avenue). If Katz’s had to deal with a landlord, it would likely have disappeared or moved long ago.
[Photo Credit: Antonio Bonanno]