Salt Bae's controversial London restaurant, which charges $850 for a steak, has turned off the heating to save money

At influencer chef Salt Bae’s hedonistic restaurants, where gold flakes are wrapped in baklava and customers regularly fork out hundreds on a steak, squeezing the bottom line might seem furthest from its owner’s mind. 

But despite making £3.3 million ($4.2 million) in profits last year, one restaurant in the luxury group appears to have sought out cost savings wherever it can.

Meat restaurant Nusr-Et, which has restaurants in London, Dubai, and New York, said in its latest annual filing for its U.K. branch that it had moved to turn off the heating in its restaurant to save money.

The chain said in a Companies House filing that it “sought to improve energy efficiency at an operational level.” 

This included “turning off central heating after closing or during peak hours when heating demand is lower,” and limiting the use of its air curtain, which prevents draughts entering through its doors.

It’s unclear just how effective these moves were in addressing rising costs, which almost doubled to £6.3 million ($7.9 million) in 2022.

But increased sales at the London restaurant, up 66%, more than offset higher expenses, helping the group’s owners bank £2.8 million ($3.5 million) in dividends.

Salt Bae’s bet

Salt Bae, the stage name for influencer Nusret Gökçe, exploded on social media in 2017 when he released a viral video showcasing what would become his signature garnishing of flaky salt on a steak.

Since then, he has been filmed serving up prime cuts of beef for celebrities and soccer stars, eventually moving to open a chain of restaurants.

But while the company’s profits during a tough industry period speak to its successes, the restaurants have often been the object of derision from rival chefs and social media users.

Diners gasped at bills that sometimes exceeded £1,800 ($2,270), as Nusr-Et charged £9 ($11.35) for still bottled water and £25 ($31.52) for burrata. 

The restaurant’s Gian striploin sells for £680 ($856), the most expensive item on its menus after it ditched even pricer products during the cost-of-living crisis.

The group hasn’t been without controversy away from the menu either. 

A Business Insider investigation detailed a string of lawsuits filed by former staff, alleging the company stole tips from staff and allegations of discrimination against employees.

Restaurants fight cost of living crisis

Many restaurants have battled rising costs since the onset of COVID-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Staff, transport, food and drink, and energy costs have all soared in the last few years through a perfect storm of issues. 

Restaurateurs in the U.K. in particular have lamented staffing shortages. 

Announcing the closure of his two Michelin star Le Gavroche restaurant last year, famous London chef Michel Roux Jr. blamed Brexit for putting a “huge spanner in the works” for his company. 

The restaurateur said the U.K.’s departure from the EU led to a shrinking supply of hospitality workers, which increased staffing costs, and also created burdensome supply chain issues.

Nusr-Et’s 93 employees took home £3.7 million ($4.7 million) in wages in 2022, filings show.

It’s not the first time Nusr-Et has trimmed the fat at its restaurants; it previously ditched its oft-mocked £1,450 ($1,800) gold-covered steak as costs started to mount and patrons began to pay closer attention to their spending.

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