A s soon as he walked through the door, Matt Semmelhack knew it was over. He'd been away from his San Francisco restaurant AQ for less than a week, but when he got back, it just felt different. It went beyond the usual concerns of the modern restaurateur. "I wasn't worried the lights were properly dim, or the regulars were in the right booths," he says. Instead, Semmelhack was just looking at his staff -- people he hangs out with on weekends, people whose livelihoods he supplies, some of his closest friends -- and all he could see was the money each one of them was costing him, flashing in front of him like a video-game score. "I knew right then," he says, "we had to shut it all down."
I want you to understand why America's Golden Age of Restaurants is coming to an end.
Comet Hitting Restaurant
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist
Opening a sit-down restaurant is like walking into one of those machines in roller rinks where you have 30 seconds to grab as much money as you can, except all the money is fake.
Chef Kicked Off Mountain
Jason Hoffman/Thrillist
What we're witnessing is the hollowing out of the restaurant industry center -- the gentrification of food, carried to its logical conclusion.

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