Photo by Intersect by Lexus

Intersect by Lexus is a new branded restaurant by Danny Meyer

Tim Nelson
November 14, 2018

From articles you read online to beer, there are few aspects of life in the modern world that can’t be transformed into some sort of branded exercise. Dining out, a time to (theoretically) put down our phones and engage in face-to-face conversation with other people, seems to be one of the last refuges from the intrusion of marketing.

Now, even that has come to an end. A new restaurant in New York’s Meatpacking District is being underwritten by Lexus in the hopes that an elevated dining experience will convince people to buy a new car. Officially known as “Intersect by Lexus,” the establishment will be operated by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group and feature a rotating cast of celebrity chefs over its lifespan.

Intersect is billed by Lexus as a space that will “merge innovative programming, culinary creativity and masterful design for an immersive cultural experience that spans across three floors.” Its website also mentions that this is the “first of the brand’s cultural programming destinations to feature a full service restaurant.”

So what does that mean in practice? Once the Intersect by Lexus opens tomorrow (Thursday, November 15th), guests can dine on a French-inspired menu by noted Parisian chef Gregory Marchand in a 50-seat second-floor restaurant that also features a circular cocktail bar. The first floor features a cafe serving “casual, eclectic foods,” which primarily translates to coffee shop fare during the daytime with a transition to lighter entrees during the evening.

While Eater makes it sound like there will be some light-touch Lexus advertising in the form of “product concepts” and “installations” on the first floor, the third floor is where Intersect really dials up the cultural programming. Up there, you’ll find “full immersion events, art installations, film screenings, panels, performances,” all of which aim to convince you that a Lexus is not only synonymous with culinary sophistication, but some bastardized form of high culture itself.

It’s not the first time something like this has happened—Union Square Hospitality Group helped Crate & Barrel set up a seasonal cafe at Bryant Park. And pop-up bars or other spaces with brand tie-ins aren’t the rare sight they used to be. But there’s something slightly dystopian about a car company attaching its name to what they expect to be a permanent dining space.

How long before all of our meals are little more than a means to achieve marketing goals? Can we even read a menu anymore without feeling like it’s all part of some sales pitch? It’s hard to say just yet, but expect some answers to start developing once Intersect opens in Manhattan.

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