Perrier said he was developing three new restaurants - two in the city and one outside it - that would open next year. He declined to divulge the concepts or locations but said they would be contemporary.
"I think our beautiful decor is not on the right path for today," Perrier said, referring to the 14-foot ceilings and hushed grandeur of Le Bec-Fin. Business is not what it was, but he declined to be specific.
This week, Perrier put Le Bec-Fin's landmark art deco building on the market with an asking price of $3.9 million. Perrier founded Le Bec-Fin in 1970 in a much smaller space at 1312 Spruce St.
The business itself is priced separately at $600,000, including liquor license.
On Friday, Perrier called a staff meeting during which he emotionally assured employees that all would have jobs at the new properties.
The chef, born in Lyon, France, has garnered countless accolades from every ratings organization that awards a bell, star, diamond, or tip o' the toque.
"I've thought about this for a long time," he said. "The food is still spectacular, but I think it's time to move on. When you close," he said of his decision, "you certainly can't feel good about it. It is what it is."
Le Bec-Fin - French idiom for "the good taste" - built its fame on luxuriant, leisurely dining experiences that put the prix in prix-fixe.
In recent years, as fancy dining fell out of vogue, Perrier began offering a la carte menus, and last summer instituted a "pay what you wish" arrangement to expose executive chef Nicholas Elmi's cooking to more of the masses. Many took advantage of a $15 burger special at lunch.
The dress code was relaxed; it now is possible to dine at Le Bec-Fin in jeans. But the signature all-you-can-eat dessert trolley still patrols the dining room.
Le Bec-Fin had 125 reservations on the books for Friday night, and most of the patrons would order the $40 anniversary menu. That tab is less than one-third of the old pricing.
The sales brochure from Mallin Panchelli Nadel Realty describes a "handsome sandstone facade, vintage 1926. . . . The building was renovated in 2002 and the interior restaurant and bar spaces are beautifully appointed and in excellent condition."
The building's four levels include the downstairs bar and full kitchen; the 90-seat dining room, which has 14-foot ceilings, and kitchen on street level; a mezzanine with dining area; and a fourth level with offices, a wine "cellar," and chocolate and pastry kitchens.
According to the brochure, the wine, office equipment, pastry oven, chocolate making machine, ice cream machine, chandeliers on the first floor, glass and china, a leased coffee machine, mixers, and small wares are not for sale.
The building's sales history is hazy, according to a review of city data. Perrier came into sole possession in 1996, when he paid $235,000 to the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development.
It was Perrier who helped elevate the block, which 27 years ago was regarded on the seedy side after dark, into Restaurant Row.
The block boasted the restaurant destinations Striped Bass (now Butcher & Singer), Susanna Foo, Circa, and the still-operating Il Portico. Facing rising rents, Circa closed in 2004. Foo sold her building across the street last year for $5 million; the Mexican chain Chipotle is building out that spot.
Over the years, Perrier also created Table 31 at the Comcast Center, Mia's in Atlantic City, and the former Brasserie Perrier at 1619 Walnut St. He still owns Georges' in Wayne; has launched a catering operation; and with his wife, Andrea, and her brother and sister-in-law is selling a line of sorbets.
Contact columnist Michael Klein at email@example.com.