Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Restaurant Week: Compare/Contrast

I always hear mixed reviews from chefs about our local restaurant weeks. Customers come in but don't return. Restaurants lose money. The promotion is/is not worth it. It's a temporary bump in sales but not sustained. To be fair, others love it. It introduces new folks to their food and gets new customers in the door. So, I had to share chef Michael Symon's experience at Lola for Cleveland's first restaurant week. (It just made me laugh but I can't imagine it's not an uncommon experience in fine dining.) What's your take on restaurant week (locally known as Devour Downtown)? Do you go? Did you go back? Are two a year -- one in summer and one in winter -- too many? Is it money well spent?

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

We've had mixed results with restaurant week. Some restaurants really seem to embrace it and others do a very poor job (Dunaway's).

Our experience at Dunaway's was horrible - the "crab cake" appetizer was literally the size (and thickness) of a quarter. I think they've got the best crab cake in the city, but with an effort like that, they definitely won't win any new customers. The other courses weren't much better. On top of below average food, it was obvious the server wasn't very excited about having a table of 6 ordering off the "special" menu (despite the # of drinks we ordered).

We had a great experience at the original restaurant at the Conrad (can't remember the name now). The chef/management seemed to embrace it and really want to show off their restaurant.

We've decided not to participate in restaurant week any more - we end up spending about the same or more than we normally would for dinner and drinks ($80+ for 2 people) and the food quality is normally sacrificed. If we go out during restaurant week we just order off the normal menu.

The concept is good, but I'd change it so one couple splits an appetizer and dessert and each individual orders a main from a pre-set selection. This might allow restaurants to really try to shine and make a positive impression with folks.

I'd like to see organizers provide a survey (online) where folks can give feedback on their experiences. If a restaurant wasn't in the "spirit" of the event (based on negative feedback), they wouldn't be allowed to participate the next time?

Just my two cents....

braingirl said...

I think the downtown association did a survey, but it didn't offer a place for comments (if I recall correctly.) I suspect someone from their team will be along shortly to offer up the URL if the survey is still open.

Anonymous said...

We had a similar service experience. We're frequent diners downtown but suffered through rushed and frosty service at one downtown place when we ordered off the special menu and an inexpensive wine. We were with non-foodies who wanted to try the place. We were happy to take them, but never again.

Also, we ended up with four desserts -- something we'd never normally order.

Colleen said...

I prefer to patronize the restaurants that give a choice in each of the app/entree/dessert categories - promotes sharing and experimenting. Plus, I usually make reservations and I don't always know days in advance what I'll want to eat for a particular dinner.

This time around we did St. Elmo's. I do it there again. Didn''t experience any service problems or negative attitudes due to our use of the inexpensive special menu or lack of alcoholic drinks either. (although we did get stuffed at one of those tables directly in front of the service stand where they keep silver, linens, coffee, etc. and THAT wasn't the greatest).

anony-mous said...

I prefer to patronize the restaurants that give a choice in each of the app/entree/dessert categories - promotes sharing and experimenting. Plus, I usually make reservations and I don't always know days in advance what I'll want to eat for a particular dinner.

This time around we did St. Elmo's. I do it there again. Didn''t experience any service problems or negative attitudes due to our use of the inexpensive special menu or lack of alcoholic drinks either. (although we did get stuffed at one of those tables directly in front of the service stand where they keep silver, linens, coffee, etc. and THAT wasn't the greatest).

Joanne said...

We've always had a good experience with restaurant week. I used to work in and live near NYC and restaurant week there is so exciting and fun, though. I know a lot of servers that looked forward to it. It doesn't seem to have the same vibe here. I think St. Elmo's is one of the best deals because you get everything so much cheaper. We ate at the bar when we were there, so we couldn't suffer by the bad seating. We've also had good experiences at Palamino, Elements, and Oceanaire. I think a restaurant/server would be stupid to not embrace it.

Laker said...

Tried Capitol Grille this year. It was fabulous -- the Kona crusted sirlion my husband ordeded was delicious. We definitely got a bang for our buck. I think the restaurant weeks are a great excuse to get friends together for a girls' night out, etc. I would never go to some place like BW3s for restaurant week though, and I'm not really sure why some restaurants like that participate. Restaurant week can be a great opportunity to try out menu items that you otherwise might not consider ordering.