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RW: Why don't some of Boston's best participate???

Sat at Teatro's bar tonight for their renowned antipasto for 2. Our server presented us with the RW menu on arrival which got me to thinking: What is it that drives a restaurant to participate or not participate in Restaurant Week? What I've found on Open Table is that the following restaurants don't participate AT ALL: No. 9 Park, B&G, The Butcher Shop, Troquet, Clio, Uni, Bin 26, Oleana, Aujourd'hui, O-Ya, Oiishi... Is it because they're always full and don't need new business? Other high-end places like Radius, Top of the Hub, Eastern Standard and L'Espalier cater to the RW for lunch only, clearly not taking the hit at dinner. But is it a hit or a bonus? And what caliber of food can really be served in a multi-course meal for the masses at a price of only $30???

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  1. For many restaurants, RW is a huge pain in the ass. Either they can not profitably serve their regular menu or they can not produce it in the quantities required by RW crowds. So they're left with having to dumb it down, which at the end of the day doesn't really showcase their talents like RW was designed to do. RW probably is great for second-tier restaurants, but I suspect the top places would all be happier without it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Blumie

      i was happy to be able to go somewhere tonight where there was not the RW mad dash... it happened to be radius and suprisingly busy for monday night especially the first night of RW. it seems as though certain restaurants at the higher end have 2 philosophies. either they participate to supplement their lunch business as well as promote some good will for those who wouldn't normally dine there and skip RW dinner altogether, or go full fledge. it seems as though some places like Union have even added a lunch offering to further bulk up a couple weeks sales in the doldrums of summer.
      seems like a double edged sword.... promoting some good will while torturing your staff; or staying clear of it for the restaurants sake while maybe losing some faith in those who may never otherwise visit your restaurant....
      i wouldnt say it is better or worse for top tier restaurants, just depends on what your values are as an owner

    2. The Butcher Shop & Oiishi are participating in RW this year

      2 Replies
      1. re: Trufflebaby

        And No 9 Park has participated in RW for lunch many times in the past....

        1. re: Rubee

          I think No. 9 cancelled lunch for the summer this year.

      2. Maybe they figure they'll get the business of those folks who avoid RW restaurants at all costs...there has to be somewhere for those folks to go as well!

        1. Some of these places do offer prix fixe menus. Uni has a $49 sake bomb special on Sundays while Troquet is running a 3 course $39 summer menu ($49 with wine). Both have been going on for a while now.

          3 Replies
          1. re: limster

            Yeah, not looking for technicalities however, just RW specific...

            1. re: limster

              Sake Bomb Sundays are back at Uni. Here's what was on the menu July 20, 2008 (yes I'm reviving a year-old thread):
              Octopus & lobster ceviche with pineapple in gaspacho
              Rock shrimp tempura with spicy sauce
              Salmon and bean sprouts on a sizzling hot stone with black bean dipping sauce
              Strawberries with lemon curd, sabayon and poppy ice cream

              We loved the salmon on stone and the ceviche, and we did supplement with laquered foie gras and bbqed eel. Cocktails are still as tasty as ever.

              1. re: gini

                I also ate there on Sunday, also supplemented with the lacquered foie gras (mmm). I thought the food was great, and a fun, reasonably priced evening!

            2. Restaurant week is a joke IMHO. I got out of the biz 3 years ago after being a server in some of Boston's finest (and not so fine). I've been reading chowhound for about a year or so now, but this is the first time I felt the need to actually register. Having worked many "restaurant weeks" in my previous life, I can attest to the following:
              -most customers are not repeat guests. They are there for the cheap eats. They will not spend the money for great food the rest of the year, so who needs 'em?
              -most of the B&T''s tip on the $30 meal? Come on!! How can it be appropriate to go to a place like Icarus, a fine dining establishment and tip 6 bucks for a three course meal?
              -although some places may be beefing up business during a normally slow summer, they are not a soup kitchen and can't possibly give the food away. Hence, the meal is not up to par and shouldn't be judged as such.
              -most servers at these finer establishments are used to paying attention to detail, offering their guests the best service possible, not whipping out 3 courses, early bird specials, etc. at a rate close to the volume of IHOP or South Street Diner at 4 AM.

              So all in all, I think RW is great for those college kids or anyone on a tight budget but personally, I look to see who is NOT doing RW and make my reservations accordingly.

              12 Replies
              1. re: kohlrabi

                Very interesting post: I hope you continue to contribute here past this initial inspiration.

                This confirms a lot of what I've often felt and said about RW restaurants, though clearly some do a better job than others. I have gone from being sort of uniformly against RW to believing that some places do it in the spirit intended, and make a genuine effort to make diners want to come back some time at full price.

                But I've also had plenty of meals where the philosophy was clearly, "You cheapskates aren't ever coming back, so we're not going out of our way to give you an extraordinary deal." I do make a special effort to patronize non-RW restaurants when RW is on.

                1. re: kohlrabi

                  ... a truly honest & right on opinion !

                  1. re: kohlrabi

                    That does explain the positively crap service we received at Grotto during the last RW. Besides the fact that this was the single most inedible meal I have ever eaten in a Boston restaurant -- I still have nightmares about that plate of "wild mushrooms" that were like something out of an early David Lynch movie -- the service was so utterly incompetent that I now refuse to ever eat at that restaurant again on general principle. (Oh, and by the way, the restaurant was all but empty, with one other party, when we were seated, so please don't try the "Oh, gosh, the servers were just SO busy!" argument. They weren't busy, they were pathetically half-assed.)

                    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                      Why does Grotto even bother with RW? They do a very RW-like prix fixe every other week of the year. They seem to be getting the worst of all worlds on this one: not dragging in much business from RW bargain-hunters, keeping their regulars away with a more limited menu, and pissing off the folks who do use RW as a means of checking out places with more than just cheap dining in mind.

                      Consider revisiting Grotto for a Big Night dinner, BFP: that's a bargain-priced meal where they really shine.

                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        It's not just the food, though. The service was so appallingly wretched, and they so clearly did not care that the service was wretched, that the attitude of the servers was clearly just exactly what kohlrabi describes: "I'm not going to see these people ever again, so screw 'em." So I refuse to give them a dime of my money as a result. It's a small gesture, but it's a gesture nonetheless. Pour half of my drink on the tabletop and then walk away and see how likely I am to ever come back.

                        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                          Well, I hear that. Aggressively, spitefully awful sevice on one night years ago has since kept me from revisiting the Hungry I, a place whose food and ambience I quite liked at one time.

                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            Exactly. And combine this with the fact that so much of my meal was so peculiarly awful in so many innovative ways -- topped off with a dish of "chocolate pudding" that was in fact a softball-size hunk of ice-cold ganache, like the interior of the world's largest truffle -- and there was just nothing about the experience that could ever tempt me to go back to Grotto when there are so many GOOD restaurants I haven't even been to once yet!

                            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                              i had a non-rw meal at grotto, based on raves from this board. the service was so awkward and amatuerish i was appalled. the food was incredibly underwhelming and the wine list boring. feh. plenty of other places to go instead.

                        2. re: MC Slim JB

                          regardless of price or what restaurants "normally" do... a lot of restaurants participate for the free advertisement (summer exposure) and good will in addition to the simple fact that it may bring business for a "normally" slow time of the year.

                      2. re: kohlrabi

                        RW is a lose-lose situation. Unless you are East Coast Grill and a jammed every night regardless of what else is going on in town, you either suck it up and do RW and get slammed Friday and Saturday night style every night of the week with lower check averages, or you end up like Gargoyles which is a ghost town this week.

                        1. re: kohlrabi

                          Kohlrabi is not alone in his opinions among restaurateurs. And there's good reason that restaurants with normally good food and service may have neither during restaurant week.

                          The complaints of the waitstaff and chefs about the cattle call of restaurant week have lead some of the senior waiters/chefs to take restaurant week off - anyone who can, will. The junior staff then gets to work double-shifts at double capacity. Bussers who want to wait tables are given their tryouts as well, as restaurants scramble to find staff.

                          And although it's a stereotype, waiters learn over time that the bridge and tunnel crowd won't order drinks and won't tip adequately. Stereotypes are never 100% true, but suburbanites may often find that they're not as well tended as locals and regulars.

                          So what to do? Find the restaurants that buck the trend. Some do.