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Restaurants that host "educational seminar" dinners?

Twice within days I have received invitations to receive complimentary dinners from some decent restaurants if we will listen to financial planning information. One was packaged so that, looking at the envelope, I thought I was being sent free dinner tickets, period.
I have beeen to these before and the food was usually poor or a low budget meal compared to what they normally offered.
What does this say for a classier restaurant when they rent out space and host these "educational" dinner events? Is it just similar to catering?

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  1. I would say catering. The restaurant is not hosting, they are renting space and selling food. That is the how they make a living. They are not degrading the place by renting it out. We have all been to dinner and there have been people we didn't think were "right" for the type restaurant. I have sometimes been one of those people. But that did not take away from the restuarant's reputation.

    As to going to those dinners, years ago we would go to anything that was a free meal: condo sales, land in the Sierras, retirement villages. It was free food, a night out, and we had a tight budget then.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Janet

      could be good ..in my town a finaicial planner's daughter owns a B&B and the host great dinners!

    2. The restaurant is catering.

      Regarding your decision on attending: it's not really free - you are paying one way or another!

      I decided long ago it wasn't worth it to attend unless I was genuinely interested in the pitch.

      1. For me it depends on whether the restaurant is pitching the event to its own customer list or just 'renting' the space. Financial planners and brokerage houses will sometimes try to reach new groups of potential customers by paying the restaurant more if the restaurant sends out invites to it's customers. THAT's a negative on the resto for me, even though I understand they're just trying to make money.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Midlife


          As always, you make a good point, and one that I had not contemplated. I make the assumption that I am on the broker's list, because I am in several social registers. I would think badly of any restaurant that "sold" my name to any broker, etc. It would be as though my country club rented out the dining room to a salesperson and then sent out "invitations" to the membership.

          Good call and one I had not even considered,


        2. Not a great deal of comment here but I didn't hear anyone say they HAD a good or great meal at one of these. Mine have been mediocre (like dry chicken cutlet), to poor. I think a good, busy restaurant would not be trying to do them. I downgraded one of these restaurants to "mediocre" that was involved in catered seminars.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Scargod

            A year ago, I'd probably agree and be skeptical of a restaurant moving into doing these kinds of things. At this point, though, I think it makes more sense and would be likely to skip the event (not my thing anyhow) and judge the restaurant based on the normal service at meals I choose to have their on my own.

            1. re: Scargod

              Yes, we all do too many "rubber chicken" diners with our normal social calendar. I refer to the months from April to June as the "rubber chicken circuit," because of the various Dr's graduations, etc.. These are events that my poor wife has to speak at, and if I wish to be in her company, I have to attend. We normally show up for presentations sake and then have reservations elsewhere. Same for most event cocktail parties. We show up, grip and grin, then go dine elsewhere. Free food ain't something that we're interested in.


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  ""Yes, we all do too many "rubber chicken" diners with our normal social calendar.""

                  Rubber chicken, cotton dry chicken and concrete biscuits should be considered WMD! (Weapons of Mass Distruction -OR- Where is My Doctor - take your pick)

              1. Many restaurants that once declined the opportunity to host such things have opted to do so as the economy falters. Some of our local first-line restaurants have accepted groups, usually pharmaceutical companies doing dinner and drug info for physicians and occasionally nurse practitioners. Nearly all the ones I see involving the general public, like financial planning, are lunches rather than dinners, perhaps because many of them are aimed at retirees.

                2 Replies
                1. re: lemons

                  Doing such events at lunch may also be that the restaurant doesn't want to compete with its own dinner service by selling a number of seats and effectively closing off their dining room for an evening. I agree with everything you've said, though.

                  1. re: lemons

                    This may be a factor, but once I went when economic hard times was not the issue, partly because the restaurant was located in a high growth area. I think when I made this post we were not in such a bad way either.
                    I just remember having many good meals at an Italian restaurant in the Dallas area, only to go there for a financial planning dinner where we received cardboard chicken reminiscent of airplane food. I can't see how this would help the restaurant's image. It was scheduled for mid-week, so it wasn't that busy then.

                  2. I think it says for restaurants of all sorts that the current economic situation makes it harder for them to pull in enough customers on enough nights of the week to do well. The restaurants in question are making a decision that helps them generate some turnover in terms of food and pulls in some revenue. Ideally, they're also giving themselves a chance at creating some new customers but they'd clearly have to put out some good food and run the event smoothly to make that a likely byproduct of doing the event.

                    I've never gone to such an event at a restaurant, so I can't offer experience about how the food compared to normal meals at a restaurant.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ccbweb

                      In the Phoenix Area, this is not a new ploy. We've been receiving these "invitations" for years. I have not noticed any increase, or decrease, as the markets have changed. Maybe in some other areas, the markets have altered the norm, but not in Phoenix. If anything, I believe that I actually see fewer now, than two years ago. Of course, many of the major players are no longer with us, so that might account for the decrease.


                    2. In case anyone has ever wondered, there IS something good that has come out of the nation's financial disaster. I now only get about two such "invitations" a month instead of at least two a week. And fewer already-made-out-for-your-convenience credit card applications, life insurance applications, and all of the rest of the stuff that is lunch for my shredder. Wish there was some way of putting it on a diet!

                      Call me dense, but it has never occurred to me that the food at these "seminars" might be good. Some of them invite me to call them and commit to bring three friends and all four of us will eat free! Do you think that might earn me a steak? Salisbury steak? Oh, well...

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Caroline1

                        I think your three friends might be pissed if you got the 1/2 inch thick rubber steak while they got the 1/4 inch thick cardboard chicken!

                        1. re: Scargod

                          Probably won't happen. I can't think of three friends I dislike enough to drag to one of those things! '-)

                      2. Sometimes, maybe. Most times no.

                        I have a great friend, who is a financial planner with a major agency. He will book a few tables at a higher-end steakhouse and send individual invitations to select prospects. These are usually tiny events, compared to what I think you are referring to, but similar. His are rather intimate, small affairs.

                        Now, I get a half-dozen of the "invitations," as you describe per week. Yes, some do hide the fact that it's a sales pitch in the fine print. It's not unlike the "gifts," that one is offered at many resorts, if they only listen to a sales pitch for interval ownership, or similar. Fortunately, there is never anything offered that would intice me to give up even 30 mins. of my vacation to listen to any sales pitch - free tickets to a show or attraction, dining dollars or anything.

                        Does it "cheapen" the restaurant? Maybe, but then they want to fill tables and sell diners and if some broker, or other, wants to reserve a private room, I cannot blame the restaurants. My recycle bin is filled with these, along with the various credit card offers.


                        1. I'd expect SOMEONE is paying for the food. So IMHO it's just similar to catering, like if they had a Christmas party and the company said we want a dinner for $x/person and x was lower than the normal cost of a meal - if they can accommodate them and they have excess space on the night desired they possibly will.

                          So low-budget wouldn't say anything about the restaurant, just the budget of the person paying for the seminar. Poor food would not be acceptable, if the budget were so low they couldn't deliver a quality product they should just say so and not accept the booking.