Dining on opening night - expectations?
I'm always amused when I hear people talk about visiting a restaurant on opening night/week and completely slam the place and swear to never visit again. Imo, I think a new restaurant deserves a grace period, the length of which depends on the type of place it is.
Do you visit restaurants on opening night/week? If so, what do you expect?
Every new restaurant has a shakedown period where they find that the paper plan meets reality. This can take a varying amount of time depending on the type of restaurant.
I expect hitches and problems in both service and food. During this time the attitude of the staff is what counts most with me.
I never visit when a restaurant first opens, I actually think it's kind of mean. I visited a lunch place here their 2nd day but I thought they had opened a week prior. It was a disaster. They were slammed and the owner ended up handing out a bunch of free coupons to get people to return. My town is just small enough that if there is anything new, people mob it when it first opens so I purposely try to stay away for at least a month til they can work out their opening kinks.
I love going to the SOFT opening -- the brand new just opened week I'll avoid if it is a mad rush. I consider it a sneak preview.. it tells me about the ambiance and type of food to expect on a later visit. If I don't like the over feel of the place -- I may not go back. If it's great.. it's on my rotation. If it's acceptable, I'll wait a month or so before going to back to see if things have changed/improved.
I have made the mistake of going to a place in their first few days. The service was extremely slow and disorganized. We were understanding of the situation but waited for quite a while for the restaurant to sort out their issues before returning!
Only once have I visited a restaurant during their opening week - at the invitation of the restaurant's owner, who also owned another restaurant I am a regular at. The A/C wasn't working that well, so it was incredibly hot in the restaurant, but we had one of our regular waiters from the other restaurant (he was helping out for a few weeks at the new place), and while service was slow and a bit disorganized, it was understood it might be that way. Subsequent visits about 6 months later had none of the issues upon opening.
Without the invitation of the owner as I had, I wouldn't have gone, and won't go for the first few months until the service/food shakedown has happened.
There are things you can tell from visiting a restaurant when it's brand new: whether the decor, table spacing and noise level appeal to you; whether the food - based on portion size, and quality of ingredients and preparation - is worth the menu price; whether the staff is friendly and professional. I could have a negative reaction to any of those and not feel like returning, with full understanding that other problems might well be ironed out in the future.
One opening night stands out: a Lucky Cheng's (kitschy Chinese, drag queen waitstaff) opened next door to where I lived at the time. I went in around 9pm, and they had run out of food. All food. I asked whether I could just have a drink and was told it was illegal for them to serve drinks, because they had no food. So, that was kind of weird.