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Jul 21, 2009 08:38 AM

Tasting/Prix Fixe Menus - Why does the entire table have to order?

Six friends and I recently went to a fine dining restaurant in Las Vegas for dinner. One of us had received an email about their $39 three-course Summer Menu and it seemed like a good deal so 7 of us decided to go. All of the selections on the Summer Menu were already on the regular menu but the overall savings was about $10 when ordering 3 courses. When we sat down and were presented menus, we did not see the summer menu so we asked our waiter if it was being offered that night. He said that, it was, however, it's was the chef's request that everyone at the table participate. One of our friends is a vegetarian and there were no vegetarian options on the Summer Menu so that mean that the other 6 of us could not order the menu that we had specifically come in for. Our waiter was firm that this was the chef's rule. We even joked that our vegetarian friend would sit at another table. Our waiter tried to reason that all of the items on the Summer Menu were available à la carte and that we could still eat the dishes we wanted to eat, it would just be a few dollars more. He tried to convince us that the Summer Menu was not such a great deal after all.

We finally gave up and just ordered off the regular menu, some of us ordering three courses, and some of us ordering only one or two. In the end, our food bill was less than if they had broken the chef's rule and let just six of us order the Summer Menu. Was this a classic bait and switch or it there a legitimate reason why restaurants impose the rule that everyone at the table must order a prix fixe or tasting menu? Does it have to do with production in the kitchen, division of labor, or timing of service?

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  1. I can understand for a tasting menu (lots of courses difficult to pair with other people who are not having so many courses), but if this had happened to me with a 3 course prix fixe I might have left the restaurant - just doesn't seem customer friendly at all.

    1 Reply
    1. re: estnet

      What angered and confused me most was the whole "Chef says" explanation. Does it really affect the kitchen all that much if it's a 7 top ordering the prix fixe versus a 6 top ordering prix fixe and a 1 top ordering à la carte? Maybe a chef can weigh in on this?

    2. It has nothing at all to do with the kitchen nor the chef's preference. I worked in a restaurant many years ago, and I believe that they want to be sure that your table does not "get away" with sharing a plate with someone who ordered a less expensive, single course. It reminds me of how places with AYCE options insist that the whole table orders that way.

      I'd consider this nickel-and-diming, and at the prices that you were paying, (versus the AYCE $9.99 buffets you can find all over the Strip), you are entitled to better service. At the very least, I would find it insulting. Besides, what's the big deal if you shared? Were you really beating the restaurant out of profits? Your example proves that they would have been better off letting you what you wanted to do in the first place.

      1. A misguided attempt on the restaurant's part, that is certain. And if I had been the waiter, I would have gone to the management, asked for an exception, and more than likely would have gotten a bigger tip for the extra effort.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mtngirlnv

          especially with the vegetarian issue.

        2. While I can't give you an answer, I'll just say that I've always been curious about this requirement myself. Seems especially foolish to say no to 6 out of 7 customers.

          1. this makes zero sense to me, except I guess in the sense that RGC1982 is saying, they want to make sure no one "gets away with anything", which I do suspect is what happened here. What if there'd been a child at the table, who didn't want a three course meal ?

            Perhaps they could have stood over your vegetarian friend while they ate, to make sure they weren't pulling a fast one and secretly eating pieces of the others steak *rollseyes*

            As someone who doesn't eat meat, i've eaten plenty of meals with people who ordered from a "specials" or prix fixe menus, while I ordered elsewhere. I've also ordered off menus in restaurants while the rest of the table ate from a buffet. No one's ever given me flack or watched over me to make sure I didn't get any freebies from the buffet or what not. Told my meal would be waiting longer perhaps, but no other problems. I could MAYBE understand this rule in a buffet type place, if one person at a table orders absolutely nothing at all.

            Even with a tasting menu, whats it matter if one person is sitting there eating a green salad while the rest of the table participates ?

            Me? I think I'd have walked out. Ridiculous rule. Looks like they shot themselves in the foot in any regard, and made less money from the group. Good business plan there.