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Gary Danko???!!!

We are visiting my partner's family in the Bay Area early in December and his parents wanted to take us to Gary Danko for an early Christmas dinner. In all we will be eight people. Well, it turns out that the restaurant wants them to sign a "contract," pay a $500 deposit, spend a minimum of $1200, order beforehand and pay a 21% gratuity. Is this normal? We are stunned. Thanks.

Edit: Just checked their site and it seems this policy in under "private dining" and includes a private room. I guess that 8 people constitutes "private dining" in their eyes. We did not request a private room; we just want to sit in the dining room. I live in the NYC area and never heard ot this practice. Am I that out of it?

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Gary Danko
800 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109

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  1. Per the Web site, they can't seat parties larger than six in the dining room. Private dining rooms pretty much always have deposits and minimums.

    1. The dining room only seats parties of 6 or fewer.

      However, the more important consideration is, given you are flying out from NYC and already have your share of amazing dining options there, you really should consider more deserving options than Gary Danko. What about Cyrus up in Sonoma? Or The Dining Room at the Ritz for something in SF itself. Or Coi for more cutting-edge? Or Manresa in Los Gatos? Or Commis over in Oakland? Even Corey Lee's (previous chef de cuisine of French Laundry) Benu would be more exciting.

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      The French Laundry
      6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

      Gary Danko
      800 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109

      Commis
      3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

      Benu
      22 Hawthorne St, San Francisco, CA 94103

      4 Replies
      1. re: mikeh

        I would be surprised if Commis could seat 8.

        But point well taken - GD just doesn't have the kind of seating you need, and would only be a good choice as a sentimental favorite or similar. A comparable might be Boulevard or Zuni, which I think don't have problems with parties of 8. There are so many other good choices - just move on.

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        Zuni Cafe
        1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

        Commis
        3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

        1. re: bbulkow

          "There are so many other good choices - just move on."

          Not my choice...my partner's family is planning this. I was just curious about the policy. Thanks.

        2. re: mikeh

          We are not paying for the dinner and it is my partner's family making the plans. I do not want to weigh in with my suggestions. Thanks though.

          1. re: ttoommyy

            I once hosted a dinner for 10 people there and that was indeed the policy. The main dining room cannot accommodate parties larger than six so the private dining room was the only option.

            We also had to put down a deposit, but rather than ordering beforehand, we just had to work with the restaurant on a more manageable menu. I think that's very reasonable.

        3. It's not actually entirely different from what you'd pay for a nice dinner in the public area; $150 would run you the cost of a tasting men ($102) plus a few glasses of nice wine (not in the literal sense, as htey don't have wine by the glass). If you go by the standard that excellent service should result in a 20% tip (not necessarily saying I do, but that seems to be commonly accepted), adding on one more percent for hte oustanding quality of service at Gary Danko isn't that unreasonable

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          Gary Danko
          800 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109

          17 Replies
          1. re: vulber

            Yes, I agree. I guess my partner's parents were expecting to just make a reservation and have that be the end of it. To be confronted with all of these stipulations (they are in their 70s) was a bit off-putting to them. Live and learn. Thanks vulber.

            1. re: ttoommyy

              Gary Danko is one of the most expensive restaurants in San Francisco, with a hard to get reservation. If a party of 8 for a private room makes a reservation at Christmastime and then cancels at the last minute, it would be pretty hard for them to rebook the room (while it would be easy for them to fill tables for two at the last minute).

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              Gary Danko
              800 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109

              1. re: ttoommyy

                I concur with everyone else. While I completely understand why this could be shocking. Given the totality of the context, this really isn't out of line at all and likely I would implement a similar policy if I were the manager.

                1. re: whiner

                  Some of it makes sense to me, I just don't know why a table of 8 has to leave a $500 deposit and order beforehand from a fixed menu.

                  1. re: ttoommyy

                    The main reason for deposits is to avoid losing money on no-shows. If the restaurant is particularly nice to its employees, the deposit would also allow them to pay the extra server they put on the schedule on to handle the party.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Why would an extra server be needed for 8 people?

                      1. re: ttoommyy

                        At Gary Danko and at most of the fancier places, everyone at the table gets their dishes placed before them at the same time. So for a party of eight, it's not unusual to have atleast 4 servers (most likely more) each time they bring a course. I went to Providence where we had 8 courses of dessert for 6 people, and for each course, we had 2 servers pouring the wine pairing and 6 servers that placed the dish in front of us + 1 explaining what we were eating. Pretty crazy...

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                        Gary Danko
                        800 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                    2. re: ttoommyy

                      I missed the ordering beforehand. That seems off to me. I certainly have been in 10-12 person situations where we had to select a limited menu beforehand, though.

                      The $500 deposit is completely reasonable, imo. The main dining room only has 6-tops. They cannot fill an 8 person table last minute; so, if you want to reserve it, given that they do not know your party personally, you need to *reserve* it.

                      For your knowledge, it is common practice for nice restaurants in SF (and I mean restaurants far less expensive and exclusive than GD) to take a credit card number for a tough reservation and say that if there is no 24+ hour cancelation, the credit card will be charged X amount which will be redeemable in the form of a gift card for a future visit. And this is for main dining room tables.

                      1. re: whiner

                        I had dinner at Momofuku Ko in NYC last week and there the amount was $150/person unless you canceled at least 24 hours ahead. Don't think you could get a gift card out of it.

                        1. re: whiner

                          I've done the credit card thing here with restaurants too and that's fine; they don't charge you unless you are a no-show. I just think $500 is a bit much...and this is before even setting foot in the restaurant.

                          1. re: ttoommyy

                            $500 sounds like a lot, but considering the number of people in the party, it's really not, since it's less than half the required minimum that you'd pay if you showed up. Basically, if you're going to book a private room during the holiday season, they have a right to know that you're serious about it.

                            1. re: ttoommyy

                              $500 for a party of 8 comes to $62.50/person. Seems about normal. The requirement to cancel at least 5 days ahead to get a refund is a little bit more severe, but may be reasonable since it's for a private room, not the regular dining room.

                              1. re: nocharge

                                With a 5 day advanced cancel policy, it seems fair. It's not like there's no out at all.

                                Best reservation/deposit I've ever encountered was Manresa. They charge a deposit however if you miss it, they convert it into a gift certificate. Very nice touch. I don't remember if they a cut off date like 5 day notice.

                                -----
                                Manresa Restaurant
                                320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

                                1. re: ML8000

                                  I think the gift certificate is the common solution. My 6 person reservation at Bar Agricole required a credit card and would have been 10 or 20 bucks per person charged, redeemable as a certificate, if we had not shown up. They didn't mind that one of our 6 couldn't make it and the remaining 5 had a great meal.

                                  I think the certificates are a great idea--if someone from out of town wants to camp on reservations at 2 or 3 restaurants for the same night to keep their options open, they'll have trouble using the certificate, but if a local repeat diner has a legitimate problem come up, they will be able to use the certificate.

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                                  Bar Agricole
                                  355 11th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

                      2. re: ttoommyy

                        If it's off-putting to them, then why not agree with them and suggest that they consider another place? Why did that pick GD to begin with? Is it one of their faves?

                        1. re: c oliver

                          My partner's brother picked it. I think he read about it somewhere. They've moved on, I've moved on and I wish I hadn't started this post at this point. I now see that this is the norm for many restaurants. Thanks to all who answered!

                          1. re: ttoommyy

                            But if you hadn't asked, you wouldn't have found out. As "they" say, there are no stupid questions....