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Feb 29, 2012 03:34 PM

Saison switches to prepaid ticket system

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  1. Someone who came up with a dumber system than French Laundry. I hope people aren't stupid enough to ... um ... buy into it. However, I should cease to be amazed at the levels of stupid hell to which people will decend.

    7 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      I agree with your sentiments.....just amazing.

      1. re: rworange

        I think it's a smart approach for a wildly popular restaurant suffering from no-shows. Whether it's good for the customers, well, only those who think that it's reasonable to pay over $150 to eat 16 or more courses in a single meal will buy them.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Agree about "wildly popular" restaurants or those with existing prix fixe model. However, I'm scratching my head as to why Piperade or Donato Enoteca (RWC) would be clients.

          Piperade's website currently reflects a la carte menu; however, when you try to make a reservation, shows a price of $50. Confusing & I didn't explore reservation further than first page. At least Next has FAQ tab with detailed explanation. Of course given new reservation system, Piperade is no longer on Opentable.

          And Donato?? I consider it a very good local, neighborhood place where folks could even drop in before/after the movies at the nearby cineplex.

          Wondering if restaurants will have combination prepaid system as well as normal reservation/a la carte dining. And "normal" reservation would mean via phone as I gather they would have to drop Opentable.

          1. re: ceekskat

            SeatMe doesn't sell tickets for Piperade or the vast majority of its other restaurants, it just makes reservations and provides a seat-map interface for the host a la Opentable. The "$50 a person" is just an informative estimate.

          2. re: Robert Lauriston

            Next's rational for going to a ticketing system was to get rid of a full-time reservationist and to prevent no-shows. They would then pass the savings on to the guests.

            Saison on the other hand is actually increasing their prices with this new format. They might be pricing themselves out of the market.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              i think it's the opposite. while i don't mind paying $150 or more for a fantastic meal, I don't want to pay for it using a ticket system.

              A while back we booked a table at Saison as a birthday present for a friend. The day before, that friend's mother was rushed to the emergency room and she spent the whole next day at the hospital. We called Saison and explained the situation, asking to move the reservation to another day. The person who answered the phone not only told us that we would lose our deposit (then it was $50/person), but that "we should have known better when we booked in the first place".

              They had a day's notice and could have found another group to take the table - but didn't want to bother. It took three more calls and a drive to the restaurant to resolve the situation.

              With a ticket system, it would be our task to try to resell the ticket -- which would never have happened.

              Sorry, no thanks.

              1. re: calumin

                This restaurant is clearly too important for me to ever eat there.

          3. Is there a press release from Saison as to why they are doing this change? Were they haven't so many fake reservations from folks trying to sell reservations or holding them for reservations services that they felt this would eliminate this or is this a way to increase cash flow?

            Also is this prepaid covering tax & tip too?

            For the folks who think it's bad idea, why do you think that? If I pay ahead of time or when they tender the bill, I am still paying, no? Is it that people are less likely to do last minute reservations or just the idea of paying before you get a service?

            2 Replies
            1. re: tjinsf

              "The first thing that anyone seems to notice is the price and I think it’s ridiculous. This is not a for-profit restaurant. We make sure we don’t lose money, but we certainly aren’t making any.”


              1. re: tjinsf

                The reason I think it's a bad idea is because it's not unusual for plans to fall in apart and I think restaurants should balance protecting themselves from no-shows with allowing customers to have some flexibility. Saison already had a 72 hour cancellation policy. I wouldn't even care if it had a 1 week cancellation policy, at least the customer still has some time to cancel, if necessary.

                But if I have to buy tickets, meaning I have to commit to spending the money before I've received anything, then I'd probably only buy them within a short period of when I wanted to use them. Probably the day before. Granted, since Saison doesn't seem to be that popular and it isn't hard to get a table (compared to places like Frances or TFL where one has to book a table weeks in advance), that wouldn't be a big deal.

              2. Wow, if you add in the beverage pairing, service, and tax, the total for Fridays and Saturdays will be $511, more than the current chef's counter, which is $498 all included. Weeknights will be $420, the chef's counter will be $601.

                1. I like Manresa's reservation policy. They ask for a deposit from your credit card and if you're a no show they issue a gift certificate for a future date. They reduce the no-shows and you're not out of the deposit.

                  14 Replies
                  1. re: ML8000

                    I like that idea too. Also at some place that do have a reservation policy I've had them waive it if they did fill the table.

                      1. re: PorkyBelly

                        Great for the customer, but it does nothing to compensate the restaurant for the revenues lost to empty tables.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          The restaurant keeps the deposit, or in this case keeps the deposit and issues a gift certificate.

                          1. re: ML8000

                            If the no-show diner uses the gift certificate, the restaurant has no additional revenues to offset the loss due to the no-show.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              this is a common issue - hotels, dentists, spas, and lots of other consumer-oriented services all have this issue. there are many different ways to handle this -- but only saison seems to think that the resolution to the problem is to make everything the customer's responsibility.

                              expedia used to have a no refunds policy -- it was a tradeoff in return for getting a good rate. even that has changed because customers hated it.

                              the ironic thing is that saison is a very high end restaurant. and they're trying to use a discount retailer approach to handle the problem. i give it six months before they realize that the loss in customer loyalty will more than offset any potential sales recovery.

                              the issue isn't lost revenue, the issue is that you have inexperienced (but probably well-intentioned) people trying to run a business who don't understand the consequences of their decisions.

                              there's a much better answer which is to 1) require a deposit, which provides incentive to the customer not to casually no-show, 2) train their service people to know how to be flexible so that gaining a deposit doesn't come at the expense of losing a customer forever, and 3) accept some revenue loss due to no-shows and reflect that in their overall business model.

                              1. re: calumin

                                According to their FAQ they charge the current price of the menu per person if you cancel within 72 hours of your reservation. I don't see why they need to go to a ticket system when they're going to charge you anyway if you no-show.

                                1. re: calumin

                                  Nobody expects to be able to get a refund for a play or concert, and what Saison is doing has more in common with that than with a normal restaurant.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Robert - not true. If you buy a movie ticket at Cinemark, you can get a refund or exchange up until the day of the event. If you buy a ticket at SF Opera, you can get an exchange for another date up to 24 hours before the event.

                                    These places use ticketing as a convenience for the customer. Saison uses ticketing as a way of guaranteeing revenue. Big difference.

                                    Good luck trying to get someone to buy your $248 dinner ticket on a couple days' notice.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      If you consider the claim that their food costs are 50 percent, if you didn't eat the food you only cost them 50 percent. If you were a same day no-show then they would have to eat (pun intended) the food they bought but didn't serve, but if you cancel the day before, then they aren't out their food costs. And if they resell you table then they've made a huge profit.

                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                        That doesn't address the opportunity cost of not being able to pay the rent that is attributable to that specific table, and the other ongoing restaurant costs. They staff the restaurant to prepare the food--it's not like a chef gets to take 1/20th of the night off if 1 out of 20 tables cancels.

                                        1. re: SteveG

                                          Those are costs that are not significantly affected by cancellation or no-shows. It's not like they would've paid less rent if they hadn't booked that table in the first place.

                                          And, considering Saison's prior cancellation policy (72 hours notice required), I doubt they were getting a ton of cancellations and no-shows at the last minute. If a table or two cancels or doesn't show up, it seems unlikely that a staff member would suddenly become useless and have nothing to do. By the same token, I doubt they'd add on more staff if one more table is booked at the last minute.

                                          I'm not suggesting that no-shows don't result in lost revenue for restaurants. But a restaurant with a solid cancellation policy like Saison had is protected. Saison had 3 full days to adjust their staffing levels and food purchasing to account for cancellations. All other costs like rent and utilities are not dependent on how many tables they have on a particular night.

                                          1. re: SteveG

                                            Right. But if they claim at least 50 percent of their cost is the food -- -- then not having to buy food means they only lost half of what they would have charged. By charging them anyway, they're making 50 percent pure profit. If they resell the table, they're making 100 percent pure profit.

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                              If the pure food costs for the chef's counter dinner for two meal really add up to $640.50 ($1281 * 50%), then they're doing a terrible job purchasing food.

                                              i could be wrong, but my gut sense is that it's a soundbyte and not true.

                          2. Saison's ticketing system is in effect now. I had been planning on buying tickets for a special occasion in May but, I have to admit, when I saw the final price, I balked. I just don't think I'm up for paying almost $700 for a meal I'm going to have several weeks in the future. Obviously, I'm not Saison's target audience. (On the other hand, after I decided not to buy tickets, I checked out Open Table and saw that one can still reserve a table there. But I'm guessing the restaurant will call to get a credit card after they get the reservation as they did for me once before.)

                            I was also surprised to see that the final price for a ticket includes a "processing fee." So the price is $198 T-Th, $248 F-Sa for the food, then a 18% service charge, 11% in taxes (I guess they are adding on for the Healthy SF fees here) and, finally, a 5% processing fee. The final price, per person, without wine, is $268 on a weekday and $335 on a weekend.

                            52 Replies
                            1. re: JoLong

                              Wow, the weekend price is more than The French Laundry now. I think they might be the most expensive restaurant in the bay area right now, excluding the chef's table at Meadowood.

                              1. re: PorkyBelly

                                Saison's chef's table is more expensive than the one at Meadowood, where the $500 includes tax and tip.

                                The most expensive restaurant in the Bay Area is at Folsom and 17th. Go figure.

                              2. re: JoLong

                                Culturally I think they're going to run into problems asking for that kind of money upfront. People will pay in advance if there's a deal, a special event or a good reason like demand. However since it's none of those (maybe demand), I can't see it working. $700 bucks up front is steep and has major sticker shock. I'd balk too. I'd rather go somewhere else with conventional payment. Basically the difference is one you're being treated like a "customer/consumer" vs. being a "guest". Over $100 bucks per/person and I want to be treated as a guest.

                                1. re: ML8000

                                  There's definitely no demand right now, I could easily get a table for any day this week.

                                  1. re: PorkyBelly

                                    I think that for $700 I am more inclined to fly to LA and try Urasawa.

                                    The top I've paid was $1050 for two was in Kyoto, where we were waited on by Geisha in a perfect private Japanese room . We were served perfect beautiful food on museum grade centuries-old serving ware. And since there's no tax and they don't accept tips, that was the total.

                                    Considering the fact that I am continually underwhelmed by SF's finest-dining options,
                                    (Meadowood, Coi, even Benu was not quite up there) I'm not risking $700 on this one....

                                    This is really getting out of hand. I can't encourage this kind of behavior.

                                    1. re: pauliface

                                      "This is really getting out of hand. I can't encourage this kind of behavior."

                                      Amen, bruddah.

                                      1. re: pauliface

                                        >> I am continually underwhelmed by SF's finest-dining options

                                        +1 for that.

                                        I liked saison a lot when i went last summer -- but the bill was $150 excluding tax + tip. I don't see what has changed since then to justify the price increase? and fwiw, their website sucks.

                                        1. re: Dustin_E

                                          It really does! I don't understand why some restaurants think people want to hear music or see animations on a restaurant website. There are several very important and simple things that people want on a restaurant website (hours, menu, location) and everything else is irritating.

                                          1. re: nickis

                                            lol -- even worse:

                                            which is the website of the company that did saison's site. love that intro.

                                          2. re: Dustin_E

                                            What changed since last summer is Saison got its second Michelin star, so now it's working on its third.

                                          3. re: pauliface

                                            imho, it seems like the highest-end of san francisco dining consists of stuffing as many courses as possible into a single meal, and making each of these courses as complicated as possible.

                                            it is probably entertaining to be a chef at one of these restaurants. and it is labor intensive, rather than expensive ingredient intensive, so probably more lucrative for everyone involved in the operation of the restaurant.

                                            but why this is the type of experience the market wants baffles me.

                                            1. re: Dustin_E

                                              Well, when this sort of thing is good, it's one of my favorite types of experience. Unfortunately, no restaurant in SF has yet come close to matching Alinea, Jardin des Remparts, Saam's, Momofuku Ko, Ryugin, or Moto,

                                              But in SF, I'd rather go to La Folie. They are consistent and to me, way better than the tweezer palaces that seem to get the hype...

                                              1. re: pauliface

                                                >> tweezer palaces

                                                love it.

                                                7chome kyoboshi, arpege, robuchon in vegas, tsukiji yamamoto would be my list of long menus to match. manresa or saison probably comes closest for me, though either is far from perfect.

                                                gary danko, tadich, harris', mina's lobster pot pie, and high end chinese seafood dinners are my bay area favorites, but are more of a 1-3 dish occasion per visit. occasionally repeat visits to sawa, jai yun or kappa i enjoy.

                                                what do you order at la folie? even some of the dishes there felt needlessly complicated, at least to me. (but i also wasn't a huge ryugin fan -- maybe i'm stodgy)

                                                1. re: Dustin_E

                                                  Mind you. Tweezer palace from me is *not* an insult, if the food is fantastic. Otherwise it does imply a hollow showiness...

                                                  I must try Gary Danko. Tadich is my new recent-discovery-of-an-ancient place favorite. I'd love to hear your high end chinese seafood favorite places, I don't have one. Don't know sawa or jai yun. I was hugely disappointed in Kappa. But I love Kiss, and Wakuriya is worth the trip south. Ino and Yume for pure simple sushi.

                                                  As for La Folie, here's a prior post of mine from last june:

                                                  I recently had a similar duck egg at Plum and it absolutely paled in comparison to what I had at La Folie. Rather than make me want to return to Plum, it just caused me to make a mental note that I really must return to La Folie.

                                                  Some of the dishes at La Folie are complicated, but I *like* complicated when the food is good enough to support it.

                                                  1. re: pauliface

                                                    for chinese seafood i've been going to yum's, mayflower, koi palace, r&g, south seafood and ordering live lobster, steamed live fish, dried abalone dishes, etc. i'm pretty sure yum's is the best, but i hate the drive, and have had good experiences at all of them. and the total bill is still a lot less than one would pay at one of sf's highest end restaurants, despite literally gorging on nothing but high end seafood, simply and freshly prepared.

                                                    i can completely understand why people don't like kappa -- but i like it, though i like the staff and the space and it is near my apartment and i like dishes as simple as they serve, and don't mind so much that some of them were prepared a day before. but i also like ino and kiss.

                                                    sawa and jai yun are both definitely worth a try in my book. both very unique places. though you might have a love / hate reaction to either.

                                                    i really like gary danko, provided i go with the right expectations -- i sit at the bar (meaning i don't have to make reservations a month in advance) and i order a couple seafood courses, and it ends up being ~ the price of a steak.

                                                    the la folie dishes you ordered look like good picks -- i want to try them sometime.

                                                    1. re: pauliface

                                                      @ pauliface

                                                      have you tried fleur de lys, masa's, or campton place?

                                                      was wondering what you thought of them if you had -- i've never been, but they were on my list to try.

                                                      1. re: Dustin_E

                                                        I have been to R&G and thought it was great. Of the others located in SF what's your first pick? It's time to try one! Remember, I love crab and lobster!
                                                        I was to Fleur de Lys a looong time ago, 1992, and it was a favorite up to that point. My best friend went more recently and was a little disappointed compared against La Folie. I have not been to Masa's or Campton Place. Next on my list is Atelier Crenn, though...

                                                        I totally agree about 5%. 5% of $700 is $35 for a processing fee? For that they should carve your bill in ebony.

                                                        1. re: pauliface

                                                          i'd suggest mayflower on geary, but with the caveat that i've only been there once, and didn't order from the tanks (but will next time.) HOWEVER, the seafood in the tanks looked to be in very good shape (unlike koi palace), and i was pretty impressed by all the other the dishes we did order -- especially the soup of winter melon, dried scallop and crab.

                                                          south seafood should also be a good choice, if you stick to the live crab and live lobster. their non-live seafood dishes i've had less luck with.

                                              2. re: pauliface

                                                It may seem silly, but I was very irritated by the 5% processing fee. It's not much compared to the price of the food but, on top of everything else, Saison wants people to pay for the privilege of using their ticketing system? A system they put in place entirely for their own benefit, and which provides no benefit to the customer?

                                                1. re: JoLong

                                                  >> It may seem silly, but I was very irritated by the 5% processing fee.

                                                  i don't think that is silly. it is very, very tacky.

                                                  it is just like masa in new york offering a $100 kobe beef supplement right after you sit down to your already $600 meal. it just makes you feel like you're being scammed.

                                                  the healthy sf fee pisses me off every time i see it. i know i'm going to hell for this, but i usually just subtract it from the tip.

                                                  1. re: Dustin_E

                                                    >i know i'm going to hell for this, but i usually just subtract it from the tip.

                                                    i know a lot of people here though the "incanto theory" was flimflam, but it made sense to me. second to last paragraph here, although i thought there was some other place this logic was spelled out better ...

                                                    1. re: psb

                                                      I hadn't thought about it, but that's actually a good idea. Especially since unlike virtually everywhere else in the US, servers don't have a base pay of less than minimum wage to be offset with tips.

                                                    2. re: Dustin_E

                                                      Shorting the waitstaff really doesn't do anything except short the waitstaff. As mentioned in the Incanto website, the healthy SF fee pays for all staff, line chefs, dishwashers, etc. I don't like seeing another tack on but for health coverage I don't mind since there's no free lunch with healthcare and yes, things are f**ked up that way in this country. You're probably not going to hell but I'd watch for karma, it might strike and shaft you later on.

                                                      1. re: ML8000

                                                        As the Incanto article points out, the problem is the unfair distribution of payments to tipped staff vis a vis kitchen staff. I don't think I'm shorting the server by deducting the 5 percent when they're already making so much more than the kitchen staff.

                                                        BTW, I was wrong, there are several states that do not allow tips to be credited against minimum wage, including California.

                                                        1. re: ML8000

                                                          >> Shorting the waitstaff really doesn't do anything except short the waitstaff

                                                          well, that and preclude me from paying the stupid healthy SF fee.

                                                          1. re: Dustin_E

                                                            If the fee surcharge was on the bill, you paid it. Reducing your tip by the same amount doesn't change that.

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                              >> If the fee surcharge was on the bill, you paid it. Reducing your tip by the same
                                                              >> amount doesn't change that.


                                                              1. re: Dustin_E

                                                                It's not semantics. Reducing your tip means the server gets less money. The owner still gets the surcharge.

                                                                If you don't want to pay the surcharge, negotiate with the owner or manager before you sit down.

                                                                  1. re: Dustin_E

                                                                    Presented with a choice between your business and comping the surcharge, some restaurants would probably go for the business. In any case, you'd be sending the owner the clear message that you hate the surcharge.

                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                      yes, that's true. but effort, attention, inconvenience of doing this have a significance worth probably more (to me at least) than the healthy sf fee in the first place.

                                                                      but i agree that would be a more noble thing to do than to move to the "cheap end" of the tipping range because you don't like an extra tacky charge.

                                                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                    >> Reducing your tip means the server gets less money. The owner still gets the surcharge.

                                                                    yes, but there are other feedbacks too. if employees are tipped less, they are less happy, so turnover is higher, productivity is lower, they demand higher wages, maybe downsell clients on menu items more often. which costs the owner.

                                                                    1. re: Dustin_E

                                                                      The surcharges are small enough that taking them out of your tip will probably just move you toward the lower end of the SF tipping range of 15-20%. If your usual tip is 15%, then the servers will just think you're cheap.

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                        Do servers really analyze tip ratios systematically enough to figure out what is really going on? I seriously doubt that. I usually dont "itemize" the tip but round the whole bill to a dollar figure. Now sometimes $27.23 might become $27, and usually $34.68 will turn into $35, unless I am annoyed about something in which case it might become $34.50 or $34.00 ... I'm probably using (total + tax) * 1.18 as my starting point ... although sometimes I'll do (total + tax) * 1.15 + $1 if it is a lowish bill.

                                                                        Just like there are plenty of people looking for a reason to ding their server, I think there may be servers looking to claim someone is cheap rather than operating with a different norm, e.g. tip on pre-tax/post-tax. I doubt a server can tell the difference between "i took the heath surcharge out of your tip" and "i tipped on pre-tax".

                                                                      2. re: Dustin_E

                                                                        @Dustin -- that seems very indirect If what you are after is for worker dissatisfaction to engender revolution, I would suggest that you tell the server. That way they'll know that their tip is less because of protest, not bad service on their part.

                                                                        1. re: pauliface

                                                                          "I love the meal and the service was fantastic but I'm docking your tip 5% because I don't like the extra fee. Have a nice day and thank you for the service."

                                                                          Yeah that sounds like a sure way to have your food messed with.

                                                                          1. re: pauliface

                                                                            i'm not trying to start a revolution, i'm trying to make things seem more reasonable and fair in my worldview. i think the incanto explanation makes a lot of sense -- though it isn't hard to see why waitstaff wouldn't like that explanation.

                                                                            and i mean, it is all very indirect. if i pay the sf fee, i'm contributing to the perpetuation of what i think is a culture of profit through indirect stupid tacky fees. if i don't pay, i'm penalizing some people who don't deserve it. but that's the nature of tipping -- maybe it isn't my server's fault the entree took two hours to be delivered -- maybe the owner didn't staff the kitchen enough -- i still had a crappy experience, so should signal that with a not-so-generous tip.

                                                                            talking to the owner or waitstaff about it to me amounts to just boycotting those establishments in favor of other places -- because i'd rather do this than argue this point with every restaurant i visit. maybe i should do that, but that deprives them business they'd probably rather have than not (if even from a cheap tipper) and me of places i'd visit otherwise.

                                                                            adjusted for i'd pay the healthy sf fee if i were a regular (just to be pragmatic) or the service was noticeably good, and i'd leave a crappy tip anyway if the service were bad, it still seems like a reasonable approach, at least to me.

                                                                            1. re: pauliface

                                                                              Mr. Face:

                                                                              There are many things we *could* do which in a sense would advance "fairness" or leave us better informed or better off from a utility perspective, but they would so radically alter the dining experience from the "social contract" of "a respectful customer with typical needs/expectations should leave about an 18% tip for respectful, competent service." that they are more or less unreachable outcomes.

                                                                              This includes leaving a defense of your tipping percentage, negotiating for a cash discount, bargaining over your willingness-to-pay for different wines [I'm going to get the $20bottle marked up to $50, unless your will give me the $40 bottle marked up to $100 for $90 which will leave us both better off] ... or from the other side, the waiter "explaining" rough edges of his service ["the late food was the kitchen fault" "not my fault i was slow ... i'm covering 4 extra tables for a absent employee"], engaging in side-payments to get around tip-pooling issues etc.

                                                                              1. re: psb

                                                                                To be clear. I'm not endorsing the behavior at all. The only way I'll reduce a tip is if a server is hugely rude. Even incompentence won't do it, as lack of ability can't necessarily be helped.

                                                                                I was just saying that *if* he was going to do this, it would be a good idea to let the server know it was not their fault.

                                                                                1. re: pauliface

                                                                                  @Dustin, the particular restaurant in this case, Incanto, seems to have very low front of house staff turnover in the years I have gone there. The truth is, on a higher end meal, waiters will still make great money with a 15% tip. And they may have a much less stressful job as a result of everybody there working together without as much pay disparity friction. I know if I were a chef making half what a waiter made, I'd be less cooperative and friendly with the waiters. And they surely retain more bussers and dishwashers than the average place, who become useful pinch-hitting employees who know how to do everything if somebody is sick.

                                                      2. re: JoLong

                                                        The Price Hikes discusses Saison today, pretty much the same info as here -

                                                        1. re: nickis

                                                          Here's an interview with Skenes and The Price Hike


                                                          Looks like he hasn't been reading this thread.

                                                          "How have guests been responding to a ticket-only system? This policy of course has enjoyed success at Next in Chicago and Brooklyn Fare in NYC?"
                                                          "Very well. Its a pleasure to see our guests have a seamless experience."

                                                          1. re: PorkyBelly

                                                            Don't forget it's also a "relative bargain" according to Skenes.

                                                            1. re: PorkyBelly

                                                              If he wants to compare himself to France and Japan, he should read this review of his retaurant by a well known international blogger:


                                                              In summary, "Great dude, you're serving some good ingredients. Unfortunately, you're not that great of a chef."

                                                              I think that's the problem with a restaurant raising prices so fast -- if you're a high one-star / low two-star chef with $75 worth of ingredients, you'll be the same level of chef with $300 worth of ingredients.

                                                              1. re: Dustin_E

                                                                Saison got its second Michelin star a few months after that review, so the inspectors say he's running the third- to eighth-best restaurant in the Bay Area. Of course, they also say that only eight restaurants in the area (and none that cost under $100) are worth a detour or special trip.

                                                            2. re: PorkyBelly

                                                              I'm sure Thomas Keller will be amused to hear that his ingredients are second best.

                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                Haha, I know. I bet there are a lot of chefs who would raise their eyebrows at that comment.

                                                                1. re: nickis

                                                                  well, it's also true, at least if you're looking at the highest end seafood ingredients rather than the local produce.

                                                                  don't know if saison's is really any better than french laundry, but if you compare french laundry to the best in japan or france, it is certainly second tier.

                                                                  1. re: Dustin_E

                                                                    So does that make Saison third tier in your book?

                                                                    1. re: ML8000

                                                                      in my book, i'd rank them all roughly like this:

                                                                      for ingredient quality:

                                                                      1st tier - top 3 star places in france or japan
                                                                      2nd tier - TFL, manresa, saison, robuchon at MGM, urasawa, sawa
                                                                      3rd tier
                                                                      4th tier

                                                                      for chef's skill:

                                                                      1st tier - top 3 star places, robuchon at MGM
                                                                      2nd tier - TFL, manresa, urasawa
                                                                      3rd tier - saison
                                                                      4th tier - sawa

                                                                      for value:

                                                                      1st tier - manresa, sawa
                                                                      2nd tier - TFL, saison, top 3 star places in japan or france
                                                                      3rd tier - robuchon at MGM, urasawa
                                                                      4th tier

                                                                      1. re: ML8000

                                                                        even if saison is serving 1st tier ingredients, it is at best going to be like masa in new york -- great ingredients, terrible value, very good but not the best chef.

                                                                        ingredient transportation difficulties and lack of competition at that price point will all but ensure this.

                                                              2. re: nickis

                                                                Saison's no longer part of the everyday SF market of tasty food for hungry people.

                                                                It's in the international market for two- and three-Michelin-star experiences. There are only three such places in SF proper, and the kind of people who fly into town to eat at them are probably going to all three. A few hundred bucks isn't much more than a rounding error when you add up a first-class flight from Hong Kong or Dubai and a top-of-the-line hotel suite.