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Sep 30, 2012 06:46 PM

Oysterfest at Meritage Meltdown

Like last year, we bought the VIP tickets.

Average wait time per oyster line was 40 minutes.

Longest wait time was 53 minutes.

Heard of people walking out and asking for their money back.

Felt like twice the people as last year.

This is an event I very much hope can work.

But this year was a total meltdown.

Who else went and what are your thoughts?

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  1. More like 3 times as many people. I purchased the regular ticket ($25, 12 oysters), and kept thinking I'm so glad I didn't pay $100 for the VIP ticket ($100, unlimited oysters) because I would never get my money's worth.

    I was with a group where we lucked out and were able to snare a sidewalk table just as some people were leaving. When they left, they offered us their unused regular passes, totalling about 40 oysters. They must have been tired of the long lines.

    I'm glad there is such an interest in oysters, but it was out of control. The only line that moved quickly was the beer line.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Brad Ballinger

      Struck me that it was a combination of too many people and too few shuckers who knew what they were doing. One line I was in the woman confessed to being a hostess at the restaurant. I timed her. It took her five minutes to shuck half a dozen.

      I was struck by the shuckers last year. They were fast and efficient. This year was amateur hour, for the most part.

      As always, the business side of things fascinates me. I can buy 100 Island Creek oysters online for $150. That's retail.

      Wholesale a much lesser margin but I don't know that number.

      I don't know if it was poor planning or Meritage was trying to make a big score.

      Disappointing result.

      As I said, earlier, I hope Meritage can fix the problem.

    2. The Summit oyster stout was the only saving grace for me. The waiting in lines and the oysters I finally got being poorly shucked with alot of shell fragments in them was no fun. The oyster po-boy sliders were very good, that line was way too long also.
      It was a beautiful day and I had a good time but last year was much better.
      Will not go next year.

      5 Replies
      1. re: chazmo

        It looks like they are listening and addressing concerns on their Facebook page. It ultimately sounds like they need to make it pre-sale tickets only and increase staff. Looks like they are offering a dozen oysters of your choosing as a make up in the restaurant.

        1. re: semanticantics

          Just punched up their FB page. I don't see a thing there related to Oysterfest.

          1. re: SarahInMinneapolis

            As a gesture of apology and appreciation; all VIP Pass Holders will be offered a complimentary dozen oysters at Meritage on their next visit, just bring in your pass.

            We have listened to your feedback. It's no easy thing to put together a festival, and will continue to learn & refine.

            [Customer]What if we threw the pass away? will you still honor this if we bring in our receipt showing we purchased our passes?

            Meritage - St. Paul Restaurant We have a log of all passes, if you have your receipt number that will be enough, we can cross reference.

            [Customer]I know you put a ton of work into this and I really hope you do another. But yes, I do have to say that I didn't even get 1/3 of the oysters I was able to eat last year...and I was first in line at the tables at noon. It was a 20-30 deep line after 1pm and at that point I left in frustration. I would be willing to pay extra for a super VIP pass with a dedicated shucker! Anyway, love what you are doing at Meritage and this is still a great event. See you at dinner sometime soon!

            Meritage - St. Paul Restaurant thank you for your grace. I think our largest problem was that everyone was extremely punctual - and we have learned from this year that if we do another Oysterfest we are going to have to have all ticket sales be advanced sales and that's it.

            The lines that formed for same-day ticket sales were around the corner by 11:30am, which created almost immediate lines.

            We did hear and observe the lines lightening up by about 2:00pm (with 6 more hours to fest!). We had another guest suggest a staggered in-time with advanced arrival for VIP Pass holders - we thought it was a pretty great idea... We take all of this seriously and thank you for your feedback.

            1. re: semanticantics

              Thanks for posting! And thanks for being classy, Meritage. Great call.

            2. re: SarahInMinneapolis

              As of right now, it's their most recent post.

              It says to bring your VIP pass into the restaurant for a dozen free oysters.


        2. After an hour of confusion and unacceptable lines we put our two VIP passes in the garbage and left. I expected so much more from a place like Meritage. Needless to say Oyster Fest is forever off the list. I'll also question returning to Meritage anytime soon.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ShawnSpott

            Hope you don't do that, ShawnSpott. I'm going to give the place the benefit of the doubt. They overreached this year on ticket sales and thought regular staff could shuck oysters. Both bad calls, admittedly. As I understand the "refund" from twitter, you don't need the passes, themselves. Because you are on their list. The last thing we want to do is kill off events like this.

            1. re: SarahInMinneapolis

              I have to say I'm probably not going to do Oyster Fest again. Last year we had an absolutely fantastic time and we were so looking forward to it this year. The lines and the long shucking times left us extremely disappointed. We tried to make the best of it since we had come with 2 friends this year, but it just didn't work. As usual, I was impressed with the quality of the food; the oyster po boy slider may be one of the best things I've ever eaten. However, that line took me over 40 minutes. I hope they get the logistics worked out for next year. And I appreciate the fact that they are offering VIP pass holders a dozen free oyster, but my question is, what do I do with my leftover punch card that's still good for 12 oysters? It doesn't seem fair that because we didn't want to stand in endless lines to get what we had already paid for, we're out of luck.

          2. It seems like, in general, there is a serious issue around MSP with overselling these events. I understand $$$ is the bottom line, but you can't continue to have these issues. Just about every month, we hear a different event was oversold and the result was a complete disaster. This has happened in every beer tasting I've ever attended and I flat out won't go to them anymore. Better planning could make this problem easily avoidable.

            In the case of Oysterfest, maybe sell a series of 2 hour blocks. That seems like a reasonable amount of time for everyone to get what they want. Just an idea.

            2 Replies
            1. re: BigE

              That's the issue in a nutshell. A money grab versus an event for your loyal, and possibly new, customers to generate buzz and a little press that still generates a profit. Sounds like they had it right last year and dropped the ball this year, specifically because they oversold tickets at the gate.

              1. re: BigE

                This is why I recommend avoiding anything called a "food truck festival." I guarantee it will be a festival of waiting in very long lines for very little food.

              2. Agreed - wasn't very well organized, or at least not organized to suit the demand of all the people that attended.

                Those oysters I was finally able to get were shucked terribly. Left after about 2 hours and trying about 8 oysters.

                1 Reply
                1. re: mull0263

                  I arrived at around 4:00 and had about a 15 minute wait for oysters. By the time we got out of the 5:00 oyster class, there was almost no wait. Hog Island did run out of oysters, though.

                  Despite the lines, we would go back. This is the kind of event I definitely want to support.