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Oct 17, 2012 11:18 AM

Higher prices at prime times?

Channel 2 ran a story a few days ago saying some restaurants are considering charging a premium for prime time. Sort of the reverse of early bird specials. Are any restaurants actually doing this? Has anyone experienced it?

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  1. This is definitely happening at restaurants that sell tickets rather than traditional reservations, such as Alinea, Next, and Elizabeth in Chicago. They equate it to the way theater seats are priced higher on a Saturday night than a Wednesday due to demand. NoMad in New York is using the same ticket system so I assume prices also vary there, but I have not specifically read about their policy.

    1 Reply
    1. re: GourmetWednesday

      The NoMad Rooftop (only the rooftop, the regular restaurant is on OpenTable) chose not to vary the pricing. It was $125pp no matter what time slot you chose, even though they ran on the same backend system as Next and Alinea.

    2. I find that most restaurants will offer a discount for off hours (pre theatre prix fixe, happy hour, Savored discount, etc) than to charge MORE for peak hours.

      There are at least two restaurants outside of NYC who DO charge more for prime time and weekend tables: Next and Alinea in Chicago.

      Next sells out every night regardless of price, due to its seasonal menus (turning menus every 4 months = artificial scarcity) and lower overall price point ($85-110).

      But Alinea is another story. If you look on the Alinea site when tables go on sale, the Wednesday and Sunday tables, while cheaper, linger for much longer than the Friday and Saturday tables. And the very early and very late times sell much more slowly than the 7-8pm time slots. Despite being cheaper.

      It's very explicit on their site that you're paying a premium for your Saturday 8pm table, and they seem to be doing very well, eventually selling out every night (though it sometimes takes a while).

      See also:

      1 Reply
      1. re: kathryn

        Kathryn: You might want to try Elizabeth on one of your trips to Chicago. Our tickets aren't until November but all reports are that she is killing it.

      2. Boulud Sud effectively does this by offering their $60 prix fixe as the only dining option before 7:00 pm, and their more expensive a la carte menu after 7:00 pm.

        3 Replies
        1. re: MrGrumpy

          Eh, I feel like you're almost paying a premium to eat early (ie to get a table for the Lincoln Center rush).. If you look at what's offered on the prix fix it's basically $15-20 apps, $30-35 entrees and $10-15 dinner, so you total $55-$70. Not saving much, and you are stuck with a smaller menu and you have to get 3 courses each. With the minimal $ savings, forced ordering, and fewer choices, the a la carte menu seems like a better deal.

          1. re: Tubulus

            The a la carte appetizers actually go as high as $22 and main courses $41, not to mention the white truffle options. But I get your point. The $60 prix fixe is hardly a bargain.

            1. re: MrGrumpy

              Right but those aren't on the prix fixe menu (or they are with a supplement). Given my wife's and my appetites I'd rather spend the extra on a more expensive entree than 2 desserts.