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Disappointing Restaurant Week experience--would you complain?

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CakeBeret:
A neighboring city does Restaurant Week, in which all the classy establishments offer specials, usually at a significant discount from their normal prices. One of my favorite restaurants is normally $60 per person, and was discounted to $35 per person for RW. I made my reservations and went, and was honestly really underwhelmed.

Usually, this restaurant serves absolutely top-notch food. It's expensive but worth every penny, and I dare someone to find a better steak anywhere.

Our RW dinners were disappointing, to say the least. My filet mignon was tough, stringy, and flavorless. Honestly, I've had sirloin from Applebee's that tasted better. I had the opportunity to taste several other cuts of meat, and most of them were similarly low-quality. Due to the nature of the restaurant (plus the RW hustle), complaining on the spot was impractical and unlikely to be taken seriously. It was clear that the food served was inferior to their normal quality, and I have heard rumors that their RW food is generally an inferior experience.

The spirit of my complaint is that, had this been my only experience at this restaurant, I would never go back and pay full price. *I* know how stunningly delicious their food normally is. But someone who had never been there before would probably say "Meh. I suppose this meal was worth $35. But I would never come back and pay full price." I think the restaurant is doing itself a disservice and selling itself short by serving inferior fare during RW.

So I'm toying with the idea of contacting them and mentioning how disappointing it was, and that if I had never been there before, I would probably never go back. I don't expect any freebies or anything out of it, but I do think they need to know how they are likely being perceived. Should I contact them, or leave it alone?

WillyNilly:
I LOVE restaurant week, never miss the opportunity to hit at least 1 if not 3 or 4 places every time it comes around.  As a cheapskate and foodie it truly appeals to every bit of me. I do occasionally however pay full price, so I know what the real experience at swanky restaurants is too.

In my experience/my city restaurants offer limited menu of 3 course meals for a set price as terms of RW. I find that many places will simply offer a smaller portion, instead of skimping on quality.  For example they might offer a 4 or 5 oz steak instead the 7-12 oz on the regular menu, or the pate is one or two small squares arranged on a plate with exactly 3 toast rounds and exactly 1 caper, etc instead of the normal presentation of 4 squares of pate with a fan of toast rounds and a small cluster of capers, and other garnish, etc. the quality of the ingredients, the quality of the cooking and effort of presentation are all still there, but slightly less actual food product. Since its spectacular, and because its 3 courses, the consumer feels satisfied and meanwhile the business gets to recoup some profit.

So yeah, I think an email or comment card would be appropriate. Because the whole draw of RW is going to get the spectacular food.  Honestly the coolness factor of having eaten at a certain restaurant only exists while the restaurant itself maintains certain standards. And bad RW food really does affect future business.  I know one of my favorite restaurants, The 21 Club, where I do go and pay full price, is one I "discovered" via RW.  And meanwhile after years of pining to go to the famous Mr Chow I went during RW and felt the food was exactly on par with the take out places in my neighborhood (admittedly I live in a very Chinese 'hood) and I will not be going back to pay extra-price for what I can get at a discount elsewhere.

MamaMootz:
I would contact them, if it were me. Why participate in restaurant week if not to use it as a marketing opportunity to bring in more customers who would be back and willing to pay full price?

They are shooting themselves in the foot if they continue to do this.... so I think the feedback would be useful.

lowspark:
I agree. It's clear that whoever is running RW at this restaurant has absolutely no clue as to what it's all about. Because, not only is he turning off potential future clientele, but he's doing it at a real cost. He thinks he's saving money by serving inferior products. But he forgot about his waitstaff.

During RW, the waitstaff must be getting smaller tips than normal since tips are based on percentage and the bills will be lower than normal. So unless he is somehow compensating his staff for this discrepancy (which I doubt!), they are sacrificing tip money and probably working much harder for what they do get if they are serving more people than the usual lunch crowd.

So, he's cheaping out on the food, making his staff work harder for less money, and all that to make a bad impression on new customers. Way to go.

buvezdevin:
I would send an email expressing that, as someone who has very much enjoyed dining with them before, you were disappointed with the lower *quality* of the meals your party was served during RW - and add that you are mentioning this for their consideration of how/whether they participate in RW in future.

Any restaurant that does not realize that with Yelp, Chowhound and various social media, the "cost" of downgrading "quality" during RW is going to hurt them is really miscalculating, IMO.  I have been to restaurants where the RW offerings are smaller portions, or feature less costly ingredients, but the quality has been maintained at the restaurant's usual standards.  Doing less seems counter-productive since the aim is usually not "wow, we can be fully booked for RW!" but "RW is an opportunity to introduce new diners to what we offer."

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