Once the opening buzz dies down, restaurants find a variety of ways to remind diners they exist, and to get patrons in the door. Some of these (wine dinners, menu specials, etc.) make great sense. Others, not so much. Here now are five popular promos that leave us scratching our heads.
1) Late Night Happy Hours
When The Night Kitchen announced last month that it was shutting down, Eater commenters scoffed at the notion that Seattle could support a late night eatery?one that serves actual food. And yet, distinguished restaurants in town including Anchovies & Olives, Luc and Palace Kitchen continue to offer them. On several occasions in the past few weeks, Eater has ventured to "late night" spots close to the midnight hour and met with reluctant hospitality and/or deathly stares calibrated to dissuade one from entering.
Anthony Bourdain once opined, "Brunch is punishment block for the B-Team cooks, or where the farm team of recent dishwashers learn their chops." Perhaps, this is the reason that so many smaller chef-run Seattle restaurants launch but ultimately abort brunch service. La Bete eliminated its celebrated weekend brunch, in favor of offering a Sunday dinner. Co-owner Aleks Dimitrijevic, recently explained the reasoning:
We were doing a Friday service, then working all day Saturday ‘til 2 a.m., then coming back here Sunday morning. It was exhausting. Also it’s hard to do a different style of service just those two days of the week. Given the amount of space we have available to prep and store stuff, it made sense to do dinner, keep the consistency, and not worry so much about the quality and timing suffering from the brunch and dinner overlap.
Further up the Hill, La Bete's Capitol Hill neighbor Olivar also played with initially offering a weekend brunch, then a Sunday only brunch, before eliminating it altogether. Walrus & the Carpenter halted brunch service as well.
3) Sunday Suppers
With the proliferation of food allergy based dining, it's surprising that restaurants continue to offer these set-menu, communal, "no substitutions allowed", school-night dinners. Dinette has been sporadically offering these family style suppers, since it opened. Corson Building quickly adopted the practice, as did Volunteer Park Cafe. Who is actually attending these gatherings? Their aim is to generate goodwill - do they succeed?
4) Deal Sites
Many have argued that deal sites are too costly for restaurants. Recently, Boston and Harvard researchers found that a daily deal often correlates with lower average Yelp ratings. Restaurants are not only losing money on daily deal sites but losing reputation as well. In a new survey, Living Social revealed that its subscribers rank Seattle as having the third worst dining scene among 20 U.S. cities. So, there may be a self selection problem: critical diners may be drawn to deal sites. The problem may be compounded by an eatery that is not staffed and/or trained to expect the daily deal hordes.
5) Whack-a-Mole Happy Hours
One of Eater's favorite happy hours in town is Liberty's. Apart from the excellent craft cocktails, Liberty's best trait is its unaltered, straightforward happy hour, which runs daily between 4 and 7 p.m. ($3 sushi roll, $3 well spirits and at least $1 off cocktails, beer and wine). Why should we need apps to keep track of happy hours? Some Seattle eateries provide discounts on booze but not food, food but not booze, cater to tourists and dilettantes by ending at 5 and wildly change the days/hours that the happy hour is available. The impact of all these machinations is to diminish the happy hour's appeal.
What other unfathomable restaurant promotions are out there? Let's hear 'em.