The parasitic Grocery Shrink Ray has infected restaurants, shrinking portions and spurring substitutions as restaurateurs struggle to pry revenue from cash-strapped customers. Desperate to fill seats by any means, restaurants are borrowing from the airlines and are starting to overbook reservations for peak times. They’re also giving preference to the new big spenders: Europeans.
Many restaurants are trying to sate diners and give them a sense of plenty for the lowest price possible.
“You have to be smart as a restaurateur and a chef and say, what’s the most value I can put on this plate so it looks like a lot of food and still appears to be a value and doesn’t anger anyone?” Ms. Taras Wallach of Little Giant said.
“I serve a lot of grits,” she added.
And many restaurants are trying harder than ever not to let any seats go to waste. Ms. Arpaia said that at Mia Dona she is accepting more reservations between 7 and 9 p.m. rather than steering diners toward early and late times that they might reject. Even if this means lengthening diners’ waits for reserved tables, she, like other restaurateurs, wants to make sure that no-shows don’t cost the restaurant money.
“I’d rather have people wait at the bar and buy them a free drink than not get them in the door,” she said, adding that she knows of other restaurants acting in a similar, extra-cautious fashion.
“You should see, when [the Europeans] come in the door, the shopping bags they hand off to the coat check,” said Graceanne Jordan, the general manager at the Modern, which is part of the Union Square group and is near the shopping corridors of Madison and Fifth Avenues.
“I mean, they’re just spending. It’s Monopoly money to them.”
So if you want that prime-time reservation, break out your best cash-happy faux-Euro accent and ask: “Sir? SIR! Ver eez my täbel, monsieur?”
As Belts Tighten, Lobsters Shrink and Bar Menus Grow [The New York Times]
(Photo: Sherry’s Rose Cottage)