Restaurant Week was originally designed as an opportunity for diners to try some new dishes and establishments at discounted prices, while restaurants (hopefully) win some new patrons during what is often considered the slowest time of the year.
If you are the type of person who likes to go downtown for the New Years Eve ball drop, who goes out for steak and lobster tails on Valentines Day, and has never met a Mothers Day Buffet you didn’t like, then you will thrive during Local Restaurant Week. If you order party pizzas at halftime during the Superbowl, then this is your time to shine.
But for everyone else, make sure your expectations are properly set, because Restaurant Week is churn-em and burn-em time. For most establishments, it requires a bit of shifting from a quality to quantity mode as the business ramps up to meet the increased demand. Some places can pull off high quality at high volume without issue, but those places are killing it both on and off Restaurant Week, and we already know who they are.
It is no secret that some restaurants often transition to an “Outlet Mall” version of regular dishes to keep costs in line as well as better please and attract a wider range of patron. After all, while people enjoy their Applebees-priced combo meals, the goal of the restaurant is to get them to come back for a real meal, at real prices someday. If you’re getting a $20 meal at a steakhouse that would usually cost you $100, you cannot be surprised when your beef isn’t dry aged prime and your shrimp cocktail is served in a shot glass.
Everyone participating gets crushed during restaurant week. The kitchen staff is slammed from open to close, and the waitstaff is running nonstop. If you’re attending one of these meals please tip well. 15% on $44 at a fine dining restaurant sucks and is disrespectful.
Here are the people who should not go out on Restaurant Week:
- People who are shitty tippers. (see above). You shouldn’t be eating in restaurants if you don’t tip anyway – but especially now.
- People who have huge dietary restrictions. You are respected by the kitchen staff, but now is not the time to ask for a paleo vegan bread basket.
- People who are picky and want variations. The Restaurant Week menu was likley chosen to appeal to a broad audience. If you don’t like the way things are prepared during restaurant week, you will probably hate their regular menu. By the way, the menu is online so look before you commit.
- Assholes. No one wants to listen to you complain. And they don’t have time.
Here is how to be successful during Restaurant Week:
- Go to a restaurant you’ve never been to before. Why go to the same old Italian joint you always visit and get the same meal for $2 cheaper? There are a lot of new places on this list.
- Try a cuisine you’ve never had. Buffalo is blowing up with delicious foods right now. Be exotic. Thai, Pakistani, Indian, Japanese, Burmese foods all exist here now. The International standouts on this list for me this year are Clay Handi/Zaiqa Pakistani food, Lin Restaurant in Tonawanda for Thai/Burmese, Sun Cuisine in Williamsville for their Black Rice menu, or go hit up Teton Kitchen in Cheektowaga for whatever Taka is cooking up that day.
- If you’re from the suburbs, go to the city. You don’t even have to pay a toll anymore. I like Allen Burger Venture, Likewise, if you’re from the city, go see what’s happening in the burbs these days. 99 Brick Oven in Lancaster has some really fantastic Neapolitan pizza and beer, Dessert Cafe in East Amherst had the best crepes and Belgian Waffles I’ve had in town, and the newly relocated Scharf’s German Restaurant in West Seneca has a really solid lunch and dinner special as well as their fish fry.
- Be patient, and be understanding. Its going to be crazy. The staff is going to be tired. The kitchen is going to run out of things. They’re all probably losing money. Bear with them.
Or…. go to a non-participating restaurant during Restaurant Week. After all of this, could you blame a restaurant for not joining the Restaurant Week program? A lot of places, for various reasons – don’t do Restaurant Week. If you have a favorite, go there for dinner. It’s likely to be much quieter as the masses sweep through restaurant week and your business will be appreciated.