Restaurant Week a Boost for Tough Winter, Business Owners Hope

By Heidi Patalano on February 19, 2014 8:46am 

 A waiter clears a table at a midtown restaurant popular for business lunches.
A waiter clears a table at a midtown restaurant popular for business lunches.
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Getty Images/Spencer Platt

MIDTOWN — There's no such thing as a free lunch. But an unusually cheap one? That can happen this week.

As local and visiting foodies enjoy Restaurant Week from now until March 7, they’ll dine on three-course prix fixe lunches and dinners for $25 and $38 respectively.

While the celebration is meant to help restaurants all over the city, the highest concentration of participants is located in Midtown, a rough part of town for restaurant survival.

“The costs of doing business in Midtown are higher than other places in the city so they really need to get that higher level of business in the door,” said Steve Zagor, Dean of Business and Management Programs at the Institute for Culinary Education.

“They also have generally higher checks. These are places that are generally expensive anyway, so the discount really means something."

Out of 291 restaurants participating in Restaurant Week, 146 are located in Midtown.

First conceived of as an opportunity to boost small businesses during a slow season, Restaurant Week could be especially helpful this year when brutal winter weather has kept diners away and Valentine’s Day fell on a Friday rather than a Monday or Tuesday, which normally gives small establishments an extra bump. 

“[Restaurant Week] keeps the mouths of the staff fed and it keeps the seats warm and it keeps the place simmering until hopefully spring when the simmer turns into a boil and business comes up big,” Zagor said.

Restaurants either opt for creating a special modified menu or for offering a price cut on their regular fare. The quantities or quality of the dishes may not be the same as what one would get during a regular dinner, but restaurant consultant Clark Wolf said that bargain basement deals don’t apply to high-end food.

“The idea is that you get a taste at an affordable price, not that you get a Cadillac for the cost of a Volt,” Wolf said.

“I don’t want a five star meal at a two star price, because eventually something has got to give. What you can ask is, ‘Is this an adjusted presentation or is this a discount on your regular food?’ Don’t assume that because of making an adjustment that they’re cheating — although some do,” he said.

To learn more about the participating restaurants, click here.

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