KRLD Restaurant Week In Dallas: Love It? Like It? Hate It?

 Ferrets are sexually dimorphic predators.
Ferrets are sexually dimorphic predators.

I realize a lot of you love to dine out during KRLD Restaurant Week/Month. You get a three-course meal at these restaurants for $35 and some “proceeds” go to the North Texas Food Bank. Win-win, right?

Over the years, I’ve talked to a many restaurant owners, chefs, and servers who aren’t crazy about the promotion. Perhaps given the current state of business they’ve changed their tune. I’d like to know.

Anywhooo, last year, the finest ferret at PegNews, Teresa “Vicky Christina” Gubbins, wrote the piece I wish I’d written about Restaurant Week. Here is the hot link to her story which officially makes this “Link To Teresa Gubbins Week.”  (Group hug.)

At the risk of going all Eatsblog on you, I would like to know: Why do you like restaurant week? Why do you hate restaurant week?  I will tell you this: it is the worst month of the year to be a dining critic. Okay, let’s rumble like we’re on Las Ramblas.

SideDish, an equal opportunity hot link provider.

40 comments on “KRLD Restaurant Week In Dallas: Love It? Like It? Hate It?

  1. My husband and I look forward to restaurant week every year. We’re very conscious of the charitable aspect of the event and always take care of our waiter. But we do use it to preview restaurants for special occasions. One year, we went to Stephen Pyles and LOVED it. We went back for our anniversary. The next year, we went to York Street. I know people rave about York Street and Sharon Hague has a huge following, but it wasn’t for us. We won’t ever go back.

  2. Ditto on Robin. York Street was a dud for me. Tiny, tiny servings and virtually ignored. Stephen Pyles service was so warm and friendly that I still remember the server’s name. The food was excellent and generously served. Because of my experience, I’ve recommended the place to several people and even sent a big group on a business trip. I might not have tried Stephen Pyles without Restaurant Week.

    I get that it’s (probably) a beating, but with proper customer service, you shouldn’t be able to tell. If you treat my $35 like crap, I can guarantee you I won’t be back with my $75.

  3. By and large, I love Restaurant Week. Like Robin, I use it to preview new restaurants, and I pay future visits to those that I enjoyed. I look forward to trying new places every year.

    What bothers me a bit about Restaurant Week, though, is that while it seems to have gotten more popular, the restaurants (perhaps for good reason) don’t seem open additional tables from years prior. The net result being “I’m sorry, we don’t have any other Restaurant Week availabilities” as a common response when calling for reservations this year.

    The other thing that bothers me about Restaurant Week is the venue that treats you as if you’re insignificant or less important because you’re there for Restaurant Week. For example, a few years ago, I visited Stephen Pyles. It was obvious that they were seating all of their Restaurant Weekers in one section, the service was lacking significantly in that section, and there was even a point in the evening when Chef Pyles made his rounds to every table in the restaurant EXCEPT for the section of Restaurant Weekers – as if we weren’t significant enough for him to come say hi to. On the flip side, I visited Mansion on Turtle Creek last year and they treated us like royalty, and received high marks in my book for that. Robin and I can’t be alone in using Restaurant Week as a preview – so why not showcase all your restaurant has to offer (food AND service)?

  4. I used to participate in Restaurant Week every year, but I’m passing this year. Seems like I always end up spending $100 per person with tax,tip, and wine. So not a great value in my opinion. And many times my party has felt very rushed.

  5. Ah yes…restaurant week.
    It is an interesting subject. There are so many conflicting thought. first and foremost it benefits The North Texas Food bank, very cool. It puts guest in your restaurant in the slowest part of the year helping waiters, cooks, bartenders and all the staff pay their bills as well as the restaurant. Great!
    It give the restaurant a tune up for the upcoming party season. Good deal.
    You get to show case your business to possible new guests and provide a good value to your existing base. Cool.
    The flip side is you have to be very careful to get your staff to understand all of this and keep a positive attitude toward the bigger picture, not just the $35 diner. It is not a time for “turn and burn” or see how fast we can get them in and out. It is not a time to give less service to a “RW” reservation. It is not a time for owners to cut staff or skimp on products. This is a time to shine.
    The dining public should also understand that making reservations and no showing, tipping less or having unrealistic expections of a 4 star dinner and service during these few weeks is crazy.
    If everyone would just relax and enjoy the ride….wouldn’t that benefit everyone and be really cool.

  6. I don’t understand — if the restaurant types don’t like RW, then don’t participate in it. Is it the pressure to do so because of the charity aspect?

    I’m with the other commentors here — I generally use RW to get a preview of what the place has to offer. I understand it may not be a true sampling of their stuff, but it’s enough to make a decision on whether to return. That, alone, should make it worthwhile to the restaurants.

  7. Too many RW horror stories and sorry, I don’t want to go to a resto and be restricted as to what I order.

  8. I do enjoy restaurant week, however I really hate the available reservation times for the more popular / “in” restaurants listed. I am just not a fan of a 9:15 dinner reservation on a Monday night.
    As mentioned by others I use this time to preview restaurants and when the service is off b/c they know I am there on a fixed menu it can be a real downer. Not so likely to go back.
    “Word-of-mouth marketing ultimately depends on the quality of your customer service.”

  9. Was just discussing this subject yesterday with a co-worker. I love that KRLD Restaurant Week exists in Dallas, but I’ve only participated a couple of times over the past several years.

    In my experiences, I’ve been underwhelmed by the selections on the prix-fix menu and am usually more interested in ordering something off the restaurant’s ‘normal’ menu.

    Still, I’m happy that RW exists and seems to have a good following … I’ll just choose to continue with not participating.

  10. VERY eatsbloggish of you Nancy…what a shameless attempt for comments!! :)

    Most restaurants have been doing promotions similar to RW all year with a prix fixe here and a 1/2 wine there, here an app there an app every where an app app. So, the waitstaff should be more use to a smaller check avg so hopefully all these horror stories of diners being treated like rejects will be minimized this year. As always, please tip based on what you would’ve spent at the % you deem worthy.

    Its not perfect but it did raise $430K last year and fed a lot of hungry people in north TX. That alone should warrant a little more tolerance from all restaurants and diners.

  11. I’ve always had great experiences during Restaurant Week. I think it’s just tons of fun. I don’t need a whole lot of choices at an outstanding restaurant. Since I like just about everything there is to eat, I’ve always been pleased with my meals. And I’ve never had a problem with reservation times. I just call as soon as the list comes out. Getting a good spot is part of the fun.

  12. I think it’s fun, too. I consider it to be a check-in of some restaurants I already know I love, and some I haven’t tried yet. I don’t know anyone who actually thinks a Restaurant Week meal should be the same as a meal every other week of the year. As long as you know what to expect going in, and you want the experience, AND you care about the cause, why not? For me, it’s great fun seeing so many people out and excited about great food. And if it’s not for you, stay home.

  13. A detail of Restaurant Week that most people don’t know is that each participating restaurant is required to pay an “advertising fee” – somewhere around $600 to participate. This goes straight to KRLD, not to the Food Bank. If this is such a great charitable event, where is the charity from KRLD? I think an organization like the Restaurant Association could run this same event and save the restaurants a chunk of cash in the process.

  14. My friends and I make reservations to at least 3 different places every year. I am not certain why it’s a hassle. You just pick up the phone and make a reservation. We always get 7-7:30 reservations. The only place we could not get a reservation this year was Five Sixty.

    I am REALLY curious about what HappyMom said – if that is true or not. Because frankly everyone is offering a fixed priced menu or specials all year around, so no need to fit in all those reservations in a 4 week period.

  15. I avoid it like the plague. What do you end up saving on a dinner? Maybe $15. All for the “pleasure” of ordering from a pre-chosen menu. I feel certain the servers are cursing under their breath every time they walk away from your table.

  16. I know it’s tough on restaurants, especially the higher end, lower margin restaurants, to participate in RW. It’s a doule edge sword – if you don’t participate, you get ragged on a little and if you do, but you sell out of RW seats, you still get ragged on. Another commenter said it well – adjust expectations and enjoy the ride!

  17. My wife and I love RW. We try a number of restaurants that we wouldn’t go to otherwise. Usually the representative dishes are good, and I’ve only been let down a couple of times. I can understand that it might not be for all kinds of restaurants to participate, but it’s a great promo for diners. Maybe it should be renamed Restaurant Month?

  18. I love restaurant week as well, but I DID take note that a lot of my fave restaurants filled up QUICKLY this year, and therefore, I didn’t get into many of the fave local haunts.

    I blame the economic climate. Most folks were probably saving their 3-course expenditure for August, rather than going throughout the year.

    Makes sense, but it means I can’t get into York St. this year. :(

  19. Ahh the dreaded Restaurant Week(s)!! Cities all over the US do restaurant week, and at this point ANY restaurant must look at it as part of doing business.

    As a diner, it is a GREAT way to try out a restaurant. It does fill seats during a slow month, and a smart chef can devise a creative, tasty meal and still make money.

    Is it a HUGE pain in the a**?? Worst 3 weeks of my year. Is it gonna happen anyway?? Yes, so might as well suck it up and rely on my friends at Shiner Bock to get me through it. By the way….is it over yet!!!!

  20. I hate restaurant week. Those people that make reservations are cheap,they dont understand restaurant seating times,and they take away all the table from people who really want to spend money on dinner. Just give money to the charity and skip restaurant week

  21. Restaurant Week seems better in Fort Worth than Dallas. Most of the restaurants serve decent portions, and it brings a lot of diners out to try the good independents like Lanny’s or Bonnell’s.

    My observation is that Dallas restaurants dread Restaurant Week, and it shows. But I’ve always had great experiences at places like Cacharel in Arlington that usually cost $50-$60.

  22. To Dallas Dude: From reading your various blogs around town, I realize you may have not always had the experience at my restaurant that both of us wished you had. I am truly sorry for that and would love to make it to up to you somehow. Please call me! But I must take exception with one of your observances. We have NEVER seated the RW folks in one section. In fact it’s next to impossible to do so as each diner is given the choice of the RW menu or our regular menu only after they are seated. I try to hit the entire dining room once I go out to meet guests. If I missed your table (or section) I must have been pulled away for something in the kitchen and never made it back over. Accept my apologies. I’ve personally been a big supporter of RW since I was asked 10 years ago to call chefs around town and get their reaction to a new concept that KRLD was trying to promote called “Restaurant Week”. I was supportive because it benefitted my favorite charity, the North Texas Food Bank. While we struggled a bit in the beginning, it has transformed August in Dallas from the worst month to one of the best and brings an energy that is unparalleled except for the holidays. Bring it on!

  23. I look forward to RW – Perry’s has been great, and Abacus as well – made us go back there several times bc of the good experiences….one place, as noted in a review published on this blog that I will also never return to is Craft. Horrible experience, so I guess thanks to RW I wasted about half as much $$ as I could have on the regular menu.

    Al Biernat’s and Nick & Sam’s this year, very excited.

  24. Re: Pud Kennedy “Restaurant Week seems better in Fort Worth than Dallas” Surly you have lost your mind. Fort Worth is and has always been 20 years behind Dallas in the food scene. While you have a couple of good to great chefs they pale in comparison to Dallas chefs. In competition, comradery, creativity, in stepping up to the plate for charity. Just compare the number of Dallas restaurant participating to Fort Worth…come on what are you trying to do? Stir the pot?

  25. Re: Dallas Dude. You are definitely barking up the wrong tree here. Stephan Pyles is on of the most giving Chef in Dallas. He has been at the fore front of all chef in Dallas with his time, food and incredible talent. Probably the least assuming Chef in town.
    Something else to consider, if the amount of tables restaurants are seating is overwhelming why would they add more? To give even less service? You know they can’t hire and train staff for only 3 weeks.

  26. The actual cost for a Restaurant to participate is $895, which is required in advance. Some of the challenges in our 3 years of participation have been that being a popular restaurant ensures the preferred time slots will fill the first week reservations are taken and inevitably anger a percentage of subsequent callers for having 6:00 or 9:30 as the only available times. The restaurant receives $28 of the $35 paid by guest, thus destroying the Chef’s food cost for the month. There is a sense of entitlement from some guest, a few will have a chip on their shoulders as though they are expecting challenges, and routinely there are guest who want to edit the menu with items from the Seasonal Dinner Menu. Most operators understand the benevolence involved with running a business and want to be a part of the charitable community, but it is very taxing on the staff.

  27. Restaurants do NOT have to participate in RW. The majority of chefs will tell you that they dread it, but they do it out of guilt, because North Texas Food Bank loves to exploit the hunger thing to the max, when really, they are just another corporation, working their angle. Oh yes, they will plump their numbers and claim that they feed infinity mouths a year, blah blah blah. And blast off…

    I am going to give you an opinion from all sides here because I have direct experience with all aspects of RW. Hate me for bursting your bubble, but don’t hate me for speaking the truth.

    Most chef’s happily do it because it is wrapped up in lovely wrapping and the understanding is that they will get free advertising and help the hungry. The heaping helpings of guilt they get fed for not supporting the cause is not only inferred, but a reality when the marketing department at NTFB, whispers behind their hands, ‘they did not participate in restaurant week’. You are tried, convicted and hanged just for saying no. Meanwhile, if you say yes, you have to put up with the absolute roasting you get on Sidedish if you do not live up to the expectations of the diners. And if you continue to say yes, you are expected year after year after year to participate. They do the same thing with Empty Bowls, Taste of the NFL, etc. They exploit the hungry for their cause. The irony is that the heavy’s at NTFB will take out board members, and other non-profit executives to restaurants during restaurant week, the wine will flow and out pops the company credit card to pay for the meal. It’s all smoke and mirrors. As for Empty Bowls, the marketing department at NTFB will tell the chef’s, ‘expect 800’ and the chef’s will prepare soup for that many, and lo and behold, gallons of soup left over, wasted or thrown away. Soup that could really feed the hungry, but in fact usually goes down the gullets of the NTFB staffers. Alot of the food at the food bank gets eaten by staffers. Don’t be naive.

    The only people that benefit from cause marketing are the marketers and their ilk. I don’t donate to the food bank, I won’t eat out during RW and I will certainly never expect people to understand my experiences from the trenches, but in my opinion, the only thing missing from RW is Vaseline.

  28. As the coordinator of KRLD Restaurant Week for all of our 12 years I have to say it is pure joy! The chefs and owners of the 138 restaurants are excited every year about being a part of a community promotion that helps hungry people in the case of North Texas Food Bank and families in need at the Lena Pope Home; Last year the restaurants raised over $440,000 in $7.00 increments. They also look foward to showing new diners and good customers their creativity and sharing their passion for dining well. With over 70,000 people going out for Restaurant Week it is remarkably free of problems but we strive every year to come up with new fun ideas and try to improve KRLD Restaurant Week each year! One thing we’ve always wanted to do and plan on doing next year is to highlight the spectacular job the wait staff of the restaurants do !

  29. Wow…Bittermantablefor1 sounds like a very bitter person who does not really know the Food Bank. My family is a long-time volunteer and donor and I’ve boxed food in the warehouse for years. I have friends who work there and know board members and this is one truly authentic organization that LIVES its mission. Check out http://www.charitynavigator.org and see their high ranking nationally as an efficient organization. Google their name and you’ll see people from all walks of life who validate what thefood bank does. Bitter, why are you so bitter? why not come and volunteer in the warehouse or at their after school kids programs. maybe your bitterness will slowly evaporate and you’ll feel better about life.

  30. Three things….my wife and i love RW and have gone for the past five years. it’s a great way to sample restaurants and help the food bank – which, by the way, I think is a great organization doing things the right way. Second,Dallas ahs some of the most philanthrophic chefs in the nation – stephan pyles, dean fearing (whose church did a bbq for the food bank after katrina). Finally, bitterman sounds like she needs to take a deep breathe and think about why she’s so angry…and how that is helping humanity. Sad person….

  31. I’ve never heard of any restaurant being criticized for not doing Restaurant week. Maybe they’re criticized between chefs, but does that really matter to the dining public? It certainly doesn’t matter to me.

    And it’s a hassle because you have to call on this certain day to make a 9PM reservation 3 weeks later to get questionable service and boring food. Why not just skip all that, spend $20 more on dinner, and go sometime other than August?

  32. I usually go out once during RW. It’s like going to Europe in the Summer: crowded, yes; rushed, perhaps; but everyone is there for the same reason. And it’s fun.

    I did find it surprising that so many participants were booked up mid-RW by 9:30am on the 1at day reservations were available, or that certain Crafty hotel restaurants didn’t appear to have anyone manning the phones, but I got a rez with an old fave and am looking forward to it.

  33. @ Marianne Howells:
    Out of the money in fees to the restaurants (138 x $895?) and sponsorship fees @ $15k per sponsor or so that KRLD brought in, did any of that go to NTFB? I really hope so.

  34. i’ve never done restaraunt week in dallas, but have done it in NYC. we had great experiences…a great little sushi lunch at Morimoto, a wonderful dinner at Il Cantenori and something else, maybe Grammery tavern. could i have eaten better some other non rest week night? probably? but did i get out of NYC having eaten well for far less than ever imaginable? hell yeah.

    i’m hitting bolla and hibiscus this year, hope to eat well on a nice budget.

    if you find yourself angry about restaraunt week, call me. i’ll give you some of my REAL problems to stress out about.

  35. I suggest relaxing a little and not being so harsh on restaurants during Restaurant Week. If you’re expecting to sit back and take your time, this is not when to do it.

    RW is tough on restaurants trying to turn tables to accommodate as many guests as possible. The top restaurants in Dallas are already dealing w/ angry guests a few days into taking reservations b/c they are already booked full. If you want to hit Dallas’ top 10 restaurants during Restaurant Week, I suggest calling the minute they are announced, otherwise you’re out of luck. Don’t blame the restaurant, blame yourself.

    It’s disheartening that KRLD is making a profit from RW. Your top restaurants barley break even. Based on the limited advertising done for RW, restaurants shouldn’t be charged that much to participate. Have you seen a marketing budget for restaurants? It’s VERY limited.

    For those restaurants that cheap out on their menu selections during RW… you’re doing yourself a disservice. A great chef knows how to control food costs and can still provide items that represent your style w/o breaking the bank. Be creative. This is the perfect marketing opportunity. Yes, some people will never come back again b/c they don’t typically dine out, but you also have the opportunity to capture a new audience that may be testing out your restaurant for future visits.

    I’m booked at The French Room tonight, followed by York Street, Abacus, and Five Sixty. I hit up Abacus year after year for RW as they always do a fabulous job. I’m curious to see how the others pan out. More to come…

  36. @Stephan Pyles: I am the DallasDude that posts on Chow and other sites. I can assure you I am not the one that posted above about RW. Whereas I have had problems at SP, and I have had several bad experiences interfacing with ypour management after complaining about these problems, I can assure you in the end I do recommend SP. I often place SP on top ten lists I am asked to conjur up for Dallas.

    With all this love, I still often hear complaints about how poorly SP management handles irregular events that do and will pop up from time to time. What truly makes a class restaurant is how we handle these happenings. I have not had any occur on recent visits, thank God. I won’t mention the trouble a friend had with concerns about vegetarian selections. That’s for another time.

    Thank you for personally adressing this issue. Perhaps if you did more of this at SP it might fend off aggravation towards your defensive management team.