KRLD Restaurant Week: Are Reservations Down This Year?

I just went through Opentable.com and searched around to get a feel for how reservations are lining up for KRLD Restaurant Week 2010. What I did find isn’t pretty. This week looks fairly good for big guns like Abacus, Stephan Pyles, Five Sixty, Al Biernat’s, Craft, and Charlie Palmer. However, I could get a table at any one of the aforementioned restaurants before their participation in the charity event ends on September 5.

What surprised me was that I could get a table for 2 this Friday during prime dining hours at what should be big guns—Brownstone, The Grape, Jasper’s, Shinsei, and Truluck’s.  Check out the status of this Friday night here. (Don’t know how long these links will stay put.)

Next week looks grim for many places. On Wednesday, August 25, there are only 2 restaurants sold out (Abacus and Craft). The list of available seating is here. OUCH!

What is going on? Why are places like The Grape, Salum, Oceanaire, Nick & Sam’s, and Mercury Grill not filled with diners looking for a great deal?

Are we looking at a disastrous turn out this year or is it too early to tell? Are you staying away? If so, why? (I hope I’m reading these search lists wrong. IJS.) Restaurants, we’d love to hear from you. Perhaps people are assuming you are full.

Update: This note from Eliza and Adelmo Banchetti of Adelmo’s.

We know that the customer is always right, but we  found ourselves, last Saturday night, holding tables for prime time “no show” or last minute cancellations for Restaurant Week  reservations. Just frustrating.  Most restaurants, those with lounges and bars, overbook, so that no-shows or cancellations are easily absorbed. We do not overbook, since we do not have a lounge or bar area. We’re thinking about starting a cancellation policy, and we would be curious to know what other restaurants have in place, that we could learn from.  Common courtesy and sense, would say that if you take the time to make a reservation, then you can take the time to cancel, because we DO UNDERSTAND that things can come up.

I’d say that is more than a reasonable request. Thanks to Eliza and Adelmo for sharing their experience.

Udpate: This from Max Rudberg, GM at Craft Dallas:

We are not fully booked – we have availability at 5:30 or 9:30 on most days of the 2 weeks we’re participating. Many places chose not to utilize OpenTable for this promotion due to the added cost on such slim margins (they collect a fee for each cover booked online). Also, I need to speak to each guest that is booking, like the old days. With OpenTable, you are not even guaranteed to have the guests accurate contact info and are unable to contact a guest booking online via their email address. OT only shares the phone number and those aren’t always up to date. This reinforces the need to speak to them personally. We have a very low cancellation and no-show rate and want to avoid the need to charge folks fees for these.

42 comments on “KRLD Restaurant Week: Are Reservations Down This Year?

  1. People never went to those places during RW. They go to the few big names. This is why your story complaining about the RW assembly line was flawed from the beginning. Most places get a decent bump in business, but only a few get crowded. That story was built on a false premise, and now the facts are knocking it down.

  2. $35pp + alcohol + 30 or 40 bucks at CM for a gift cert for a fourth course…is it even worth it anymore?

  3. Buck, according to the three restaurateurs I spoke with this morning you are wrong. WE didn’t complain about RW. Then you tell me how they raise so much money if the restaurants aren’t crowded?

  4. The really sad thing is that Restaurant Week in other cities seems to be thriving, even though their economies are tougher.

    I predict the only one who is going to hit their income projections this year is KRLD – from the $895 marketing fee they collect for every entrant. I can’t help but think their shortsightedness comes from their profit model.

    If guests were allowed to write in their donation amount that restaurants could then match, the charities would win so much more.

    But that just seems to be secondary in this gluttonous feast.

  5. Honestly, it seems like this year, more than any other, there’s been such a negative connotation attached to Restaurant Week and those diners who choose to participate. We’re cheap, we don’t understant restaurant etiquette, we tip 10%, the service will be crap because the servers resent RW, the meal will be subpar because the restaurants can’t profit, and so on.

    I love food and am constantly trying new places, but I can’t always afford the $400 dinners at places like Pyles and Fearings, so I tend to take advantage of RW. I’ve had nothing but great experiences over the last couple of years and have discovered some amazing new restaurants. But I wouldn’t doubt for a second that the constant harping on the aforementioned issues have frightened some people away. Do you really not see a possible connection?

  6. In all fairness there are people I know and some who commented on this blog who canceled their reservations after reading that article. That could be part of the reason….

  7. We are staying away this year. First time in several years.

    Our favorite RW experience was at Pappas. It was excellent food & service (tables were not cramped).

    Abacus last year was good also, but I prefer to go there outside of RW.

  8. A call to arms! Make a reservation today, these restaurants are creating special menus for this week[s] AND are supporting a couple of great local charities.

  9. reservations are down from last year.
    the least three year’s r.w.s were sold-out both weeks 1 and 2.
    2010 week 2 is very soft while week 1 is almost @ par.
    could krld do a better job promoting this event? definately.
    could m’s point be true? bashing restaurant week along with it’s nefarious attendees certainly seems to be de rigueur this year…

  10. We are going to only 2 restaurants this year for RW, and after reading the RW article in D, I did notice a condescending attitude toward us at Stephan Pyles last Saturday night from the server. Stephan Pyles, however, was gracious as always.

  11. That note from the Adelmo folks reminds me of having to cancel 2 years ago. Got home to pick up the wife and she says “it sounds like the shower is on.” Nope, that would be the river running under the house from the broken pipe. The hostess at Shinsei was so nice about the very last minute cancellation (I’m not sure she believed my emergency plumber story), and we visited after RW to make up for our minor mishap. Food was wonderful.

  12. My husband and I dined at The Grape last night. I had the chicken liver pate starter, my husband – the lobster hushpuppies, delicious. Coq au Vin Blanc and the Chef Pork Combo (roasted pig and homemade sausage)were out of this world. Chef Brian created an extraordinary menu for restaurant week and I encourage people to get a reservation while you can – our server Paige was awesome and made great wine suggestions.

  13. It is always the best idea to be proper and call and cancel if you cannot make it. It shows great breeding and class and impresses everyone who hears about your thoughtfulness. Many people have gone to a lot of trouble to accommodate you, and to treat their effort on your behalf cavalierly is … well … not good. No excuses are needed, simply call and cancel. You will be assured the best tables at all of the best restaurants in heaven if you do. Kthankyoubye.

  14. I would be more interested in hearing from restaurants that opted not to do restaurant week. Are their reservations up or down, I would suggest that some are busier, picking off those regular customer from participting restaurants who don’t want to be bothered with the crowds or the limited menu. I found Nancys article and informative. Speaking of charity tie-ins, how much did 48 Nights manage to raise??????

  15. NN – be careful… I just checked, and a few of the restaurants you listed as having availability next week are not participating in the second week of RW.

  16. I think it is fair for any restaurant to request a credit card to hold a reservation, tell you how much you will be charged in the event of a no and offer a gift card to you in that amount. Obviously, if they are able to fill that space then no harm no foul, but given the economy today it might be hard to fill cancellations.

    RW is a good way to get a snapshot of a place you might not have previously tried but it cannot compare to the actual experience you usually get. Service tends to nose dive after the staff learns you want the RW menu. We had a terrible experience at Al Biernat’s which soured me on the place to where we will not go back.

  17. “What is going on?”
    …..
    Answer: Probably similar things to what is making the CEO of the Dallas Symphony; and the CEO of the Performing Arts Center; both resign this past month. (Just learned about DSO resignation on Frontburner).
    …..
    I guess not all of us can drop $560 (that was the right amount, wasn’t it?) on a dinner at a restaurant, like your editors and/or columnists can. It’s called a recession; the Obama recession, going for about 2 years now.

  18. Maybe diners are afraid their going to get tesar’s pig tails or other some such nonsense food. I avoid it because i figure the restaurants are sold out.

  19. To Reader:

    Explain to me exactly how this is the “Obama recession” when all the troubles we are experiencing (2 wars, failed banks, high unemployment, etc.) were set in motion during the eight years prior to Obama’s election?

  20. J,
    Which ones? I’m curious because I went to the Opentable site and clicked on “All Participating Restaurants” and filled in the date. I assumed it would only pull up restaurants that are participating on that date. I clicked on some, but not all, of the restaurants sites to check dates. Is there a better way to check? If so, I don’t know it. Thanks.

  21. I called Truluck’s Uptown today for next Wednesday, I asked what times were available, the answer was anything but the first seating at 6pm. They do 15 minute intervals.

  22. Nancy, You are correct. Reservations seem to be down from last year.
    The link you provided to the OpenTable site is pretty interesting. I check out OpenTable on a regular basis and I have never seen a grouping like the one for R.W. It is a direct link to some of the best tables in town and there are prime reservations available at the click of a button. It is an amazing list of restaurants that are offering kickass menus at amazing prices. Not to mention NTFB/Lena Pope Home benefitting.
    Are all of the restaurants offering the same levels of cuisine and hospitality as those that are sold out? Can’t say.
    Are some restaurants on that list trying to take advantage of unwary diners or providing them with substandard product or services? Dunno.
    Your constituents are smart, they can make an informed choice.
    That being said; folks need to follow that link, pick a restaurant that they think will provide them a great experience, and make a reservation.
    So, pretty please, with sugar on top…
    -Go out and have dinner.
    -Donate to a great cause.
    -Support your local chefs.

  23. Nancy, what do the purveyors offer to incentivise a restaurants’ participation. Is the cost of goods edited in anyway for a restaurant who participates in Restaurant Week…sorry I know this is not part of the discussion.

  24. I have booked several reservations each year for the past 3 or 4 years, but this year I haven’t booked a single one for myself (I did book my friends a reservation for their birthday). Why? Because I’m working on my Masters and don’t have the time or money. Wish I could, though. Never had a bad experience…no wait staff has ever treated me badly…food has never been subpar. Just can’t swing it this year.

  25. I agree with M. After reading the D Magazine article, I decided to cancel two out of my three Restaurant Week reservations and the only reason I’m keeping the third is because I have family in from out of town that want to eat at that particular restaurant. It seems so negative this year although I recall reading similar comments last year. At this point, I’d rather just go another time.

  26. If you love restaurant week go eat during restaurant week. If you don’t then stay home. I honestly thought most of the good places were long gone before it started. Guess the economy is hitting Dallas. I’m surprised to know I can get in to some of the places above and will probably try some place I can’t afford normally.

  27. If RW is down at some restaurants, that’s because:

    1–it’s hotter than the usual August and nobody is going out.

    2–KRLD is no longer a top-10 station (is it even Top 20?) and the station doesn’t carry much oomph anymore.

    3–Too many jerks served too many pigs’ tails. People are sick of getting ripped off and belittled.

    Maybe all of the above.

  28. Thanks Nancy…My Chef has always been concerned that not getting a break on the pricing of goods purchased from purveyors during RW always impacts his decision on the menu. We do the best to offer a menu that is consistent with our culinary voice, but it’s challenging and the escalated food cost is often times not considered when measuring a restaurants participation.

  29. Okay so I followed the web links Nancy put in and then I went to the Krld site and clicked through their listing which is really confusing. On the left you get a link to Guide Live with maybe army but then they have a calendar. Some restaurant calendars have yellow lines showing dates and some do not. All places sow 6pm as the only time slot. All useless if the menu is there. Seems like restaurants would be in more contr if they didn’t use opentable and took credit card numbers. I’ve had that occur for a wine dinner. Why not a charity event.

  30. Sorry I can’t type and drive. The link to Guide Live with maybe a menu and a calendar.

  31. Not bothering this year. Food and service are hit and miss, but we were willing to do it for charity. Now that D has shown us how the real goal of the event is to line KRLD’s pockets, I would rather find other ways to give to charity.

  32. There has been a lot of feedback, whether good or bad, regarding Restaurant week. We are not taking sides, but would like the public to take a look at the facts. There are administrative costs associated with fund raising, whether it may be the United Way, Salvation Army, or KRLD. Yes, history shows that attendance is down, but then the number of participating restaurants has increased. In the years that we’ve been in business, we see our guests going out regularly, and on average, between two and three times a week. Dining in Dallas is not a special occasion as it maybe in other cities. Some of our customers dread Restaurant Week because it takes away from their dining pleasure. We choose to do Restaurant Week for the wonderful charity that it supports, the exposure that it may bring us, and the chance to develop new customers. No, we do not make money on the event, but we would rather support the cause than spend the “lost” revenue on advertising or various discount methods out there to bring in new customers. Also, please don’t let “one rotten apple” spoil it all. We believe that the majority of participating restaurants have taken the time and effort to create a wonderful dining experience for you, our guests.

  33. RW could be great, but the way it is now, it doesn’t make sense. If we started from scratch (and maybe I’ll go out on my own and set this up for next year) have $35 restaurants and $50 restaurants. If you ask anyone they’ll say, “Well it’s worth it at the Mansion/Al Biernats/Pyles but not at Blue Plate/Hector’s” If the restaurants cannot deliver then don’t do it – or charge more. I would use it as a soft opening type deal – an opportunity for chef’s to prepare some new dishes – Top Chef does cheap meal challenges all the time. If the restaurant takes a hit of $5 per person, I bet they make it back on wine and drinks. Plus their servers have tables on generally slow nights early in the week. I don’t really care for all the whining around RW, so I quit and am not going to any this year – the last 3 years I made 3-4 reservations, friends, family, large groups, date night – all kinds of experiences. Abacus was great, Place at Perry’s was great, Craft was terrible. Cap Grill was good…the rest were average. But I have been back to Abacus and Place at Perrys multiple times because of it and won’t ever go back to Craft (the sliced raw tomato for the table of 4 as an appetizer was enough for me to scratch my head).

    In the end, you still spend at least $130 for dinner for 2 with a drink or two and tips – so it’s not like a good deal….

  34. We always enjoy Restaurant Week, however we have found that while many restaurants look on RW as a way to introduce their restaurant to new diners as well as help a worthy cause, other restaurants look on RW as a drudge adn show it. The first year we we ate at Oceaniare. The RW menu was printed on the lower right side of the regular menu and when we mentioned that we were going to order from the RW menu our waiter appeared to look down his nose at us. Once year we ate at Bijoux and the service was awful. Our Central Market fourth course was delivered at the same time as our entree without so much as an “I’m sorry”. One year we ate at Craft and a plate of 4 Scallops were served family style as an Entree for 2 people (2 scallops each). Last year at the French Room we noticed that while the RW entrees were served uncovered, the non RW entrees were served with the domed covers. Needless to say, we have not been back to those restaurants.

    On the other hand, Chamberlains, The Mansion, Dean Fearings, Stephen Pyles and many others treated us like royalty even though we were ordering from the RW menu.

    I think that most RW diners realize that the restaurants can’t afford to serve lobster, Kobe beef steaks, caviar, etc. at a reduced price. However, the service level at the restaurants shouldn’t suffer. In many instances, excellent service and a welcoming feeling can make a meal with less expensive ingredients more enjoyable and bad service can make a delicious meal less enjoyable.

  35. and maybe that crappy service and disappointing offering of food (I had one short rib at craft) is why the tips suck….bet they don’t think of that….

  36. @Beda: As to this being the Obama recession (which, indeed, it is), causing a decline in RW bookings:
    ……
    When is the President entitled to take the credit — and when must he start taking the responsibility — for the successes, and the failures, of his/her administration? Immediately on taking the oath of office? 2 weeks later? 6 months later? 18 months later? 5 years later?
    ……
    You can bet that if restaurants were full; cars and real estate were being sold; and the economy was on a huge upturn, the President, right this moment, would be taking the credit, and trumpeting it, loud and clear. It’s been long enough; Obama is a failure at improving this recession, unemployment, retail sales, etc. etc. etc.

  37. Reader,

    When Clinton handed Bush the keys to the oval office, all Bush had to do was disinfect it. He was handed a pretty nice scenario: no wars, low inflation, low employment. When Bush handed the keys to the oval office to Obama, he found the whole place on fire. If he had been handed a similar situation as Bush had (no wars, etc.) then yes, i would expect Obama to take blame/responsibility within a reasonable time. But he walked into such a huge steaming pile, FDR couldn’t have straigtened everything out in less than two years. and then to have republicans in congress who have made it their agenda not to be cooperative (that’s a fact, jack; look it up), it’s amazing anything at all has been done.

    The New Yorker had a great article a couple weeks ago regarding the current state of the Senate. It should make all – republican, democrat, independent – sick to read about the condition of the third branch of government.

  38. @Beda:Thanks for making my own point, for me: The current President has been in office 2 years. In that time: People are not eating in restaurants, either because they’re (still) unemployed, or fear that they’ll lose their job.
    …..
    Under the current administration, unemployment went *up*; it has stayed there, at ten percent. Housing starts are down; so are retail sales. The President has failed to improve this economy. After two years, presumably he and his people don’t know how to do so. He has to start taking the credit (which he has), or the blame (which he has not), at some point, and two years seems like a fairly long time.
    ……
    As to your pretended complaint about the U.S. Senate: I realize that facts are un-handy things for the argument you try to make. You forget these facts: This Administration and the Democratic party have had total, locked control of the Legislature, both Senate and House, for the last two years. In that time, they have done lots of regrettable things, grabbing more and more Federal power, at the expense of individual liberties.
    …..
    One thing — in the last 2 years — they have *not* done is stimulate this economy, lower unemployment, or create/ encourage jobs nor thriving business conditions.