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- Enjoy Christmas at the Alys Dec. 2, “The Season’s First Jingle”
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For some around Birmingham, this week is restaurant week. For other’s this is hell week. The public view on restaurant week is as an opportunity to explore the culinary scene of Birmingham at a lower cost. The restaurants that decide to join think they will be able to entice new guests, and make a little money in what is traditionally the slowest part of the year for food service.
The result of all the fanfare is generally poor. Customers leave dissatisfied or underwhelmed, restaurants generally do not make money, at the weeks end there will be people looking for new jobs. The connection between good intentions and poor outcomes can be a little difficult to trace and requires some insider knowledge.
At any restaurant all the operating costs (hiring staff, paying the bills, all the way to the cost of a new oven) are figured into the cost of the food. Therefore, if you buy a steak for $50 at a fancy place, you are intrinsically buying the washing of the table linen, the candle at your table, the cost of your daily printed menu, access to a better bartender and stock of expensive wine, in addition to the steak that likely cost $15 at wholesale prices. The more expensive a place, the more intrinsic services you are buying.
This is where restaurant economics become dicey. For most people, the extra $35 it will cost to eat a “$50 steak” is not worth it. However, this week, one can eat at this hypothetical steak place for $20, three courses included.
Let’s zoom back into the hypothetical steak place, where wait staff is now irritated. This week, because of the cost of the menu has been reduced to something like 30% of what it was before, customers will be more cost conscious, and the regular customers (who pay a waiters bills) will avoid “their” restaurant this week, a waiter will be lucky to make 50% of what they made last week. Imagine that at your job. This week is even worse for cooks, who will likely be cooking the same 3-course menu 600 times or put another way cooking for 3 or 4 times as many people as he might any other week.
From an operational perspective, overhead costs remain the same, so in order to break even portions are cut down on or different menus are constructed to be cheaper for the restaurant. As the diner, you will not be presented with a real showcase of the restaurant you have chosen. Instead you will get the 30% experience in areas of food, beverage, and service.
So my suggestion is to avoid restaurants this week. Because if you think about it, why would any restaurant ever take on this challenge it were profitable to start with?