Does Arizona Really Need a Second Restaurant Week?

Categories: Buchanan

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You won't catch Nikki dead at Spring Restaurant Week.

Arizona Spring Restaurant Week begins on Saturday, May 19, and ends the following Sunday, May 27, and my response to that supposedly good news is a great big whoop-de-do.

If memory serves, we had another Restaurant Week in September. Do we really need two of these blowout tent sales in a single year?

I don't think so.

Oh, I can already imagine the seething invective headed my way: How can I be so unsupportive of our local restaurants? Don't I know times are tough? And why on Earth would I object to an event that puts butts in seats at a time of year when the butts are typically packing up to leave town? And, really, does a journalist given a dining budget even live in the real world?

To answer the last one first, yeah, I think I do. Sure, I eat on New Times' dime, but it's not keeping me rolling in steaks, lobster, and foie gras (and, please, save your outrage on that subject for another day).

Here's my take:

First and foremost, I'm not convinced that the $30 and $40 prix fixe dinners featured during Restaurant Week -- or the overall experience, for that matter -- offer diners a true representation of whatever restaurant they're visiting.

Would I likely get a great $40 dinner at Binkley's or Nobuo or a handful of other top-shelf restaurants?

Yes, of course. These chefs aren't going to do anything half-assed, ever. But plenty of participants are trying to figure out how to offer a three-course dinner for $30 or $40 and still pocket a little profit. They're not going to take a loss just to get you in the door.

Will you get the same dishes you might order on a non-Restaurant Week visit from the regular menu? Maybe so, but it's just as likely the menu will feature some dumbed-down dish put there solely to increase the profit margin.

Of course, plenty of Restaurant Week menus offer good value. That's the whole point. But take a cursory read of 10 or 12 menus, and you just might find a number of three-course dinners that probably wouldn't add up to much more than 30 bucks in the first place. Other menus (and I'm just ballparking it here) probably save the diner $8 to $10.

I get it. That's money in the old pocket, but at what price? Crowds, rushed service, and the necessity of making reservations. This at one of my favorite times of year: The tourists have left and the really hideous heat hasn't kicked in. But can I just waltz into my favorite restaurant and expect a table? Not if they're participating in Restaurant Week.

Location Info

Binkley's Restaurant

6920 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Nobuo at Teeter House

622 E. Adams St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

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11 comments
M @StyleSizzle
M @StyleSizzle

Sure, some people might give you a bit of backlash but that's evidence of a good post, right? :) 
I love Fall RW. But I remember being seriously disappointed when Spring RW started. The list of restaurants was much shorter than the Fall and like you said, something about having another one within a few months of the last one took a bit of the fun and allure out of it. Is a Summer RW next? 
And yes, it seems like every year more and more restaurants are offering less by charging the $40 instead of $30, food that's not on the menu, much smaller portions and in a lot of cases, lackluster service. But at the end of the day if it's helping local businesses keep their doors open, then I'm on board. 

Joanny13
Joanny13

We love restaurant week! It helps dicover new restaurants and yet visit our favorites with some delicious food giving our pocket book a little break. As owning 2 businesses BELIEVE me the economy still Sucks!

Dominic Armato
Dominic Armato

Nikki, I've always personally avoided RW for the reasons you mention (and more), but I strongly support the spring/fall schedule on the basis that it gives restaurants a shot in the arm going into dead season, and a lifeline coming out of it.  If that helps a few places keep their doors open every year, even though I personally avoid it like the plague, I'm enthusiastically supportive.

If, in practice, it's not working out that way for the people who participate, I'd quickly reexamine that opinion.

nikkibuchanan
nikkibuchanan

Yes, M, I'm totally okay with the backlash. This is a forum for conversation. I just have a sarcastic streak! Yes, have noticed more $40 ones too, and you hit it: takes the allure out of it.

Nikki Buchanan
Nikki Buchanan

Yep, I know where you're coming from. Our summers are brutal for the restaurants. Nevertheless, I'll never be a fan of RW. Would rather support my homies in other ways. If other people enjoy it, that's fine. But if it actually winds up hurting other restaurants who don't participate, then maybe it's a wash. I might talk to a few restaurant owners after the fact to see if they feel it was worth it.

Dominic Armato
Dominic Armato

"But if it actually winds up hurting other restaurants who don't participate, then maybe it's a wash."

This is a really good point.  You're more in tune with that than I am.  I'd be curious to hear what you find.  Both for those who do and don't participate.  I support it purely on the basis that I'm under the impression it can help places survive the summer.  If not, forget it.

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