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Restaurant Business: From Sizzle to Fizzle

September 7, 2001, 12:00 AM EDT

The headline said it all: “Waiter, Hold the Foie Gras: Slump Hits New York Dining.” And the story in The New York Times revealed that restaurants that have enjoyed double-digit sales growth lately are now enduring drops in sales by as much as 30 percent. Add to that a fall season lacking its usual roster of lavish new restaurant openings, and you've got a sad-sounding trend piece for Manhattan's food industry. Although many restaurants are still bustling, the Times reports that a growing number of restaurateurs are changing their business practices: revamping menus, lowering prices, offering special prix fixe meals and introducing frequent diner programs. And the story cites all kinds of experts--Tim Zagat, Drew Nieporent, Adam Tihany--giving downbeat experiences, and studies saying that more diners are taking doggy bags, that Americans will eat out less this year than last, and that napkin rentals are down 5.6 percent this year.

But what's bad for the restaurant biz might be good for event planners: Places anxious to fill tables may be more likely to cut a deal for a special event or small business dinner. Just be nice to them.

Posted 09.07.01

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