How Restaurants Are Reacting to the Economy

“If you really want to be sure of that 7:30 p.m. table, ask for it with a French, Spanish, or Italian accent. It will brand you as a potentially bigger spender, the kind helping restaurants outlast a weak dollar and a wobbly Dow.”

This advice comes from Frank Bruni of The New York Times, reporting on how restaurants are reacting to the recession.

One noticeable trend: Americans are spending less (tap water instead of bottled water, dining at bars and counters vs. formal settings, no high-end steak and lobster), while splurging foreigners rush to take advantage of favorable exchange rates.

Result? All things being equal, restaurateurs would rather seat a table of Europeans than locals. “I mean, they’re just spending. It’s Monopoly money to them,” said one NYC general manager.

Other notable changes:

• Dinner rush used to occur around 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. But outside the U.S., it’s is a later-evening event, so now the peak is moving to 8:30 or 9:00 p.m.

• Less expensive ingredients lower the cost of food. For instance, using regular crabmeat instead of jumbo lump. Shiitake instead of morel mushrooms. More starches to fill out the plate.

• Menus are featuring more single-digit appetizers and “small plates.”

And restaurateurs are offering more mid-range than high-end wines. “All of our wine directors are starting to play this game more aggressively,” said Paul Bolles-Beaven of the Danny Meyer group. “People are spending less on wine right now, and they’re not spending to impress.”

Unless, that is, they’re European, adds Bruni.

Charlie Byrne

Charlie Byrne is a former Senior Copywriter and Editorial Director for Early to Rise. Charlie spent the earlier part of his business career as a systems analyst, project manager and consultant in New York City for Fortune 100 companies including Philip Morris, Digital Equipment, and Citicorp as well as New York University and Columbia University. He then spent over ten years at Reuters Ltd and Interealty Corp designing and implementing financial, real estate and news information services. In 2003, he joined Early to Rise as a senior editor and copywriter. Since then he has helped publish over 1000 editions of ETR, resulting in gross revenues of well over $25 million. He has also produced dozens of winning sales letters and promotions, including two that brought in over $200,000 in under 24 hours, another two that have grossed over $1 million each, and a single sales letter that sold 25 units of a $10,000 product.