Local Chefs, Restaurateurs Weigh in on ‘Dine Out Boston’

The changes to this year’s Restaurant Week format prove enticing for some, not so much for others.

Since 2001, the The Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Restaurant Week Boston has been a biannual tradition designed to draw in potential diners to restaurants during slower months, allowing them to experience a high-end restaurant without the high-end cost (the going rate was $38 for a three-course meal). As the dining scene evolved to include different tiers of restaurants, the upscale spots claimed that the single price limited the quality of their product, while the casual joints struggled to craft three-course meals worthy of the  price tag.

Enter Dine Out Boston, what the GBCVB hopes will be a new-and-improved version of restaurant week that will debut during the weeks of March 16 and 23. The new approach offers the 188 participating restaurants three price options for lunch and dinner ($15, $20, $25; $28, $33, $38), with no course requirements—meaning that a restaurant could potentially serve one plate for $38, or five courses for the same price. The goal? To improve the restaurant week experience as a whole by offering restaurants and diners more flexibility. But will it actually? We called up a few area chefs and restaurateurs—both participating and opting out—to gauge their opinions.

PRO

Jody Adams (Rialto): “In March 2012 we did not have a very satisfying experience, and opted out of participating in restaurant week in March 2013. The new model of Dine Out Boston brings an entirely new and interesting approach to restaurant week. Diners now have to evaluate what they are looking for and whether or not a restaurant is offering what they are looking for, both in the menu and price point. It’s what restaurant week needed.” (Three-course dinner, $38)

Jen Ziskin (La Morra): “I think it’s great that diners will have more options and restaurants will have the flexibility to choose from three different price categories. Giving restaurants with a higher price point the opportunity to offer a higher priced fixed menu during Restaurant Week is a good idea. I always love Restaurant Week because it introduces La Morra to so many new people coming in for the first time.” (Four-course dinner, $38)

Garrett Harker (Row 34, Eastern Standard): “I think it’s breathing new energy into Restaurant Week. I like it because it gives restaurants the ability to perform more similarly to their normal dinner service. We participate first and foremost because it’s an opportunity to collaborate with colleagues in the restaurant industry. We want to elevate the dining scene in Boston, and to generate excitement about eating out.” (Three-course lunches at both restaurants, $20 at Row 34; $25 at Eastern Standard)

CON

Gordon Hamersley (Hamersley’s Bistro): “We have not felt that Restaurant Week has been a good way to promote Hamersley’s for many, many years. We found that Restaurant Week diners did not return during the other times of the year, and our regular diners avoided us like the plague because of the crazy scene it caused. These days we offer well-priced specials along with our regular menu, and we find that people call up and come just because we do not participate.”

Michael Serpa (Neptune Oyster): “I think the new format is better, the price was a bit too low for a three-course meal. Participating is a way to bring in new customers, but not participating lets you do what you do best. So you don’t have to change your standards just because you are doing Restaurant Week. We have never done Restaurant Week at Neptune and probably never will. It’s not really our thing—we don’t do dessert, we don’t have reservations, and our products are expensive.”

NEUTRAL

Michael Leviton (Area Four, Lumiere): “We’re adopting the wait-and-see stance. That being said, I think it’s a great concept and the issues with past restaurant weeks are being addressed. I do hope it works and that people find some creative ways to make it work for the really high-end restaurants and those on the lower end. I’m all for bringing people out during the times of the year that are typically slower. If it seems to bring out people and the response is great, we might participate next time.”

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