V-day dinner reservations problem

Old Feb 8th, 2004, 04:22 PM
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V-day dinner reservations problem

Okay all -- need some help regarding a Valentine?s Day dinner reservations.

I reserved dinner for 6 in early December at a popular Phila restaurant. 2 couples are driving 4 hours to visit for the weekend, specifically to come to this restaurant, and both have made arrangements to have the kids stay with the grandparents. So, there has been a lot of effort and planning to get this weekend to happen.

I got a call from this restaurant today confirming my reservation, and also made a comment about a fixed menu. They said nothing about this menu when I made the reservation, so when I called back tonight, I found out the fixed menu is $150 per couple. We were planning on spending $100 per couple. The problem is that this menu includes about $50 of alcohol and souvenir wine glasses, but we don't drink alcohol.

So, I spoke with the manager, told him of my situation, and he basically wouldn't do anything for me -- the response was "we have unlimited virgin strawberry daiquiri?s all night long instead of alcohol." Well, that's great, but I'm not paying $50 for unlimited virgin drinks. So, I asked if he would be able to help us find reservations at another restaurant in Phila, and he said no.

I consider this very poor service. Granted, I should have asked if there was a fixed menu when I called, but I'm young and haven't gone out to swanky places for V-day dinner. Also, I don't think the fact I called so early should be an excuse not to be able to notify a customer, because I happened to ask if we were the 1st reservation for V-day, and they said no, they had about 5 other reservations for the night. I plan on calling again to talk to another manager, to see if I can get a different response. I checked opentable.com to see if I can get another reservation -- but obviously any restaurant worth going to is booked.

Do any of you fodorites have any suggestions?
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Old Feb 8th, 2004, 05:54 PM
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It is very unfortunate for you that things have turned out as they have, and I suspect your experience won't be what you wanted it to be.
I must say, though, that the restaurant has done nothing wrong here.
You booked the reservation, and while it is unfortunate that neither you nor the reservationist brought up the topic of menu specifics, it does not sound like you have a problem with the menu itself. The price and alcohol are the issues.
Well, on a special holidays you know that restaurants charge more. If price was going to be an issue and it's an expensive place, why would you have not asked?
I agree that the restaurant could easily make some kind of price concession as a token gesture of good will if you don't want alcohol, but this would be at the restaurant's discretion. They're certainly not obligated to do so.
As for being angry that they won't help you find another reservation elsewhere, that's just silly. First that's not their responsibility if YOU cancel on them. Second, there isn't going to be anything available 6 days in advance.

I wish I had a good suggestion for an alternative. American Express Platinum travel services holds tables at top restaurants for special occasions, and they can sometimes obtain tables during sold out evenings. Perhaps you know someone who could help you out in that regard. OpenTable is always a good way to check, but they sell out their slots quickly at busy times.
How about a local hotel concierge? Any connections there?
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Old Feb 8th, 2004, 07:42 PM
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I think the restaurant should have certainly told you when you reserved that there was a fixed menu that night. I would be very annoyed about that, as that was their responsibility. It appears to me that a lot of restaurants in big cities (at least, where I live) have fixed menus for special events like Valentines Day, so I suppose they assumed you were expecting or knew about it. I agree with you that they should have told you, however.

YOu say this is a popular restaurant, however, so I am guessing that price is within the range of what you would expect for that night, however. I guess the $50 is per couple, or really only $25 a person for unlimited drinks. That doesn't seem that unusual to me for a popular, probably midrange or above, restaurant in a big city. I can understand you don't want to pay for that if you don't drink alcohol, but it probably does come with the idea of reserving for a fixed menu on a holiday.

I don't think you should expect the restaurant to find you another dinner resevreation. I don't even understand why you think that should, that's your choice and they aren't a tour operator. Besides, it may well be that most other similar restaurants have the same type of pricing.

Your main complaint seems to be paying $25 for unlimited drinks when you don't drink alcohol. I think that is high but maybe only about $15 higher than you would pay for unlimited drinks without alcohol. Since everybody really wants to go to this restaurant so much, I'd probably just go and chalk it up as experience and a fee for the holiday.
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Old Feb 8th, 2004, 07:58 PM
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I agree with the above comments, particularly I can't imagine expecting them to find you another restaurant.

My one other comment is to suggest you not get your hopes up too high. Be prepared for the fact that Valentine's Day is one of the worst nights to eat at nice places -- expect the service to be worse than usual, and the kitchen to be slower than usual as they will undoubtedly be booked beyond their normal capacity. They will also have their hands full dealing with a lot of guys who aren't used to eating at such nice places and will be very demanding while trying to impress their dates. It's a fact of life in the restaurant business on Valentines. It is especially not a good time to go to one of the "best" restaurants and judge it, because it won't by a typical evening for them.
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Old Feb 8th, 2004, 08:11 PM
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"Do any of you fodorites have any suggestions?"

yes - go and enjoy yourselves. Don't go w/ a chip on your shoulders. No one actually did anything wrong here. Just chalk it up to learning about the pitfalls of dining out on the big, busy restaurant holidays (Mothers' Day is if anything worse than V Day)

Your dinner will probably be lovely - and drink up lots of those virgin cocktailc . . . . .
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Old Feb 8th, 2004, 08:21 PM
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Thanks for the quick responses, especially the constructive ones.

First, I apologize if I was unclear about expecting the restaurant to find me another reservation -- I simply asked if he had any connections or suggestions to another place that would fit in 6 people. Never hurts to ask, right? I pshould have not put that comment in my original post.

Also, I checked their web-site in January to show the menu to my friends, and it said nothing of a special V-day menu. This is high-end national chain, so I would expect something like that to be posted (especially on the Phila sub-site).

I've been to this restaurant before and had wonderful experiences, so I don't think we'll have a problem with it being a special day, especially since they only have the fixed menu available. That is why I would never post the actual name here, because I don't want the restaurant to suffer from my only bad experience with this place.

Also, regarding price -- you can go to this restaurant and spend $100 per couple including tax and tip. Now, $150 per couple PLUS tax and tip puts us in the $500 range. That happens to be one months rent for one of us. So, you can see our dilema on spending so much extra money on alcohol when we don't drink it anyway.

Anyone have suggestions on what to say to a manager to get a price reduction?
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Old Feb 8th, 2004, 08:28 PM
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<<Anyone have suggestions on what to say to a manager to get a price reduction?>>

They are likely booked solid, with a waiting list.

I, personally, find those prix fixe menus on holidays intolerable. Especially for frenetic service and limited choices. We always go the day before or after.


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Old Feb 8th, 2004, 08:30 PM
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Honey, listen close. The reason they are doing this special deal is they don't want people there not spending money. It's a big money making day. There's nothing you can say or do to get them to change the rules for you. Maybe if you spend a couple hundred dollars there twice a week, they'd consider it. But for annual visitors on the busiest night of the year, why would they want to give up money?? They would much rather have you cancel so they can easily get another six who will not only pay the full price, but like most people end up spending even more with some additional drinks or really nice wine in addition to what's included.

By the way, we're not talking about a very high end restaurant here -- not at a special fixed price for two with alcohol for $150. Many places are double than here in San Francisco.

If the place isn't worth $150 per couple to you, then don't go. Sorry, honey, it's that simple!
 
Old Feb 8th, 2004, 08:43 PM
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By the way, why don't you just go to Dave and Buster's which you often recommend? Their deal is $100 a couple for Valentine's Day, and it includes a rose as well as a champagne (but they'll substitute a non-alcoholic champagne).
 
Old Feb 8th, 2004, 09:27 PM
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One other point, trying to get special concessions from a national chain restaurant is much less likely than at a locally owned outfit.
The attitude at most chains is more indifferent. A few exceptions exist.
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Old Feb 8th, 2004, 10:21 PM
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I discussed this with my brother who owns several upscale restaurants (not chains) and he said he would never do this to a customer who had booked that long in advance and not been told it was a fixed price meal for a higher price than usual. He said he thought they should accomodate you at your $100 planned price and forget about the alcohol - yes he makes a lot of $$$ on the alcohol but he said a satisfied customer who will recommend his restaurants and come back is more important. Even on Valentine's Day. If you had been told the price and menu when you first booked that is another story. Good luck and hope you find a great place for dinner.
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Old Feb 9th, 2004, 01:52 AM
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This year with Valentine's Day on A Friday it is bad for a restaurant. They perfer when it falls durring the week M-Th that's when they realy make extra money.The pre fixed menu is to help the restaurant staff perform faster for a quicker turnover of the tables ,no table turnover no additonal money .
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Old Feb 9th, 2004, 04:37 AM
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My husband and I do what djkbooks suggested. One of my favorite romantic french bistros in Atlanta (Anis) has a limited menu on Valentines Day. They did not tell my husband about it when he made reservations one year and while it was very good, I missed some of my favorite items. I was not mad or upset about it at all because that it typically what happens at most restaurants during the holidays. Since then, if we dine out, we dine on a different day.

As a side note, probably the most romantic and fun V-Day meal we had was when we went to Harry's Framers Market and purchased a ton of seafood (shrimp, lobster, clams, scallops etc) and either boiled or broiled it and ate it by the fireplace with cheese and crackers and lots of good wine. If you are really opposed to the menu why not save your big night in Philly for another time and get together at someone's house and do something like that instead?

Regardless of what you decide, I hope you have a fantastic time.
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Old Feb 9th, 2004, 05:23 AM
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As a former concierge, I often made "holiday" restaurant reservations for guests FAR IN ADVANCE and ALWAYS told them that the menu was subject to change in any way possible. In many cases (in New Orleans at least) restaurants didn't even decide on a menu until a very few weeks before the event.

For Valentine's 2004, my fiancee' and I are going to Commander's Palace. I had to book eight months ago to even get a table and I could only get 6pm or 10pm!
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Old Feb 9th, 2004, 05:43 AM
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First, I think the restaurant's behavior is inexcusable. That sort of attitude is a mark of a poor restaurant.

Secondly, daiquiris and souvenir glasses are also marks of a poor restaurant.

So I think you are quite lucky to have dodged this place. I know how frustrated you must be that you were looking forward to it, but this could be the opportunity that opens up the wide world of dining beyond chain restaurants.

I suggest you go to Chowhound.com, look up the board for Philadelphia, and ask the friendly people there, who spend a lot of time thinking and reading about food, where they would recommend you go.

Granted, Saturday of Valentines won't be easy, but perhaps you could get on several waiting lists. Good Luck.
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Old Feb 9th, 2004, 06:12 AM
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The reason I mention Dave and Buster's is that if you look at ethaete's previous posts, she often raves about it and recommends it. She mentions above that she has been to the restaurant in question before and "always has a good time". It is a national chain that she loves. In checking with them, I discover they have a special Valentine's deal for $100 a couple including a rose and a glass of champagne. In addition you can eat in a regular room, this is in one special room only.

I'd be willing to bet that is the place that ethaete is talking about. For dramatic effect she has increased the price to $150. But in actuality we are only talking about $100 and the only alcohol included is a glass of champagne. In addition, there is a good reason she may not have been told about the special deal when she called. It is not required. If they want to go, they still can and can order from the regular menu. I believe she is convinced she wants to eat in this special room, but doesn't want to pay to do it. Dave and Buster's is the only chain restaurant she has mentioned in her many Philly posts.

I may be wrong on my guess, but I'm willing to bet that I am not. But even if I'm wrong the point remains. We are not talking about a really fine upscale restaurant. If we were $150 a couple with or without alcohol would be real bargain for a special Valentine's dinner.
 
Old Feb 9th, 2004, 06:28 AM
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Why don't you call your friends and explain the situation. Then, buy a couple of inexpensive fondue pots and invite them over for dinner--a cheese fondue, a chocolate fondue, and whatever else you choose to serve. Then, make a brunch reservation for Saturday or Sunday at that restaurant that they all want to go to--or better yet, go on Saturday night when the prices are back to normal.
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Old Feb 9th, 2004, 06:44 AM
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This thread is a prime reason why I avoid eating out on Valentines Day. Amatuers night out. People that normally don't eat out will and service, food, and cost reflect this.
 
Old Feb 9th, 2004, 07:03 AM
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Wow! You know, I read posts every day, and have always felt bad for the people who get stomped on. Now I feel bad for me.

CalgirlSusan -- I have recommended Dave & Buster's to familes with kids for something fun to do in Phila after dragging them all over to historical sites. I would never even think of going to an arcade/restaurant for V-day. While D&B's is fun, I don't think my friends would drive FOUR hours for it!!! Stop assuming the worst about people.

Second -- sorry I'm not rich, but dropping $100 for dinner isn't cheap for most people. An extra $50 means something to most Americans who have been hit hard the economy. If you read my original post, you will see that my friends have specifically requested this restaurant, and it is an upscale restaurant for me.

Third -- Sorry we will be one of those inexperienced diners on V-day, causing your favorite places to have bad service and food, but it is pretty hard to plan a weekend away from kids, get reservations, and reserve the funds to do so. So please don't put down those people that do -- I agree it may not be the best time to go out, but I'm trying my best to make this work on the only weekend they can visit.

I have a lot of mean things running through my head that I could say to a few of the replies, but I won't stoop to that level. Instead, I will continue to provide value-added, helpful, nice advice to the other posts I have experience on.
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Old Feb 9th, 2004, 07:10 AM
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My post was not directed toward you in any way. My post is restaurants in general over Valentines Day.

If you know anything about me, my husband is in the restaurant biz and I was in it for a long time so I do have some idea of what I'm talking about.

I've also stated in other posts that Valentines is one of the worst days of the year to eat out. Having it on a weekend makes it much more complicated.

I have highly recommended avoiding dinner on Feb 14th and suggested either brunch, lunch, late lunch, or an alternate day.
 

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