Many of New York’s fine-dining establishments take part in what is known as Restaurant Week, an event held since 1992 that offers locals and tourists the opportunity to enjoy a more affordable three-course culinary experience.
For a fixed lunch price of $25, or $38 for dinner, there are 340 restaurants and 28 diverse cuisines to choose from through March 6. Any other day of the year, such meals could cost 25 percent to 50 percent more.
One of the pioneers of this initiative is Tracy Nieporent, restaurant committee chairman for NYC & Company. He said participating restaurants make a smaller profit per meal, but benefit from an increase in overall business.
“It’s really an honor to get in, and people want to be in," he said. "We have to kind of hold restaurants off. So it’s obviously economically beneficial to the restaurants who participate.”
For the wait staff, Restaurant Week means extra work. But typically, that translates to higher wages.
“The tips get a little higher, a little higher," said Jose Miguel Cruz, a waiter at Tribeca Grill. "I would say they increase more than 20 percent.”
Cruz, who has served at Tribeca Grill for 25 years, said the effort pays off in other ways, too.
“People enjoy it," he said. "It also opens — either winter or summertime — another chance to bring more customers. They’re happy, we’re happy.”
Affordability and convenience matter in New York, where the cost of living is high.
Restaurant Week "is great because you can try everything you can," said New York resident Mario Milana. "You have good menus, and usually a wine selection that goes well together."
Another New Yorker, Kim Bible, said the dining event provides "more of an incentive to go to restaurants when you usually wouldn't go out, because it’s such a bit of a hassle sometimes.”
New York’s Restaurant Week model has since been replicated in other cities across the nation. Nieporent said it works so well because it provides real value.
“It’s not just the cynical ploy to try to get people in the door," he said. "It’s really our life’s work, and it’s our way to show hospitality. It’s our way to put our best foot forward."
The goal, Nieporent said, is to get people excited about dining.