Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday Quickies #19: Economy-Related "Specials" and Cooking at Home

Hard Times Deals: Diners are economically squeezed everywhere, with the economic slowdown, higher gas prices (which not only raises costs for transporting food, but also just getting around in our car-crazy state), higher food costs in general and let's not forget the recent entertainment industry shut down from the writer's strike, which definitely took a toll on places that caters to the sets and thrives on power-lunches and deal-closing dinners.

So it's no surprise that a few restaurants in the area are marketing themselves as being more budget-friendly to the increasingly frugal diner by offering special deals.
Table 8 for example, is offering a "Inflation Libation" ($18/person for a glass of beer or wine with two small plates) and "Recession Concession" ($38/person 3-course meal). David Wilhelm's Culinary Adventures restaurants (French75, Savannah, Sorrento's) are doing a "David's Stimulus Package" with $16 dinners.

As much as I like a good dining deal (and kudos for the rhyming words), I find myself questioning the sincerity of these special offerings. Are they really doing it to for the customers' sakes? Or are they trying to keep themselves afloat now that customers have less discretionary income to spend on eating out?

Regardless of intentions, it's a lofty approach to getting your word out there. As
Jonah from LA.Foodblogging noted, if I really needed to pinch my pennies, I probably wouldn't shell out for a dinner that's nearly $50 a person, even if it is a bargain from the usual prices. And as much as I'd enjoy a discount, I don't want to be reminded of our current economic state while eating out and that I *really* should've just saved my dollars going to a cheaper place or, better yet, cook at home. It just creates a cognitive dissonance that inevitably asks for a backlash like reactions to Campanile's soup kitchen deal during the strike. Now, I don't mean to bag on the restaurants and am well aware of their generally thin margins and that chefs & restauranteurs are usually charitable people. It's just that this particularly form of outreach doesn't jibe with me.

A better marketing/PR campaign would shift the focus to something like "indulge a little for not a whole lot", keeping in line with the thoughts that dining out is -indeed- an indulgence while also offering a subtle suggestion for budget savvy diners, or even something philanthropic-sounding like the
help the Citrus farmers dinners from a year ago, which reminds potential diners that there are others even more hard hit and appeal them to shell out a bit more to help their fellow folks.

Home Cooking Foodventures: Speaking of cooking at home, I've been doing more of that than usual -- partly to save a little bit more of moolah (to blow on some uber-meal later on ;) ), but primarily because opportunities came about, and being single, I don't get the chance to cook-completely-from-scratch often so I seized them with gusto. Three days ago, for a healthy recipes contest I made a caprese style sandwich (inspired from
my Doughboys trip), two days ago I made a cuatro leches cake for an office birthday party (basically a tres leches plus coconut milk, the last ingredient added on an impulse after seeing it featured as Chow.com's recipe of the day), and last night made some super easy chocolate-dipped mini-macaroons with the leftover coconut flakes.

And tonight, a simple DVD movie night dinner with a friend - popcorn with a drizzle of white truffle oil, a tofu stir-fry with brown rice and a pear-honey-vanilla martini (still working out the recipes in my head) and maybe some fruit and chocolate for dessert. But yeah, definitely fun times in the kitchen!

And wow... Easter is already around the corner. I guess I'll report on my
vegetarian phase next week; in short, nothing mindblowing, but did come away with a few interesting revelations.

3 comments:

Jonah said...

You summed up my thoughts better than I could have, well put.

I think the point about giving people a reason to splurge is better than calling a $50 dinner a bargain is very pertinent.

natalie@theliquidmuse.com said...

reading your blog just makes me hungry! :-)

H. C. said...

Jonah - thanks for the compliment; honestly, even for a gimmick this is pretty bad.

Natalie - hehe, just like your blog definitely make me thirsty!

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