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Have NYC Restaurants Become An Adjunct To Nightlife?


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#1 Sneakeater

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 03:01 PM

Here's an exchange in another thread that raises a general issue regarding the NYC dining scene.

I'm a bit puzzled by the after-dinner digression.

here's a thought based on observations in restaurants over the past month (really heavy duty going out every night) - i don't know that most people go somewhere after dinner (or before). i think that people tend to linger more these days - dinner IS the main event.
if the decor is not fab... and the service... it's hard to be "the event" for any evening



here's the thing: prime revenue nights for NY restaurants are Thursday, Friday, Saturday. in fact, most of them aim to make 50-70% of their revenues on just Friday and Saturday. as Stephen Starr said, "you can't make it without the B&T"...

weekend diners (Thursday is part of the weekend while Sunday is not...for restaurant purposes) are going out after dinner. they've already parked their car or taken a cab to the restaurant...fighting for another cab at 10:30-11 to a nightlife destination is not ideal.

in other words, I think you're confusing the days that serious diners eat with the days that restaurants need to stay afloat financially. proximity to nightlife options matters for destination restaurants (below the four star level).


This is a digression, but it might be interesting to consider the extent to which restaurants have become an adjucnt of nightlife in NYC.

As Wilfrid (I think) has pointed out, to a significant extent, they have. And it's certainly affected the NYC dining scene: you have restaurants that look like clubs, restaurants that base their service models on clubs, etc. But that's mainly true for a younger demographic. I know people my age who eat out plenty, including on the weekends, and almost never go anywhere afterwards. (And the same, I'll bet, is true for their B&T contemporaries who eat out in New York only on weekends [to the extent that I and those of my friends who live in Brooklyn aren't B&T ourselves]). You can't regularly stay out till 5 AM if you have children.

So the question then becomes, are people my age now a negligible portion of the constituency for restaurants in New York? And the answer is . . . it depends on the restaurants. (Surprise!) I think your view of the way things are is skewed by the kind of places you tend to go. You actively favor restaurants that court a younger demographic and are a part of nightlife (as, in certain moods, do I). But if you look at the places my contemporaries tend to go -- places that you'd probably write off as too boring, or not having enough buzz, or having insufficient eye candy -- you get a different view of things.


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#2 Sneakeater

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 03:07 PM

There have always been restaurants that cater to people who are viewing them as an adjunct to other nightlife activities. I think that a difference is that in recent years, the quality of some such places has gotten much better. So you can eat good, serious food in fairly sceney place that would fit into a night of doing other things. But I think one shouldn't be misled by this into believing that the vast majority of diners at serious NYC restaurants don't consider dining a stand-alone activity that's the focus of an evening out, rather than merely part of one.

Of course, as I keep saying to Nathan, one's perspective is skewed by one's experiences. I think Nathan overgeneralizes his personal experiences like crazy -- but maybe I'm overgeneralizing mine. (Although I have to say that as a fairly newly, and fairly unexpectedly, single middle-aged person who, for various unadmirable reasons, spends a lot of time socializing with much younger people, I have a foot in each demographic camp, and thus am able to acknowledge both of them.)

So what does everyone else think?
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#3 Nathan

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 03:08 PM

of course it depends upon the restaurants...that's why I said "destination restaurants below the four star level"...but Urena definitely wasn't aiming at the blue hair crowd...and it definitely was too expensive (at first anyway) and too aspirational to simply be a neighborhood restaurant (at least not in Murray Hill).

restaurants that depend upon more than a neighborhood crowd and depend upon more than older diners (and with a couple notable exceptions...I think that the "dependent upon an older crowd" is a subset of "neighborhood restaurant")....need the Thursday, Friday, Saturday nightlife crowd to survive. the restauranteurs will tell you that...
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#4 Nathan

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 03:10 PM

put differently, restaurants above a certain price point (excepting certain UES establishments) need the weekend crowd....also excepting expense account steakhouses.
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#5 Sneakeater

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 03:13 PM

But I think you're wrong about "destination restaurants below the four-star level". Go to Cru one night. Or Gramercy Tavern. Or EMP. Or Alta or L'Impero. Or Country. Or, as I said in the other thread, A Voce.

I can't believe that many people at those places are merely doing the first part of their nights. It seems to all the world like that IS their night.

Although this discussion goes way beyond Urena, if that restaurant had been adequately capitalized, so that it had a room and service commensurate to the pretentions of the food (and a more prime location), it also would have been a place where most of the patrons settle in for the night.
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#6 Nathan

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 03:17 PM

But I think you're wrong about "destination restaurants below the four-star level". Go to Cru one night. Or Gramercy Tavern. Or EMP. Or Alta or L'Impero. Or Country. Or, as I said in the other thread, A Voce.

I can't believe that many people at those places are merely doing the first part of their nights. It seems to all the world like that IS their night.

Although this discussion goes way beyond Urena, if that restaurant had been adequately capitalized, so that it had a room and service commensurate to the pretentions of the food (and a more prime location), it also would have been a place where most of the patrons settle in for the night.


Country I think is aimed at more of an older crowd.

but try Cru or GT on a Thursday or Friday or Saturday night....I think you'll find that many of them are going out afterward.

of course, you're also listing (mainly) restaurants with close to four star pretensions...I was talking about the level below that.......excepting about 15 restaurants plus the UES...I think my point holds.
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#7 Sneakeater

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 03:17 PM

put differently, restaurants above a certain price point (excepting certain UES establishments) need the weekend crowd....also excepting expense account steakhouses.


But my point is that I think you're wrong about the nature of the "weekend crowd."

They're not all club kid wannabees. People come in from the burbs just to eat. Grown-ups on the whole just don't stay out that late.

Look at Cru. They may need a "weekend crowd" to stay in business. But it isn't the kind of crowd that's gonna go out partying after dinner.

Think back to the infamous BryanZ winedrinking dust-up on eG. The whole point of that discussion was that restaurants like EMP aren't going to become underage drinking dens because they don't cater to a younger crowd. At least as I was thinking about it, they're places where, on the whole, people go for dinner, and then they go home.
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#8 Nathan

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 03:19 PM

put differently, restaurants above a certain price point (excepting certain UES establishments) need the weekend crowd....also excepting expense account steakhouses.


But my point is that I think you're wrong about the nature of the "weekend crowd."

They're not all club kid wannabees. People come in from the burbs just to eat. Grown-ups on the whole just don't stay out that late.

Look at Cru. They may need a "weekend crowd" to stay in business. But it isn't the kind of crowd that's gonna go out partying after dinner.

Think back to the infamous BryanZ winedrinking dust-up on eG. The whole point of that discussion was that restaurants like EMP aren't going to become underage drinking dens because they don't cater to a younger crowd. At least as I was thinking about it, they're places where, on the whole, people go for dinner, and then they go home.


a lot, a lot, a lot of that weekend crowd are dates (or girls' night out)...you don't think they're not going out for nightcaps after? I do. I'm not talking about "club kid wannabes" but the demographic of restaurants lowers considerably in age on the weekends...late 20's, 30's, early 40's. they didn't drive all the way in just for dinner. they're getting drinks after to close the deal.
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#9 Nathan

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 03:26 PM

a final thought:

I'm not saying that people who go home after dinner make up a "negligible" part of a restaurant's customer base.

I'm saying that the people who are going out after dinner (primarily on the weekends) make up a sufficient percentage of a restaurant's clientele that without them a restaurant will go under. so..proximity to nightlife matters. restaurants are like 25 year-olds...they have lots of "dealbreakers"...this is one of them (22 year olds don't have any, 35 year olds have a small but well-chosen number).
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#10 nuxvomica

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 04:03 PM

i do agree that for many people in their 20 & 30 dinner may be a prelude or post-event adventure but as Nathan points out, that's mostly weekends. during the week (and for some on weekends) - dinner is the main event. i see people lingering over dinner at different price points. while dinner became theater at higher end restaurants a while ago, i think it's now trickling down to more casual places.
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#11 Rail Paul

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 04:16 PM

i do agree that for many people in their 20 & 30 dinner may be a prelude or post-event adventure but as Nathan points out, that's mostly weekends. during the week (and for some on weekends) - dinner is the main event. i see people lingering over dinner at different price points. while dinner became theater at higher end restaurants a while ago, i think it's now trickling down to more casual places.


The lingering factor would show up in fewer table turns each night. That may be why some restaurants are stating when they want a table "back".
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#12 Nathan

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 04:44 PM

the thing is...weekends make up a disproportionate share of a restaurant's income. they need weekend diners...and lots of them.
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#13 nuxvomica

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 04:47 PM

another trend i've seen over the last few years, which i think is likely related to the "dinner as main event" issue, is that most people want to eat at the same time and many restaurants end up with basically one seating.

that time is changing too - for fine dining places, it seems that 7-8/8:30 is prime time now. when i first came to NYC, 8pm was considered earliest "civilized" time to eat and 10pm was not considered late at all. 6:30 used to be objectionable, now many diners ask for earlier reservations. but not because they have to run or can;t get another tine - they stay two hours or more - and that's for a party of 2.
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#14 Rail Paul

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 04:55 PM

that time is changing too - for fine dining places, it seems that 7-8/8:30 is prime time now. when i first came to NYC, 8pm was considered earliest "civilized" time to eat and 10pm was not considered late at all. 6:30 used to be objectionable, now many diners ask for earlier reservations.


That's borne out by the availabilities shown on OpenTable. The Siberia time for many places is now 530pm
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#15 Wilfrid1

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Posted 09 August 2007 - 04:56 PM

I have a standing objection to the "proximity" issue.

Where are the nightlife locations for Nathan's "going out afterwards" crowd?

1. East Village/Lower East Side.

2. Chelsea and points west.

3. Meatpacking/West Village.

Anywhere else?

My contention is that any restaurant below 110th Street is in sufficient proximity to these neighborhoods, especially for this crowd who are going to be in cabs rather than using public transit (with the qualification that you want to avoid the diagonal route if you can).

I often dine on the Upper East Side and take a cab downtown. Straight down the highway or an avenue. What's the problem?
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