Frank Bruni, having visited new restaurant Butterfield 8 in its opening days, asks: “Like other new restaurants, Butterfield 8 was charging anyone who came through the door full price. And if a restaurant is going to do that, shouldnât it take full responsibility for the quality of the experience it provides? Shouldnât it be ready to roll?”
Yes and no. The same could be asked of Broadway shows in previews, and the first year a new car or computer is on the market. They all charge what the market will bear—in Bruni’s case, retail price less $10 after mistakes were made.
And indeed, theaters in preview often serve up discounts to entice people to fill the seats. But a hot ticket is more than willing to charge full price, because people are willing to pay it. The same goes for new restaurants with buzz: 5 Ninth and Butterfield 8 (obviously the hip trend is to throw a number into the restaurant name) have full reservations and busy dining rooms, so they happily operate in dress rehearsal mode, right down to the cost.
Bruni should be impressed with the out-of-the-box apparent success of the new restaurants, and pleased that his industry’s consumers are willing to support such endeavors. In an expensive new launch, full pricing early helps defray costs and encourages profitability. More power to them.