Have you got your frequent-diner card? The restaurant boom of the last 10 years seems to have produced a nasty restaurant glut. Overbuilt and overhyped, competition has become fierce. Even New York City, which has previously enjoyed immunity when it came to economic slumps, is feeling the crunch. Part of the problem is that the average person will be eating out less this year than last, the first decline in a decade.
When we do dine out, value is the name of the game. According to a survey of 450 restaurants by the National Restaurant Association, 20 percent of customers are taking home more doggie bags than they did two years ago. Wine is the first thing diners are spending less on. At many high-end establishments such as Le Bernardin, the tables are still full, but sales of expensive wines have all but dried up. Gone are the $10,000 bottles of Bordeaux. (And that's in U.S. dollars!) To combat the downturn, some establishments are working on toning down the snobby New York attitude by actually answering the phone, offering free meals, discounts and bringing back service with a smile. Others are revamping menus, lowering prices and presenting special prix fixe meals. Apparently harder times for restaurants can mean better times for the clientele. Sounds like the perfect reason and season to celebrate with a good restaurant meal.
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