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Dine Out Vancouver


SBonner
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For a different perspective, I avoid eating out altogether during DOV. The crowds, reservation hassles, limited menus, fixed seating times, etc. don't do it for me. I'm not trying to be snobby here, I guess I am a different kind of customer, more limited by availability (busy job + kid = no life) than budget or other considerations. I will resume my restaurant visits after DOV so there is no love lost. My usual dining partners are of the same conviction.

I understand the appeal of it, but there are people out there that don't care about DOV one way or the other.

Our view is much the same as yours Chocoholic. We have put together a list of places that do not participate in DOV - and that is where we can be found during this period. I suspect that there are quite a number of "DOV refugees" like ourselves who just do not want any part of this hassle.

We also like to think that we are not snobbish - but we just do not like the hassle of trying to book a table at DOV restaurants. Nor do we enjoy the large and loud party tables that seem to flourish during DOV and the frenetic atmosphere that reigns among servers and kitchen staff.

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We also like to think that we are not snobbish - but we just do not like the hassle of trying to book a table at DOV restaurants. Nor do we enjoy the large and loud party tables that seem to flourish during DOV and the frenetic atmosphere that reigns among servers and kitchen staff.

As someone who can't really afford a 3 course regularly priced dinner at Parkside, Chambar, West, or any of the top-notch restaurants in the city, DOV provides a great opportunity to live the high life once in a while. Maybe I'm the type of customer DOV is supposed to cater to? :unsure:

Anyway, that being said, I think the key to enjoying DOV for me this year was to get a 8 PM booking, and enjoy the evening with some killer food. Ducky's comments about the large and loud party tables ring true, and while you can't avoid them, perhaps it would be easier to go later on in the evening and ask to be seated in an area with couples?

Now that DOV is over, I'll probably hit Chambar again. Only for dinner at a reasonable time. (Appies and dessert and two drinks will have to be sidelined until next year's DOV!) I would take in those price-fixed menus but unfortunately, you gotta be in your seat before 6 at some of them and that's just way too early..... (and another thread to start...)

To the owners and staff that participated: Thank you and keep up the great work!

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I think the key to enjoying DOV for me this year was to get a 8 PM booking

I completely agree -- this is something I neglected to mention above. The folks who came in for the last seating (8:30 for us) on average seemed to have the best time. They also seemed to be the more experienced diners, drinkers, etc.

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DOV '06, for the Lumière tasting bar, was certainly the most popular year to date. The demand was overwhelming; during the first week of taking reservations, we received several hundred calls each day. Faxed and e-mailed reso requests, when printed out, made a stack of paper a couple inches think. Every available seat had been filled before the hostess could make the first call-back.

No kidding. I bet I have a fax in there somewhere. Thankfully it was pointed out that the tasting bar sits around the same pricing as DOV so my first visit to Lumiere may well be outside this ridiculously busy period!

"There are two things every chef needs in the kitchen: fish sauce and duck fat" - Tony Minichiello

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I can't believe all the bitching about any clientele being good enough, worthy enough, rich enough, spendy enough, savvy enough, etc. We were packed for the whole damn thing, fairly busier than we would have been in late January, and many people had the chance to try us out for the first time. Even if not one of them ever come back, we still win, having had three weeks of completely sold out nights. We don't "rank" our clientele and it surprises me how many feel the need to. I don't think that's what this is all about...

k.

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Kurtis,

I thought you ranked all egullet members number 1!

"Don't you know who I think I am"

Do you mean you really treat everyone that nicely? That is great to hear. I like your positive attitude!

I did dineout at Star Anise. We were there at 7 pm and didn't get rushed out. It was a Sunday night though, and it seemed our table was not needed elsewhere -(edited to say afterwards, thank god it wasn't needed elsewhere - I don't know any restaurants that lease out their tables.) The owner was there and provided excellent service. His stepson was working as well and just arrived at the table without speaking to us and stood there until we took the initiative to order anything. It was really odd. The food was good, but just that, good.

Also went to the Hotel Georgia and sat at the bar at Casablancas. They had a $15 deal, but it the portions were small. Excellently prepared though. I had the ahi tuna, seared scallops and clams. They plated the tuna and scallops together, and I have a picture, but I have not idea how to upload pictures.

Maybe someone can PM me and help! ??

Cassandra

Edited by Vancitygirl (log)

Gastronomista

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I can't believe all the bitching about any clientele being good enough, worthy enough, rich enough, spendy enough, savvy enough, etc.  We were packed for the whole damn thing, fairly busier than we would have been in late January, and many people had the chance to try us out for the first time.  Even if not one of them ever come back, we still win, having had three weeks of completely sold out nights.  We don't "rank" our clientele and it surprises me how many feel the need to.  I don't think that's what this is all about...

k.

Thanks for bringing that up. I know I'm kind of intruding on this thread, but I just wanted to mention that some (well, most) of my friends are the "young-Asians-at-CFD-restaurants crowd" and do look forward to DOV each year because it's fun and the food is cheaper. I guess the more "lively" atmosphere that many of us don't prefer is actually seen as a bonus, because it's definitely less formal.

My friends always ask me for recommendations, and I also post recommendations on another board that's a bit younger and less informed about dining than the Egullet crowd. I did recommend my favourites, and also told them which restaurants I was going to this year too. Reading some of the comments here almost make me want to apologize for directing some of these people to those restaurants, because I know they're probably not leaving a 20%+ tip or ordering bottles of wine.

ETA: I booked all my reservations at what I assumed would be the last seating--8pm or later, except for Parkside at 7:30 p.m. as my parents like to eat earlier. I did remember to look around the room to see if they were in need of tables perhaps an hour into our meal, and neither West (at 10:30pm) nor Diva (at 9ish) seemed particularly busy, so I did take my time at both restaurants and stayed just over two hours. (I had extra courses at all my DOVs though.)

Edited by Ling (log)
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Even if not one of them ever come back, we still win, having had three weeks of completely sold out nights.  We don't "rank" our clientele and it surprises me how many feel the need to.  I don't think that's what this is all about...

Kurtis,

I think a lot of restaurateurs feel the same way about the one-time benefit of the event (as I alluded to above), but I'm curious to know your thoughts about the other question I asked: is DOV good for the Vancouver restaurant community outside of the three weeks in January that it runs? Does it nurture new regulars, raise awareness of restaurants that deserve more attention (like Aurora), and result in the most valuable form of advertising--word of mouth? Or is it just the restaurant world's Boxing Week Sale?

As for "ranking" customers: yes, each guest deserves care, attention, and good service. But let's face it, it's a business, and it's about bringing in cash--for the waiters and the owners. Ranking happens, and good people sometimes get the short end. Ling's friends--paying customers all--have absolutely nothing to apologize for. (Plus, how many guests have their bad behavior rewarded simply because they are consistently big spenders and good tippers?)

But are you really surprised by waitstaff triage? It's unfair, sure, but isn't it predictably unfair (their motives are clear enough, aren't they)?

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This is my first year doing Dine Out, and I'm not sure I would do it again if I didn't have to.

I think there were many places that offered great value for the prices, and others who haughtily made it seem as though they were descending from Mount Olympus to serve their ambrosia to the great unwashed. I sorta think iffin you cain't afford the food cost ta do it proper, you shouldn't offer it, ya know?

I also recognize the dilemma with turning over tables in time for a subsequent reservation, but what I don't appreciate as a consumer is feeling like I'm being hustled out of a nice restaurant with unseemly haste, which is what happened for me at Parkside. I think I could have taken being told there was a 90 minute table time if it had been delivered in a more friendly way.

I then also felt like many of the steps of service that I appreciate in fine dining were being skipped, because they were understaffed/it was Dine Out/my server wasn't very good/I was in a sci fi universe where time was randomly skipping ahead without my control... or some combination of the above.

There were a number of other not-enjoyable aspects of the visit, but I don't want to bore you all. I'm pretty sure this is atypical of Parkside, so isn't it a shame that this is what a first time customer remembers of the joint?

On at least three of the five DOV dinners I had, I had servers take my order for all three courses off the top and then disappear for the rest of the meal. I felt like I was a chore checklist being ticked off. I know it adds an extra visit to the table to ask what a guest would like for dessert after they finish their entrees, but that's what normally happens when it's not DOV, so shouldn't I get the same treatment as a 'normal' customer?

After the rush to grab my order, I was often left waiting to get my food (most notably an HOUR for an appie at one place.) I just wonder if this concern over turning tables in time would be met by having better meal timing? (I say this as a reformed FOH staffer of 10 years during my book-larnin' days)

Casual discussions with quite a few people who had been very much looking forward to DOV also reveals they were ALL disappointed with some level of the experience. Does DOV create expectations that can't possibly be met?

I would be interested to see from year to year which restaurants never choose to participate, and which choose not to repeat the experience after having gone through it.

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^ Kurtis you rock.

I too am in the situation with many friends who dont't dine out often and look forward to the dineout period as much as I do. It is funny that Ling mentioned feeling like apologising to some restaurants because her friends don't tip 20% or won't order wine for I too have found myself in the awkward position of feeling the same way. In my case I try to "top up" the tip because I know the sevice was geat but when you have friends who are use to tipping 10%, 15's a stretch and 20's unheard of.

Restaurants are businesses, I agree and from my experience this year I have heard at least 2 couples tell me "Wow! That was a wonderful experience we will be back soon (outside of dineout)". That certainly tells me that the point of dineout is not lost, turning new diners to your restaurants. I think it is working but of course we have to expect the select few who will only eat at these places during dineouts. And that's fine too. When I was in university I ate at fine dining places during dineout only because it was all I could afford. But now that I'm working I'm going outside this period. Perhaps dineout has an incubation period...

I'm glad someone from industry said that regardless of the clientelle it was a good experience for them too. I really don't want to feel bad about inviting my friends to a nice restaurant simply because I fear we will all be deemed unworthy.

Edited by fud (log)

"There are two things every chef needs in the kitchen: fish sauce and duck fat" - Tony Minichiello

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DOV seems to bring out lots of conflicting emotions and problems.

As a restauranteur, the demand out weighs the supply and you tend to overbook, add more tables, shorten guest experience times etc.

This year we did only the Dine Out menu, and lost some tables because of it ( I lost a few becasue I would not let them use their entertainment cards but that is another story altogether ) . Will I do it that way next year ? Hard to say. All in all, it was smooth, food delivered very quickly, enabling people to live up to the 90 minute committment. Had we not been able to deliver so quickly, we would have had egg on our face. I did my best not to book any large groups other than the ones that booked multiple tables on Opentable.com. This gave us some wiggle room, not really needing to move people out in a hurry. The occasions that we needed them to move were the tables of 6 and 8, not the 2's and 4's which you could just sort of juggle around. There were only so many large tables and in heavy demand.

That being said, doing the same few meals , night after night, became very boring, very quickly. We overstaffed and were ready to go each day so there was no excitement, no rush, no scramble to get the job done. And I think it might have showed towards the end. I think the staff became like automatons, not really engaging people etc. I know that if I was feeling it, the staff must have as well.

It is hard to guage how well it works as far as getting repeat guests. It is hard not to stereotype people when they live up to the stereotypes so well. "See you next year ! " was heard quite a few times. I also had a chap tell me that he and his family had been back a number of times this year because they were introduced to us during Dine Out. You hope that this is the case most of the time, but those damn steroetypes keep hollering "see you next year ! ".

Anyways,

See you next year !

:biggrin::biggrin:

Edited by nwyles (log)

Neil Wyles

Hamilton Street Grill

www.hamiltonstreetgrill.com

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I'm curious to know your thoughts about the other question I asked: is DOV good for the Vancouver restaurant community outside of the three weeks in January that it runs? Does it nurture new regulars, raise awareness of restaurants that deserve more attention (like Aurora), and  result in the most valuable form of advertising--word of mouth? Or is it just the restaurant world's Boxing Week Sale?

But are you really surprised by waitstaff triage? It's unfair, sure, but isn't it predictably unfair (their motives are clear enough, aren't they)?

Hey Chris,

First of all, DOV is strictly a short term event that aims to put bums in seats during a notoriously slow time of year. Is it a success in that manner? Absolutely. You have to realize that this is a world wide concept that has been extremely successful in NYC, San Francisco et al. I still do not see anyone on the losing end of this venture. Does it nurture new regulars? Yes, it does. As many as some would like? Probably not. Word of mouth increased? Obviously it does. Word of mouth occurs no matter what people spend. Has awareness of us been increased? A resounding YES.

I'm also not surprised by waitstaff triage, I'm just slightly dissapointed by beggars who apparently feel they can be choosers. Majority of bitching on this thread has not been by service staff.

Is this a Boxing Week Sale? That's up to each venue. We've not lowered our food/service/professional integrity one bit during Dine Out, and it's come back in spades. We've sold more reserve wines, mineral water and food than normal because we haven't "dumbed down" in any capacity. There is a balance of responsibility involved here.

Otherwise, I refuse to be on the hotseat for not shit-talking our customers, shit-talking TVan for putting this event on (no one is forced to be involved), or freaking out about hot water and lemon.

I'm, frankly, disappointed that I'm being taken to task for not being bitter.

k

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Otherwise, I refuse to be on the hotseat for not shit-talking our customers, shit-talking TVan for putting this event on (no one is forced to be involved), or freaking out about hot water and lemon.

I'm, frankly, disappointed that I'm being taken to task for not being bitter.

Did I miss something ?

I am going to go back and re read some of these posts, including my own, but I do not think anyone is knocking the event, or doing lots of shit talking. Thus far, I have seen this as an interesting conversation, with lots of interesting point coming up.

I am going to have a re read to see what all th hub bub is about.

:wacko::wacko:

Neil Wyles

Hamilton Street Grill

www.hamiltonstreetgrill.com

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On at least three of the five DOV dinners I had, I had servers take my order for all three courses off the top and then disappear for the rest of the meal. I felt like I was a chore checklist being ticked off. I know it adds an extra visit to the table to ask what a guest would like for dessert after they finish their entrees, but that's what normally happens when it's not DOV, so shouldn't I get the same treatment as a 'normal' customer?

Just a quick note on this.

Most restaurants do about a 20 to 30 % mix on desserts, meaning, 2 to three people in ten order dessert.

DOV is 100 % dessert mix !

We needed to get the order right out of the gate so desserts would be ready !

Restaurant do not normally do that many desserts - it is dessert madness !

Neil Wyles

Hamilton Street Grill

www.hamiltonstreetgrill.com

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On at least three of the five DOV dinners I had, I had servers take my order for all three courses off the top and then disappear for the rest of the meal. I felt like I was a chore checklist being ticked off. I know it adds an extra visit to the table to ask what a guest would like for dessert after they finish their entrees, but that's what normally happens when it's not DOV, so shouldn't I get the same treatment as a 'normal' customer?

Just a quick note on this.

Most restaurants do about a 20 to 30 % mix on desserts, meaning, 2 to three people in ten order dessert.

DOV is 100 % dessert mix !

We needed to get the order right out of the gate so desserts would be ready !

Restaurant do not normally do that many desserts - it is dessert madness !

Wow, only 20-30%? I find that very surprising, as dessert tends to be usually the highlight for many people at meals!

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

Virginia Woolf

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Is this a Boxing Week Sale?  That's up to each venue.  We've not lowered our food/service/professional integrity one bit during Dine Out, and it's come back in spades.  We've sold more reserve wines, mineral water and food than normal because we haven't "dumbed down" in any capacity.

It sounds like what Aurora has done could stand as a model of how to make a success out of DOV (in your first year too, if I remember correctly). Congratulations, I'm glad it's worked out so well.

Really, the restaurants that "dumb down" what they offer during DOV are doing themselves a disservice, aren't they? How can you expect to build regulars unless you show them what you do every night, and how great it is? (Unless of course the aim is just to burn, turn, and earn. This is where Boxing Week sale comes in.)

shit-talking TVan

I leveled what I thought was constructive criticism at Tourism Vancouver, and said I thought the advertising next year should de-emphasize the "bargain" aspect of the event. I think if DOV was promoted as more of an "experience your city's great restaurant culture" event, we might have customers coming into the restaurant with different expectations, and perhaps a better chance to make that prized "conversion" from DOV-er to regular customer.

But I guess I'll have to endure more of your insufferable lack of bitterness when I come in for dinner next (which should be tomorrow night if my friend managed to make the reservation)! :laugh:

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I'm talking about other threads as well, there seems to be a lot of talk of customers not "behaving" as they should and points given toward manners in which they can behave as to not appear "cheap".

k

I recall giving a pointer about that - order more food.

It was not a shot but a solution to the dilemma for the people who could not drink alcohol. There seemed a genuine concern about being labeled " cheap" - they could not drink alcohol, did not like bottled water, did not care for sparkling water etc.

As the audience for these comments is a bunch of "foodies", it certainly did not seem over the top or out of line to suggest they order more food. This board is read by people interested in food.

Neil Wyles

Hamilton Street Grill

www.hamiltonstreetgrill.com

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I leveled what I thought was constructive criticism at Tourism Vancouver, and said I thought the advertising next year should de-emphasize the "bargain" aspect of the event. I think if DOV was promoted as more of an "experience your city's great restaurant culture" event, we might have customers coming into the restaurant with different expectations, and perhaps a better chance to make that prized "conversion" from DOV-er to regular customer.

I think that it was started with that intention, but has morphed into what we have now.

And now, there is no breaking away from that impression. It will be up to the individual restaurants to handle it how they see fit.

I do not think TVan has ever promoted Dine Out as a strictly "cheap eats" event but more as a "experience the diversity of your amazing city, and try something you might not normally try" event.

If anything, the restaurants are the ones responsible for setting the tone of the event. TVan is merely the messenger. The restaurants have set the "turn and burn" attitude in motion. TVan does not tell us to take more than we can handle and give the guest less than we should, we have done that to ourselves. ( I am not speaking in any specifics, to any establishment or operator, so no one has to get their knickers in a knot ! ) What perhaps started out as excitement about having so many people wanting to come and try your restaurant eventually turns into " how many people can I jam into my restaurant"

Question : How many of your regular guests came and visited during Dine Out ?

For me, not many at all. I know that they like to see us busy and enjoy the buzz of a really busy Friday night, but there is something about Dine Out that keeps them away. I know that they want to have what they want and do not want to be limited by a smaller menu, or they just want appies or dinner only etc. They do not want to experience "Dine Out" in their regular restaurant - it is not the same for them.

Neil Wyles

Hamilton Street Grill

www.hamiltonstreetgrill.com

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On at least three of the five DOV dinners I had, I had servers take my order for all three courses off the top and then disappear for the rest of the meal. I felt like I was a chore checklist being ticked off. I know it adds an extra visit to the table to ask what a guest would like for dessert after they finish their entrees, but that's what normally happens when it's not DOV, so shouldn't I get the same treatment as a 'normal' customer?

Just a quick note on this.

Most restaurants do about a 20 to 30 % mix on desserts, meaning, 2 to three people in ten order dessert.

DOV is 100 % dessert mix !

We needed to get the order right out of the gate so desserts would be ready !

Restaurant do not normally do that many desserts - it is dessert madness !

Wow, only 20-30%? I find that very surprising, as dessert tends to be usually the highlight for many people at meals!

Mr Wyles and HSG has a great reputation and primary sales share in huge chunks of beef , very tasty huge chunks of beef expertly cooked i might add , so i`m not surpised by his dessert sales % .

Our place maybe more in the region of 60 - 75 % but our menus and pricing/portioning are crafted with this in mind.

But Mr Wyles point remains.

DOV sells loads of cakes and puddings, and some simpleton ( normally me ) has to make them, and make them and make them and make them and make them.

Or bugger off for paternal leave just as things are getting started :biggrin:

Edited by transfattyacid (log)
tt
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I do not think TVan has ever promoted Dine Out as a strictly "cheap eats" event but more as a "experience the diversity of your amazing city, and try something you might not normally try" event.

I don't think they intended to market the event as Bargain Bonanza. Yet I think what stuck in people's heads was "eat at the best restaurants in the city for $15, $25, or $35 dollars." It's quite a memorable proposition. Maybe too memorable.

If anything, the restaurants are the ones responsible for setting the tone of the event. TVan is merely the messenger. The restaurants have set the "turn and burn" attitude in motion.  TVan does not tell us to take more than we can handle and give the guest less than we should, we have done that to ourselves.

I can't argue with that.

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I don't think they intended to market the event as Bargain Bonanza. Yet I think what stuck in people's heads was "eat at the best restaurants in the city for $15, $25, or $35 dollars." It's quite a memorable proposition. Maybe too memorable.

I think it'd probably be even more memorable for those visiting Vancouver and experiencing what our dining scene is like. I don't know what Tourism Vancouver is getting on at, but if I was a tourist in Vancouver during DOV, I would think that Vancouver has a poorly-mannered, poorly-dressed, and poorly-serviced dining culture. After all, you are as good as your first impression, as restaurants often use to justify maintaining standards during the two weeks; but what are the impressions for visiting tourists during DOV?

No matter what way you put it, there will always be the coupon clippers and deal shoppers around. It's hard not to be judgmental, but on the topic of food, it seems to be perhaps offensive that some people are more keen on discounting rather than enjoying a meal. And I find word-of-mouth spreads extremely fast, in a city of 2.5 mil (Cloutier rumours, anyone?).

I believe the best way to get the most out of DOV is to be clear to customers, without being offensive or judgmental, on what the guideline ares. Are there set times for seatings, other menus offered, etc? Some people are easily offended and sensitive to the slightest 'judgements', so it is on the restaurant's behalf to ensure that there is no miscommunication or harm in doing so. The problem is that it won't do anything about customers whose mantra is 26.75.

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

Virginia Woolf

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