Restaurants & Bars

Is There A Top $ Limit For Restaurants, Even w/ 3 Stars?

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Is There A Top $ Limit For Restaurants, Even w/ 3 Stars?

Joe H. | Feb 9, 2004 04:19 PM

The thread that I started below is rather interesting to me for several reasons. One of them is the upper limits of what people will pay in a restaurant. I have an impression that in the U. S. there is a magical figure of about $125 prix fixe for the top end with exceptions for chefs' tables, special menus, special dinners (i.e. James Beard, truffle dinners, etc.). In Europe, outside of France, many restaurants seem to have a limit somewhere around 125-135 Euros. There are a number of three stars that come to mind in this range (i.e. Im Schiffchen, Dal Pescatore, El Raco de Can Fabes, Le Calandre, etc.). In Paris this figure seems to double at Arpege, Pierre Gagnaire, Ducasse, etc.

360 Euros, to me, seems truly excessive for a prix fixe, especially outside of Paris where the cost of doing business, generally, is quite expensive (just as it is in, say, London). Regardless of the 20/20 that Veyrat received he has similar menus with similar prix fixes at both of his restaurants. I have not been to either. Are these a difficult reservation? Are all of the tables usually booked?

Even the French Laundry, El Bulli and Eiginsinn Farm, arguably the three most difficult tables that I know, do not push anywhere near limits like this.

Assuming that a fair percentage of diners are American in Paris I would expect that Parisian three stars are taking something of a hit from the dollar/Euro. As for expense accounts I entertain quite frequently. This includes three stars. But not in Paris at an exchange rate of 127.2 and a prix fixe north of 200 Euros. Perhaps at 125 or so elsewhere but certainly not at 360 Euros per person + wine.

Last, a brief story which I told earlier but is relevant here bout expense account dining. A friend of mine made a sale of several million dollars. A month ago in Paris he and five others including the person he sold to had dinner at Grand Vefour. The check was 2100 Euros ($2670) for the six of them. Having invited everyone he picked it up. Later, I heard that the buyer (who was also a friend of his and mine) was surprised that they would have had such an expensive meal. Could he have left too much money on the table when they did their deal? (He didn't, he just wanted to share the meal with them without really considering the cost for six.)

That's my point. There are many different levels of a meal like this for business. But for a percentage of one of these levels it can be a poor move to have one that is extraordinarily expensive. The combination of very expensive prix fixes (250 Euros +) and a terrible exchange rate, I think, put a new perspective on this type of dining. My guess is that the 125-150 prix fixe (+ wine, tax and tip) is fine. But prix fixes double this in the face of weakening French and German economies, in combination with fewer Americans in Europe, seem to imply that there may be limits.

Any thoughts?

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