About twice a year Madison Magazine puts on a spectacular event that brings a number of Madison’s (and some of the surrounding area’s) best restaurants together collaboratively to offer three-course lunch menus for $15 and three-course dinner menus for in between $25 and $35. As Madison Magazine says, “This semi-annual event is the perfect opportunity for food lovers to sample some of Madison’s finest local offerings.” It also creates an exciting atmosphere throughout the restaurants of the city that makes people feel like they are part of a larger event. It is really a great experience and the people of Madison are fortunate to have this kind of occasion come about on a semi-regular basis. However, here are some things to consider when venturing out for Restaurant Week.
1.) The three-course menus may not be representative of the larger menu a restaurant has to offer.
Browsing the menus offered by the different participating eateries you may notice that the cuisines they offer for the six-day period may not be on their regular restaurant menu. This creates a two-part problem. First, if dinner or lunch goers really enjoyed something a restaurant offered during this week, but cannot find it on their regular menu they may opt to return to a place they liked where the menus do match up. Second and perhaps even more troubling, if a customer really dislikes a meal that a restaurant may not be used to making every day they will probably be less likely to return because their experience will have left a bad taste in their mouth, literally and figuratively.
2.) The portions of the food are sometimes frustratingly small.
This is a fairly understandable problem. Some of the restaurants on the list normally serve an al a carte main course for between twenty and thirty dollars is and for this week they are required to provide a whole three-course meal for the same price. This makes it conceivable that they would cut back on the portion size to alleviate the lost revenue. However, for an event that is geared (from a business standpoint) toward generating new regular customers or exciting already existing “regulars” into trying new menu items, it seems extremely counterproductive to insult customers with meek portions. There has to exist a median between a normal-sized portion and what amounts to a tasting menu at some restaurants to keep both the customers and the restaurants happy.
3.) It can feel like some participating restaurants rush through the whole process.
The last thing a dinner goer wants when sitting down at a supposedly upscale restaurant is to feel like they are being rushed through their meal. Whether it is to accommodate the larger crowds of the event or just to induce a high turnover of customers to generate more business, the Restaurant Week experience at some local participants feels hurried. What is even worse is that the menus are seemingly often crafted around items that are typically easy to prepare in bulk, keep warm, and serve quickly. A lot of menus incorporate a type of pulled pork or beef brisket; both things can be prepared in large quantities and spooned out when ordered. It is even more alarming when the dishes are lukewarm and come out almost immediately after you are done with the first course. A characteristic dining experience normally last over an hour and sometimes over an hour and a half; it just feels unnatural when you are in and out of a fine dining establishment in less than forty minutes during Restaurant Week.
While Madison Magazine’s Restaurant Week is a wonderful experience and a chance to try some of the city’s finest fare, these observations do exist. For the most part restaurants take special care to offer great food and service while curtailing some of the burdens that come from participating. However, these occurrences are things to be aware of while venturing out to try new places or to just enjoy a meal at a restaurant you already consider a favorite.