In other cities, January restaurant weeks allow restaurants to lure customers during a classically slow period, offering low-priced menus that might encourage repeat customers to give them a try at full freight. But in San Francisco, Dine About Town has acquired a bad reputation for mainly offering middling restaurants serving moribund menu items, often at prices equal to or exceeding the standard bill. (It's a particular bummer because data shows the promotion does increase sales at SF restaurants, but most of the better ones don't bother participating.)
Enter the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, the industry's major lobbying group, which is trying to use its political muscle to turn around Dine About Town. As of this January, the promotion will now be known as SF Restaurant Week, and will feature some interesting new players, like AQ, Bourbon Steak, Ichi Sushi + Ni Bar, RN74, and Hog & Rocks. The catch: none of the aforementioned will be offering Restaurant Week meals for less than $85. The new offerings at that price point are being billed as "Discovery Menus" (we imagine Saison will probably not be super pleased about that one), and the upside is that they include drink pairings in the price. Restaurant Week says these new menus are based on survey data that shows diners "care more about unique experiences than discounts per se," but we imagine that some diners who would have opted for last year's $19 lunches and $37 dinners might be a bit put off by an $85 price tag, free booze or no. (For comparison, NYC Restaurant Week tops out at $25 for lunch and $38 for dinner, both meals are three courses, and nearly 300 restaurants participate, compared to around 50 in SF.)
Meanwhile, over in the regular DAT stakes, the new management has also jacked prices, raising them slightly on the three-course dinners (from $37 to $40) and in a big way on the two-course lunches (from $19 to $25). To make up for the bump, there's another new enticement: every meal comes with some kind of little bonus, like an amuse-bouche, a paired beverage, or an after-meal takeaway. An early peek at the full restaurant lineup reveals a lot of same-old, same-old, but the organizers have managed to get a handful of 2014's newbies (Chino, Bartlett Hall, Palm House, Schroeder's, The Ramen Bar) on board, and there are a few interesting older players (Ragazza, TBD, Mozzeria) signed up as well.
The 2015 edition of SF Restaurant Week runs January 21-30, and as usual, we'll be evaluating deals that week to help you make decisions, provided anyone participating actually has the stones to put their menus online this year.