A few Bay Area restaurants have been dabbling in patronage models these days, trying out weekly, monthly, or quarterly subscription plans for meal kits, produce boxes, or wine. And now, a star restaurant group has announced what might be the most ambitious program so far: Quince, the fine dining favorite with three Michelin stars, introduced a new membership program for $5,000 per year. Weeks later, the slots were completely sold out.
Owners Michael and Lindsay Tusk are calling the membership program “Quince & Co.” which includes not just Quince, but sister restaurants Cotogna and Verjus, as well as the Fresh Run Farm in Bolinas. The annual $5K membership includes a variety of benefits: $1,000 in dining budget, which can be spent at any of the three restaurants. A quarterly provisions box, filled with produce from the farm, specialty products such as the chef’s favorite Calabrian chiles, and other pantry staples like olive oil and vinegars. There are also exclusive events, such as apple picking, cider pressing, beekeeping, and cheesemaking workshops on or near the farm.
And never least, prioritized reservations — whenever Quince does reopen for indoor dining, members will get first access, effectively transforming the restaurant into a kind of clubby members-only space. “It was formalizing relationships that have existed for a long time … and creating a community of regulars,” says Lindsay Tusk of the program, which for now they have capped at 80 members. “
We’ve had Quince for 18 years, and Cotogna 11 years … and through serving San Francisco over so many years, we have a really core group of regulars.” She says the idea actually came from a guest, who wanted to support the restaurant during the pandemic. “It creates more stability. You can plan. You can control a little bit more, if you know you have a dedicated stream of revenue coming in.”
San Franciscans are used to subscription models for all kinds of products and services, from Amazon Prime to Netflix, yoga classes to Botox injections. In food, we might be more likely to think of meal kit startups like Blue Apron, that sends dinners for ten or twenty bucks per serving, rather than a three-star restaurant asking for thousands up front. But Michael and Lindsay Tusk have been in this business a long time, and they know and love their customers. Slots sold out within days of the program’s mid-January launch, and Tusk says that no one even mentioned the price.
“The one question I got a few times, if anything, was people asked a lot if their children could participate” in the events portion of the membership, says Tusk. She believes that for people who are enthusiastic and curious about food, they can’t wait to get out of the city and experience the farm. “It’s probably those mothers who are like, ‘Oh my God, homeschooling. Please put my child in a beekeeping suit, and let them get honey.’”
But do not despair, regular people who may have missed out on membership: Cotogna reopens for outdoor dining next week, so you can still get that big raviolo that oozes egg yolk when you cut into its golden heart. Quince also is starting back up with farm dinners at Fresh Run, if you want to escape the city and splurge on a full tasting-menu experience. And Verjus will continue operating as a retail shop with weekend farmers’ markets, keeping us in natural wine and the most beautiful radicchio.