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Chefs and Restaurateurs Weigh In on DineLA

Twice every year, many of the city's notable restaurants participate in DineLA Restaurant Week, a nearly two-week period in which restaurants offer reduced price prix fixe menus. Though restaurant week has grown in popularity and success over the past few years, Eater went around asking a few chefs and restaurateurs about the effect of DineLA on the overall industry.

erictyahjadikomodo.jpgEric Tjahyadi, Komodo Venice

1. Why do you, or why do you not participate in dineLA?
We almost did but the timing did not work out with the opening of our 2nd space. For the sake of the question, yes, Komodo would have participated in dineLA. I love the fact that twice a year, dineLA allows Angelinos to branch out and experience places they would never had tried had it been the amazing deal that dineLA bring. DineLA makes a few of the restaurants that are typically too pricey, much more accessible. In addition, it's exciting to see what everyone comes up with for their dineLA menu and it becomes a pseudo-competitive motivation to produce the best menu. For us, we're a fast casual establishment, however dineLA would give us a platform to push out an elevated tasting menu that is not in our current offering, thus creating a fun challenge for our team and pushing the boundaries of our capabilities.

2. Do you think dineLA helpful or detrimental in the long run?
Just for the sheer exposure/marketing value, dineLA would help the business in the long run. Most especially if the tasting menu is successful, it will get everyone talking. It opens up new doors to a whole different audience set that you may or may not have been able to reach in the past.

3. If you could change or adjust one aspect of dineLA restaurant week, what would it be?
I would also love to see a competitive element added to dineLA. If I can adjust an aspect- I would love to see more cultural/iconic LA business being represented (Papa Cristo's, YongSusan, Chengdu Taste, etc)- adding to the diversity of the pot. At the end of the restaurant week- there would be a food celebration/event where a select handful of restaurants are being recognized due to their performance/dineLA menu for this year. There would be winners in different categories and the event would be another opportunities for participating restaurants to showcase to a wide audience of foodies.
davenorthrupcitytavern.jpgDave Northrup, Director of Operations, Rush Street, City Tavern, and Roadside Eats

1. Why do you, or why do you not participate in dineLA?
Some of our restaurants participate and some do not. The format of City Tavern Culver City's menu makes it difficult to put together a traditional prix-fixe menu whereas Rush Street's menu can adapt to the DineLA format. Rush has success with DineLA because it brings up the average ticket price but the menu also allows people to share, so one person will order the prix-fix and the couple will share the app and dessert.
Since dineLA is part of LA tourism program, perhaps the event can take place at an LA landmark (Union Station, Griffith Park, etc)

2. Do you think dineLA helpful or detrimental in the long run?
I don't think that it hurts any of our restaurants. I believe guests enjoy getting a good deal.

3. If you could change or adjust one aspect of dineLA restaurant week, what would it be?
I would like to see dineLA vary their price points and format. It would allow a restaurant like City Tavern Culver City to do something that is not a traditional prix-fixe but perhaps small plates or items for a table to share and even include a beer or wine selection. The way people dine has changed and it would be great for dineLA to do the same.
krisyenbamroongdinela.jpgKris Yenbamroong, Chef of Night+Market, and the upcoming Night+Market Song

1. Why do you, or why do you not participate in dineLA?
We participated in dineLA for the first time a few months after we opened. Some nights we had 2 customers, some nights 8, some nights none. It was brutal. I had no idea what dineLA was but it seemed like a lot of good restaurants were doing it and that it might be a good way to get the word out about NIGHT+MARKET. I think we had to overachieve with the menu a little because no one knew about us and the whole incentive of getting to try expensive restaurants at a fraction of the price was not really pertinent to us because we're not an expensive restaurant. It became more about us featuring dishes that we probably wouldn't do on a regular basis because they're too time consuming or because they're based on a limited set of ingredients that I've hauled back from Thailand (which is the case with our current dineLA menu). Anyhow, if I remember correctly, that first dineLA was pretty good to us, and so each time it rolls around, we jump on board.

2. Do you think dineLA helpful or detrimental in the long run?
dineLA has been pretty good for us, all around.

3. If you could change or adjust one aspect of dineLA restaurant week, what would it be?
Not to be a hippie, but I wish it could scale back the corporate vibe a little bit. I'm pretty sure it started as a more grass-roots type thing that was about promoting the LA restaurant scene and now seems to be more about highlighting the corporate partnerships (Amex, Opentable). Restaurants that don't use Opentable seem to get the short end of the stick as dineLA won't allow them to put their own booking link (whatever that may be) on their page. Luckily, we've grown to the point where people are seeking us out, so it's not a deal breaker for us. But I can see it really affecting a newer restaurant that's just starting out, the way we were a few years back.

freddyvargasscarpetta.jpgFreddy Vargas, Chef of Scarpetta Beverly Hills

1. Why do you, or why do you not participate in dineLA?
We participate because we really want to capture new customers, DineLA gives us this opportunity.

2. Do you think dineLA helpful or detrimental in the long run?
I think its helpful in reaching a new audience. We have been here for 3 years but I still feel not everyone knows that we have a Scarpetta in Los Angeles.

3. If you could change or adjust one aspect of dineLA restaurant week, what would it be?
I have nothing against DineLA, I think it is a great idea and really helps newer restaurants get recognized.

sarkisvartaniandailydose.jpgSarkis Vartanian, Owner of Daily Dose

1. Why do you, or why do you not participate in dineLA?
I would love to do it, I dont know how it works.

2. Do you think dineLA helpful or detrimental in the long run?
I think it can help a business a lot… sends a clientele base that never existed.

3. If you could change or adjust one aspect of dineLA restaurant week, what would it be?
Not sure. I think its great when I dine. I think it should be easier to be involved.
DSC08925.jpgJesse Duron, GM of Hamasaku

1. Why do you, or why do you not participate in dineLA?
I feel obligated to participate or risk of lowered sales due to customers going out to dine at only dine la restaurants.

2. Do you think dineLA helpful or detrimental in the long run?
Yes it does help bring in people and reach an entirely new audience, but ultimately Dine LA guests who come in are looking for a good deal and an opportunity to try something new. The goal is to encourage repeat business with a new audience.
Participating restaurants really have to carefully consider their menus - it needs to make economic sense for the restaurant, but it needs to be compelling to different audience. There's a delicate balance to be struck - your menu needs to be enticing enough for new guests (value-driven strategy that will still cover costs and hopefully generate new revenue), but you can't mislead these new guests (or regulars) by offering too much for too little, especially if your price point is too far removed from the Dine LA offering. You can't denigrate your brand.

3. If you could change or adjust one aspect of dineLA restaurant week, what would it be?
The fee to participate can be high for some restaurants. It's considered a marketing expense as the reach is broad and not just foodies. Maybe a tiered system for participation - based on your menu category. I.e. $25 menu restaurants pay less than $45 menu restaurants.
[Photo by KevinEats]
·All dineLA Coverage [~ELA~]

City Tavern

9739 Culver Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90232 310 838 9739

Phorage

3300 Overland Ave #105, Los Angeles, CA 90034 310-876-0910

Hamasaku

11043 California 2, , CA 90025 (310) 479-7636 Visit Website

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