I realize you have seats to fill, but I can't help but think the discounting of seats will ultimately harm Elizabeth, at least with respect to weeknights. Many of the people who reserved weeks in advance will eventually learn that there are others enjoying the same menu on the same evening who have paid far less for the same dining experience. This will probably cause many people hold off on bookings, at least for weeknights, in hopes of scoring discounted tables. Others who paid more for the same experience may just be angry and not return. This may cost Elizabeth bookings, and force the sale of additional discounted tables.
Who asked for your two cents?
While this policy has the potential to alienate some potential (and/or past) diners, it could also create opportunities for others. I, for one, had wanted to try Elizabeth since it opened in my neighborhood. However, I have limited funds for fine dining (I'm hoping that will change eventually
), and Chef Regan's new pricing plan worked out nicely for my needs. Not to mention, I would not think twice now about being charged a premium to be able to make a reservation in the future. I appreciate how up front Chef Regan has been on this forum and elsewhere about her efforts to refine her business model. Elizabeth is one of those restaurants that is working on creating its own niche in the Chicago scene, so I can't fault Chef Regan for trying out something different.
I dislike the
emoji because I never know how to interpret it, so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you were using it in humor.
Since this is a forum that depends on its participants' personal opinion to succeed, I'll share mine...
I work in marketing and I think discounting is an effective client acquisition and retention tool, but it depends on how it's implemented. Let me give you a common example that I abhor as a marketer:
Dentists frequently offer deals for new patients, such as exam and x-rays for $50. I'm a long-term patient at a dental practice, and it really pissed me off when the practice started doing that. Why? Because shouldn't the business be rewarding long-time clients (particularly one who didn't enter the practice using a deal) rather than trying to entice people who are fickle enough to change dentists simply because of a discount? As a long-time patient, that says to me, "We value new clients over those who have been with us for years." It also makes me think that I should just jump to a new dental practice next time I see an enticing deal. Why not? My own dentist--whose judgment I otherwise trust--seems to be encouraging it.
When you fly on a plane, you expect that the person in the next row probably paid a different price for his or her ticket. But we do expect that everyone in a restaurant--at least when we're dining there--has receive a menu that lists the same prices. Wouldn't you be a little ticked off if you--a repeat diner--got a menu with higher prices than the first-time guest at the table next to you?
(Next, Alinea and Elizabeth have embraced a model where the price varies depending on expected demand, but it's my understanding that everyone who is seated at roughly the same time pays the same price. The exception might be the last-minute tables that Next offers for sale.)
Furthermore, wouldn't you be a little annoyed if you pre-paid the restaurant six weeks earlier--meaning the restaurant had your money and was essentially using it as an interest-free loan, only to discover that the person next to you got rewarded for waiting to book at the last minute? Might you not feel as if you had "sucker" tattooed across your forehead and decide that the next time you ate at the restaurant, you might wait until the last minute in hopes of getting rewarded for your behavior?
Now, I'm not entirely criticizing the concept of discounting a table at the last minute. Assuming ingredient orders have already been placed and the same number of staff will be there regardless of whether there are 18 or 20 dinners, then presumably the price being charged for the table at least covers overhead expenses. But if you were a repeat diner, wouldn't you feel a little special if you'd gotten a call or email offering you the reservation at a discount because you're a valued guest? Or if you'd already bought tickets for that seating, wouldn't you appreciate getting an email that says, "As a friend to join you for dinner! We want to offer you two additional seats at a discount." To me, that rewards the kind of behavior you're trying to encourage--prepurchasing meals far in advance and coming back again and again--rather than potentially alienating your best customers.