Its Restaurant Week time in Boston. This year its been extended to two weeks: March 14-19 & March 21-26. (Everyone in the industry, or who has previously worked in food service is shuttering now at this point.)
More stress, more work, more problems and bad tipping.
Restaurant Week is designed to get new clientele into an establishment. They do this by offering a cheaper prixe fixe (pre-fixed or set) menu. You are not going to get a chef's signature dish. You are not going to get even a smaller version of said classic. You are going to get a dish made with cheaper ingredients because the price point is significantly less.
Personally, I don't want to go to a restaurant who is running a new/cheaper menu for the first time - ever. Most food writers wait several months before writing up a new restaurant for a reason. It takes a while to work the kinks out: to train all of the kitchen staff on a new dish, figure out timing, plating and to make sure that what was conceptualized before service and be prepared during a dinner rush, in a 100F+ kitchen.
Most restaurants also run their regular menu during Resturant Week.
Why does this matter?
It in effect is doubling the work of servers and cooks. Servers need to spend more time at each table explaining the different menus. Servers then need to re-explain why the foie gras dish that made this restaurant so special is not on the Restaurant Week menu, and no, it cannot be substituted for the chicken main dish. Kitchen staff also need to juggle the timing of a prixe fixe menu and the regular menu - a doable feat, but not easy when half the table orders a la carte and the other off the prixe fixe.
So now you have a table that has taken at least 2x as long to order. You have extra time added to the entering of the order into the computer. More time is necessary for the expediter to call out the order and figure out the different firing times. What happens now? Diners start thinking that this restaurant's service is "slow."
In Massachusetts minimum wage is $8.00 an hour; for servers, waiters and waitresses its $2.63.
Most diners partake in Restaurant Week because its a perceived bargain. This often translates into poor tipping. Long waits translate into poor tipping. Poor tipping makes for unhappy servers who are already doing double work. Not tipping at least 15%, 20 is not generous, its standard, means that servers have to pick up more shifts and work additional jobs just to break even.
Are there restaurants that do an amazing job during Restaurant Week despite all of these factors? Yes.
Does this mean I am going to participate? HELL NO
The nail in my Restaurant Week coffin
With my need to abstain from all proteins glutenous, there is no way you could get me to go out to eat.
Making substitutions on prixe fixe menus is often not allowed, that said, many places are good at accommodating diners with dietary restrictions under normal circumstances. I am not going to attempt to order a gluten-free meal in the middle of chaotic Restaurant Week for the same reason that I don't go to a new restaurant I haven't checked out on a busy Friday or Saturday night: I just don't know if I can trust them.
Its not that I think anyone is malicious, its just that I have to be able to trust the server, the expediter, the cooks and the chef. I need to effectively explain myself to the server in a way that s/he can relay that into the computer system or directly to the expediter. That person has to be able to clearly and quickly relay this to the cooks. No matter where you go, kitchens are rarely comprised of persons just speaking English. So I am putting my trust and my health into the hands of at least 4 people. 4 people who are juggling multiple jobs, multiple menus and with many other tables and diners to look after.
Can it be done? Yes.
I am willing to get served a "meh" meal with a possible side of digestive upset for 2 weeks? No.
Anyone want to go to the movies instead?