Will Price Cuts Snare Diners?

By Nathan Donato-Weinstein | Roseville Press Tribune

Roseville-area restaurants hope they’ve found the recipe for getting back their mojo.
Starting Thursday, more than a dozen upscale eateries in Roseville, Granite Bay and Loomis will offer a three-course, $30 fixed-price menu – a big discount off the normal cost of admission, officials said.

Called Dine Out Roseville, the Roseville Chamber of Commerce-organized event runs through Oct. 15 and borrows a pitch that has successfully brought buzz – and, most important, diners – to bigger cities across the country for years.

“We have so many great restaurants, we’re trying to encourage the community to eat local and shop local,” said the chamber’s Angela Mellor, who is helping spearhead the first-ever effort.

The timing is no coincidence. Thanks to rising unemployment and consumer confidence that’s fallen from its mid-2000s peak like an ill-fated souffle, restaurants are suffering big time, say industry leaders. A Harris Poll survey this month found 67 percent of Americans plan to reduce their spending on restaurants.

In south Placer, more than a few have gone lights out: Local outlets of Black Angus, The Melting Pot, Carver’s, TGI Friday’s and UFood are some of the better-known names that have closed because of the tough economy.

“It’s better than in some areas, but it’s bad region-wide. And if it wasn’t so bad you wouldn’t see restaurants closing,” said Collin Fat of Fat’s Restaurant Group, who pushed for the event for several years.

But the economy isn’t the only impetus, he said.

“Over the years, Roseville’s been this little sleepy suburb,” he said. “But recently we’ve gotten enough critical mass that we have restaurants that can compete with anything in the country.”

In Dine Out Roseville, participants have their choice of an appetizer, entree and dessert from a special, limited time menu. All combinations are at least a $50 value, organizers said, and are vetted by a committee to ensure they’re worth it.

In return, restaurateurs hope for a boost in business with a long tail.

“We’re looking at getting repeat business, and reminding people we’re there,” said Jeanne Mabry, vice president of marketing at Mikuni. “A lot of people have had reductions in wages, and that’s affecting us. But there are certain ways we can all band together.”

It’s worked in Sacramento, which is in its fifth year of what’s called Dine Downtown, slated this year for January, said Lisa Martinez of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership.

“What it’s really become is an excuse to do something,” she said. “The price point is appealing to a lot of people. It just reminds you of all the great meals you can have in your own hometown.”

Or someone else’s. Molly Hawks of Hawks Restaurant in Granite Bay has been to similar events in New York and San Francisco, which have had so-called restaurant weeks for years. She said the events pack diners in and the whole city gets into the spirit of eating out.

“So it’s really exciting for us to have something like this in Roseville to recognize we have a dining culture,” she said.

Still, some say even the $30 price point might be too much, no matter how much of a discount.

“I feel it’s too much money given the economic times,” said Roseville resident Amanda Anderson.

But Mabry, of Mikuni, said diners won’t be disappointed – if they give the restaurants a chance.

“This is a good deal,” she said. “And it’s a lot of food for one person.”

What: Dine Out Roseville, a $30-per-person fixed-price dining event at 14 local restaurants

When: Oct. 1-15

Where: Austin’s Steakhouse, Blue Nami, Crush 29, Fat’s Asia Bistro, Hawks Restaurant, La Provence, McCormick & Schmick’s, Mikuni, Alexander’s Horseshoe Bar Grill, Paul Martin’s American Bistro, Suede Blue, Tahoe Joes, Texas West, Il Fornaio.


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