Sometimes I'll go out to nibble. A bar or restaurant is offering free or cheap appetizers. On occasion I'll go to a happy hour to meet with friends. Mostly I'll go to promotional events such as grubcrawls or social gatherings like Tweetups and charity events where restaurants are donating food. They may be donating the food, but they are hoping that there will be drinkers who will pony up to the bar and buy a round or two. (Sorry I'm not a cash cow for you in that regard.)
But when it comes to the food, especially if you are a restaurant and not just a bar, you should be making a little effort. This is a case of making an impression to make me want to come back and actually eat a full meal, give you business, tip your servers, recommend to my friends, Tweet and blog about. It amazes me when restaurants totally drop the ball.
Good Example: Last week I did the Halloween grubcrawl. First place was Vive, the new Mexican place that is by the downtown ice rink. It's already got its location working against it since the area becomes a virtual dead zone after 6 p.m. Three Monkeys, the prior occupants, didn't make it. It is one of those places that I would look at every day as I exited the 24 Hour Fitness but wasn't giving any serious consideration to going to. We entered and it was pretty darn empty. (Although Tuesday nights aren't exactly happening anyway.) They did put out a decent spread though. There were chicken, cheese, and carnitas quesadillas, taquitos, and, of course, chips and salsa. I enjoyed my quesadillas and we found out that Vive does $1 taco Tuesdays all day long, not just for happy hour. What a great lunch deal! They fed us and I learned about their taco Tuesdays.
Bad Example: Compare that with stop #2 at Table 260. First of all, I had very low expectations for this place from the get-go. The Bee had a scathing review months ago that basically said that you know a restaurant is on its deathbed when they don't even bother to try anymore. "Table 260 Downtown is a restaurant in a free fall, with practically no apparent effort to be a viable business, let alone a proud practitioner of soul food." Ouch! So here we are, a crowd of about 30 people, most of whom have never been there before. If you are trying to save your restaurant, especially after a bad review and you are trying to prove you are making changes, then you should make an effort with this captured audience. What did we get? They didn't bother to set up a table of food. Instead they came around with those tiny little condiment cups with "Gumbo shooters". Talk about skimping and not very good gumbo anyway! Then they came around with a tray of sweet potato french fries and napkins so that you could take a small handful. The last thing was some chip with Cajun beans or something on it. Skimpy and bad! All they did was solidify my decision that they aren't worth my effort either.
Last week I also went to the Sacramento Magazine kickoff party for their "Best of" issue. It was at Cafeteria 15L. Here's a restaurant that has been on my to-do list for a while. How did they do? The food they had was their famous mac n cheese (yum!), cut up chicken n waffles with gravy (not bad if you grabbed the chicken pieces), potstickers (pretty good, better than many places), and pork and meatloaf sliders (didn't try). This was enough to keep them on my to-do list versus deterring me.
Tonight I'm off to Cosmo for the election night happy hour. They have free "left and right wings" from 5-6. Hope they make an effort!