Wednesday , August 5 2020

Special Report Part 2 – St. Pete Restaurants Dealing with Today’s Economy

We talked about parking and the economy affecting restaurants in the area. What are the restaurants doing to rally back and keep people coming to their establishments? A lot, really.

Almost every major local restaurant is offering incentives to bring in diners right now. Monday is half price night at Bella Brava and it has been hugely popular to the point where you better get there early or you won’t get a table. Tuesday is Tapas Tuesday at Ceviche with $4 tapas. A great bargain. Marchand’s and Parkshore are both offering a prix fixe menu (I think Parkshore’s is at lunch) as further draws to diners.
I’ve seen some food cost-cutting measures at some local places; some have been successful and some have not. For the most part, restaurant owners and chefs have been able to take fresh, locally sourced ingredients and turn them into something wonderful at better prices than we have seen in the past few years.
Restaurants and bars have become more aggressive in their marketing and quality control. Paddy Burke’s is a good example of this. Paddy’s was suffering from lackluster food and so-so service. I have been there several times over the last few months and I see a big change. The food I ate there on my last visit was very, very good.  From the Shepherd’s Pie to the Irish Stew and even the Artichoke Dip; it was all tasty, at reasonable prices, with ample portions and much better presentation than I’ve seen in the past. They have special deals several times per week and have teamed up with organizations like LocalShops1 to offer even more discounts.
On the flip side, I dined at one restaurant here recently and had a shrimp entree. While the shrimp was good, I felt cheated at receiving 5 medium size shrimp over a bed of starch that overwhelmed the plate for $18. There was enough starchy stuff on this plate to feed 4 people. Not a good cost cutting measure, by any means. So much for “southern hospitality”.
Another mistake some bar/restaurants are making is to raise prices on the food and lower prices on drinks. This may work well in the short-term, but in the long run locals want the full experience of being able to reasonably eat and drink in the same establishment. I went to one popular place on 4th Street recently, to find that a grouper sandwich was more pricey and looked smaller than it had been in the past  (but the bar was full). Right up the street is Three Birds Tavern with better prices, bigger portions, a well-rounded, well-executed menu and it is spotless to boot. In the long run, I think Three Birds will do very well as a neighborhood place when the word gets out there.
As an aside, I expect to see more restaurants leasing space at Baywalk in the coming months. They have dramatically lowered their lease prices and are willing to break up some of the more giant-sized spaces that failed in the past. Their new marketing strategy is aggressive and I see an obvious willingness to work with business owners to make everyone involved successful. This is a welcome change from a couple of years ago and translates into more affordable dining for the consumer.
The bottom line is the restaurants that are offering specials and maintaining quality are doing well, considering. Those that are not and will not offer special deals may not be around in a year.
Part 3 coming soon – More solutions

About elizabeth

Elizabeth Dougherty has been cooking and writing about food intensively for more than ten years. She is the fourth generation of chefs and gourmet grocers in her family with her mother, Francesca Esposito and grandmother, Carmella being major influences in her early cooking years. As a teenager, her family sent her to Europe where she became focused on French and Italian cuisine. She survived a year and half of culinary tutelage under a maniacal Swiss-German chef and is a graduate of NYIT, Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality, Business and Labor Relations. Food Nation Radio has won two news awards for content. Broadcasting LIVE each week, nationwide, on and stations around the country.

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