Restaurant Critic Ryan Sutton Takes Tricky Menu Pricing To Task
Restaurant menus don't tell you how much meals cost—but Ryan Sutton does. As Bloomberg's restaurant critic and the writer of well-regarded Tumblr The Price Hike, he stridently advocates transparency in menu pricing. He argues that restaurants do customers a disservice by listing only the base cost of their food on menus. To accurately convey the "real cost of eating out," he says, they would have to include things like tax, tip and wine pairings—to start with.
This morning, Sutton compiled all his gripes in one post, "Ten Rules For Better Pricing," and there's no doubt that it would be easier to budget restaurant meals if they were all followed. Sutton was even kind enough to do some of the legwork for the restaurants pro bono, perhaps in hopes of quick adoption. In a Bloomberg piece, he tallies up the price of a prix-fixe menu, wine pairings, tax and tip at several high-end New York restaurants to expose the "real cost of fine dining." (For the record, Del Posto's 12-course Collezioni menu takes the cake as the most expensive, at a bank-busting $1269 for two.) Sutton's calculations show that the price of the food is a small fraction of the total that will appear on a bill. The $165 six-course prix fixe at Tribeca mainstay Bouley, for example, quickly balloons into an $888 dinner for two.
Sutton has a lot of good points, though some may go too far. One of his rules stipulates that restaurants increase prices "ahead of food inflation," rather than gradually bumping up prices as ingredients get costlier. But it seems like most people would rather be unsure whether they'll pay $24 or $27 than be sure they're going to pay $30.