Phillip Taylor PT
A new tax ruling which treats automatic gratuities as wages, rather than tips, could change how some local servers experience Restaurant Week.
The Internal Revenue Service on Jan. 1 began reclassifying automatic gratuities as service charges, a change which forces servers to wait until they receive their paychecks to obtain their money. Additionally, the money is now subject to payroll tax; previously, reporting tips was left to the server’s discretion.
Automatic gratuities are most frequently tacked onto bills racked up by large parties, but many restaurants have traditionally mandated them in situations where servers were at risk of not being fairly compensated for their work. Although a Greater Charleston Restaurant Association spokeswoman wasn’t certain how many Charleston Restaurant Week participants trot out the practice for the event, both Grill 225 and Circa 1886 enforce 20 percent gratuities. Continue reading
Charleston Restaurant Week’s Fall 2013 lunch initiative was so successful that sponsor Greater Charleston Restaurant Association (GCRA) is repeating the program, with 13 restaurants scheduled to serve midday meals during this month’s edition of the popular dining event.
Butcher & Bee, making its Charleston Restaurant Week debut, is one of the restaurants offering lunch: Its sample three-course menu, priced at $30 for two people, includes matzoh ball soup; kale slaw and grilled cheese.
Other first-timers among the 142 restaurants serving up prix-fixe menus from Jan. 8-Jan. 19 include The Lot; Indaco; Coda del Pesce and McCrady’s, where diners will have their pick of dishes such as beef tartare; snapper with Carolina Gold rice polenta; aged duck and savarin oat cake for $40.
Reservations are highly recommended. For a complete list of restaurants and featured menus, visit GCRA’s website.
Charleston Restaurant Week kicked off last week, and local eaters are documenting their three-course dinners on Twitter and Instagram. Here, a few early visual reports:
@l8nrfan “checked off another spot on (her) foodie bucket list at Peninsula Grill.” She reports she was sorry a slice of coconut cake wasn’t included.
At The Grocery, $30 bought @theewillmill1 seafood bouillabaisse, roasted pork shoulder with corn and butter bean panzanella and lemon semifreddo with blueberries. His conclusion? “#irecommendit”
Have you had a Restaurant Week meal yet? How was it? Let us know in the comments section.
The prix-fixe price tag on Charleston Restaurant Week meals is undeniably a draw for eaters who want to cap their dinner spending at $30 or $40 a person (assuming they’re not drinking.) But local chefs say diners don’t always stick to the program once they’re seated for their three-course meal.
Restaurant Week patrons use the promotional-priced event to “check off restaurants (they) haven’t been to,” says Jeremiah Bacon, executive chef at The Macintosh and Oak Steakhouse. And given the opportunity to explore a menu they’ve never before experienced, they’re apt to stray from the melon salad and shrimp-and-grits on the preset Restaurant Week menu and choose dishes from the standard line-up.
According to Bacon, such behavior doesn’t occur as often in very ritzy restaurants: He estimates 80 to 85 percent of Restaurant Week guests at Oak follow through with their plans to order the $40 steak dinner. At The Macintosh, though, “it’s fifty-fifty.”
Bacon says The Macintosh’s price point helps explain the discrepancy. The restaurant also deliberately exposes guests to its regular menu by bolding the Restaurant Week-eligible items instead of printing a separate Restaurant Week sheet.
“I think it works,” Bacon says.
Still, even when presented with a wide range of choices, Bacon says certain guests can’t find what they want. That’s because the announced event menu is subject to change if produce or proteins suddenly become unavailable. For Restaurant Weekers who like to plan out every order in advance, seasonality – taken to an extreme by the dozen or so restaurants which refuse to commit to a bill of fare before the week begins – is an aggravation.
“Once in a while, we’ll hear someone say ‘this isn’t the menu I saw online’,” Bacon says. “But we print the menu every day.”
The standard Restaurant Week meal format – exceedingly popular in most corners – can aggravate diners in the habit of skipping dessert, since the three-course, prix-fixe dinners invariably end with sweets. Economically, it makes sense for restaurants to pad their menus with chocolate mousse and crème brulee, since eggs and sugar are cheaper than centerpiece proteins. But that’s little consolation to the Charleston Restaurant Week goer who’d rather double up on boiled peanut hummus (Magnolias) or pickled shrimp salad (Stars).
This year, though, the Greater Charleston Restaurant Association (GCRA) has tweaked its biannual program in a way which should please savory fans: Participating restaurants are being encouraged to devise toned-down lunch menus, offered at a slightly lower price. The three restaurants which have thus far posted their event lunch menus online – 82 Queen, Rutledge Cab Co. and Ms. Rose’s Fine Food and Cocktails – met the $15 challenge by doing away with dessert. Continue reading