When the cost of doing business goes up for a restaurant, the cost of dining out rises, too: It explains why Midtown’s finest spots are raising prices or preparing to in anticipation of the minimum wage increase to $13 an hour at the end of the year, while the tipped minimum — the wage that just about all waiters make before gratuities — goes up to $8.70.
Add skyrocketing real estate costs to the increased minimum wage (as well as a $15 minimum later next year) and it’s a perfect storm for price hikes.
A few of the best reviewed and most expensive restaurants in Midtown — Le Bernardin, Jean-Georges, The Modern, and Gabriel Kreuther — have already raised prices, so let's break down the Suttonomics to find out specifically how much you'll spend on your power lunches and dinners this autumn.
New York's only three Michelin-starred French seafood temple has raised its prices across the board, and chef Eric Ripert, who runs the restaurant with Maguy LeCoze, tells Eater he'll "probably" issue another hike later this year or early next as the minimum wage continues to rise.
Ripert also attributes the increases to rising insurance costs of about 7 percent from last year, as well as having had to replace the restaurant's chairs (at about $1,000 each), carpeting (at about $100,000), and the front awning (also around $100K).
The restaurant's four-course menu now runs $157, up $7 from 2016, which means the cost of dinner for two is now, for the first time, over $400 with tax and tip before a single drop of wine is poured. The tasting menus are up $5 to $185 and $225, respectively.
"We've never been in favor of increasing prices," Ripert says. "We have a clientele who are on their company accounts, and people who are wealthy. But we are not a restaurant for the one percent. People save up to have this experience. Hopefully those people can afford it."
Jean-Georges Vongerichten's three Michelin-starred restaurant on Central Park West has long been heralded for its reasonably affordable lunch, though the affordability of that deal has diminished over the years. Two courses at midday — which was $28 in the mid-aughts before rising to $48 in mid-2014 and then $58 in September 2015 — is now $68.
So in a little over three years, the price of lunch has nearly doubled. Additional courses, $19 apiece in 2014, are now $34 each.
The restaurant, famous for fusing French cuisine with chef's pan-Asian sensibilities, has also raised the price of the four-course dinner menu by $10 to $148 and the tasting by $20 to $238.
Danny Meyer and chef Abram Bissell's two-Michelin starred restaurant remains Midtown's most expensive set menu spot at lunch (though of course you can eat for much less in the a la carte bar room). The three course lunch menu, $128 at this time last year, is now $138, or $150 after tax — all of the restaurant's prices are reflective of service, or "hospitality," so there's no need to tip. For comparison's sake, a midday meal would run $131 at Jean-Georges, or $113 at Le Bernardin after adding on twenty percent gratuity and sales tax.
Bissell tells Eater the menu prices have “moderately increased” to keep up with the cost of health care, parental leave, paid time off, parental leave, professional development, and the predictable wages inherent in the restaurant group’s tip-free system.
A four-course dinner in the formal dining room, which overlooks the Museum of Modern Art's sculpture garden, is now $10 more expensive at $168, while the eight-course tasting, at $228, is up $30 from $198 at this time last year.
This means a fully-loaded dinner for two is at least $60 more expensive than last September.
Byrant Park's best Alsatian restaurant, which this critic awarded three stars, was charging $125 for its four-course prix fixe around this time last year. Now that menu has shifted up to $142. The original price of the set menu was $98 in 2015, which makes this a hefty 45 percent hike. The tasting menu, originally at $185 and $205 last year, is now $215.