While some of the world’s prestige luxury brands cut prices on their signature products — Apple and Tesla come to mind — eating out at New York’s most heralded high end establishments is only getting spendier.
As of the new year, a dinner for two at Thomas Keller’s Per Se costs more than $700 before wine, tax, or supplements. And a wine-paired dinner date at Daniel Humm and Will Guidara’s Eleven Madison Park will top $1,100 — about as much as last minute tickets to Hamilton.
Last year, both restaurants hiked their prices around the same time.
High labor costs are likely to blame. The city’s minimum wage for most businesses creeped up $1.50 to $15 per hour at the end of December. And the state exemption rates — the minimum salaries businesses can compensate workers without having to pay overtime — jumped up to $58,500, nearly $16,000 higher than it was just over a year ago.
Staffers at both Per Se and Eleven Madison likely earn well above that, but rising labor costs trickle throughout the workforce, prompting better-paid workers to ask for raises as well.
The price of the tasting at Eleven Madison, specifically, has risen by $20 to $335 in the new year. That modest 6 percent increase is confined to the dinner menu. Reservations are fully prepaid via Tock, which means a party of two must put down a nonrefundable deposit of $729 at the time of booking. The wine pairing for the longer menu remains $175, and the shorter bar menu, available for walk-ins, and which I praised last year, is also still $175.
A spokesperson for Eleven Madison attributed the hikes to the rising minimum wage.
Per Se did not respond to a request for comment. Keller’s restaurant, located on the fourth floor of the Time Warner Center, raised the price of its nine-course dinner menu by $15 to $355 in 2019, making it the city’s third most expensive restaurant after Masa ($595), and Brooklyn Fare (~$363). Per Se, like Eleven Madison, holds three Michelin stars, but has faced tougher words from local critics in years past, including this one.
Value can be tough to come by at Per Se. Unlike Eleven Madison or Brooklyn Fare, Keller’s restaurant levies supplemental fees for many of its luxury ingredients. If a solo diner adds on foie gras ($30), high-end caviar ($60), wagyu ($100) and white truffles ($175), the price of dinner can hop to $720, or easily $900 after wine and tax per person. An ultra-luxurious meal for two, with all the supplements and wine, would cost about $1,800. The shorter five-course salon menu, priced at $195 last year, is now $225 per person.
It’s unclear what marginal effect, if any, the price hikes might have on Per Se’s ability to attract diners or private events. The restaurant reportedly pulls in $24 million in revenue per year. Indeed, the city’s larger hospitality industry remains strong; with employment near a 10-year-high, more restaurants may be able to raise prices as well.
That all said, reservations at Per Se, available via Tock for a refundable deposit of $95 per person, are not currently hard to come by. And at the time of publication, tables at Eleven Madison are readily available for most days in February.