The Restaurant at Meadowood still has California’s most expensive menu, at over $900 per person with wine pairings. But Saison in San Francisco is suddenly a strong second-place finisher, with 5% reservation fees to boot.
Dinner for two at Saison’s Chef’s Counter, after tax, mandatory service and optional beverage pairings, will now cost $1,281. That’s a $285 or 29% jump from the March price of $996 for couples. Solo diners pay $641 with pairings, a $143 increase from $498.
Those are pretty big hikes. And here’s what’s more interesting: Those prices reflect a reservation processing fee charged by SeatMe.com.
Allow us to explain: Chef Joshua Skenes’ two-Michelin starred spot has switched to a “pre-paid ticket” system, similar to Next in Chicago or Brooklyn Fare in New York. This change was reported by the San Francisco Chronicle and others in late February.
In the past few days, The Price Hike has obtained a little more clarity on pricing. The weeknight dinner menu remains at $198 for 16-courses, with a wine pairing at $128. Weekend guests (like at Next in Chicago) will pay $50 more for the same menu, and $20 more for the wine pairing. Call it a “rush hour” fee of sorts.
Those who wish to dine at the four-person chef’s counter will pay $298 for 20-22 courses, any day of the week, with optional pairings at $188.
The full price of dinner, service and tax, is paid for, in advance, through SeatMe.com. The website charges a 5% processing fee, according to a spokesperson for Saison. That means a part of two purchasing the $298 Counter Menu will pay $800 upfront, including $36 in fees (about the cost of dinner at Mission Chinese).
So much for the old theory that taking the receptionist out of the equation helps keep the cost of dinner down.
A technical point here: Wine pairings are purchased at the restaurant, not online, which means they aren’t subject to SeatMe.com’s 5% fee. Of course, the pairings are levied with an 18% service charge and local sales tax.
Saison should be commended for allowing guests to purchase wines at the restaurant, not just because it cuts down on the processing fee, but because it gives the consumer the option of deciding how much booze to drink on the night of the reservation, as opposed to a month in advance. We at The Price Hike believe that’s a GOOD THING.
But reservation fees will be more controversial. What say you, people of earth? Are Saison’s higher prices, along with SeatMe.com’s reservation fees, a BUY HOLD OR SELL?