The study was done with a Department of Health database that allows users to type in a zip code and get access to specific data on neighborhood spending and demographics. To learn that residents of Throggs Neck and Morris Park spend the most per month on eating out will come as no shock to many locals. After all, it’s in those areas that most of the borough’s fine restaurants are situated. What might be more surprising is to learn that even these high spending figures are probably lower than they have been in years past, and the still-weakened economy is to blame.
“I don’t think people are dining out less,” says Melissa Liebman, manager of Tosca’s restaurant in Throggs Neck, “but at the same time, we have to keep our prices down now, because, look at this economy.” Liebman says that due to the recession, Tosca’s offers incentives now, like meal combinations, and also has to utilize social media more than before to pull customers out of their homes. “We advertise on Facebook and we use Twitter,” she says. “We put up a special code once a week and if you come in and say it you get 10% off your bill.”
Incentives such as these are nice for eaters, but less wonderful for business. Eileen Tierney, manager of the Throggs Neck Clipper, says that unfortunately, “With the recession, we find that our regulars, some of them elderly people, if they used to come three or four times a week they come less often now.” She also noted that more often than in the past, people go for specials, such as the Clipper’s “early bird” or “complete lunch” offerings.
Both Tierney and Liebman estimated that a party of two spends $70-80 on average for a dinner out at their respective establishments, including drinks and appetizers. Jennifer Francica, speaking two weeks after the posh new Pine Bar & Grill opened it doors on Eastchester Road, suggested that in a bad economy, diners might actually be more likely to drop cash on an expensive meal, but merely do it less often.
“Our restaurant is trendy and new wave,” she said, “so it might become the kind of place that people rely on for their special occasions, to really go all out and enjoy our exciting cuisine.”
At Pine Bar & Grill’s opening event, officials from the Bronx Chamber of Commerce were on hand specifically to support the new establishment as a promising business. In this difficult economy, of course, no business is guaranteed to thrive.
Regardless, Tierney also points out that summer is a unique time of the year for dining out, and doesn’t provide the best numbers. “I find that how busy we are goes down a bit now during the summer, because people go to the beach or have a barbecue,” she says. In addition, in terms of specific menu items, Tierney says that extravagant seafood options like lobster tail or surf-n-turf are more popular on weekends, “when people splurge a little.”
During the week, many stick to pot roast or other traditional, affordable choices.