The more I talk to restaurant professionals, the more it confirms the lengths fine dining restaurants are willing to go to bring in the heavily coveted millennial consumer. Gone are the days of the $150 floor prices for a full bottle of wine. You can thank the recession. And with Americans having more fast food, QSR, mobile delivery and casual dining options than ever before, the competition is fierce. Even within the fine dining industry, the National Restaurant Association reports that eight out of 10 tableservice operators say: Competing with other tableservice restaurants poses a significant or moderate challenge for their business. And to top off that sentiment, nine of 10 believe that the competition will only become more challenging or stay the same.
Since 82 percent of all adults list good value as a top priority at a tableservice restaurant, the puzzle pieces start coming together about why fine dining establishments, like the 66-US-location Fleming’s Steakhouse, has been placing more attention on value menus. Case in point, the new 8-9-10 Fashionably Late Happy Hour menu features eight shareable plates and eight cocktails/wines for $9 from 8-10pm, including the pictured Deconstructed Balvenie S’more. Yeah, that’s laced with Balvenie DoubleWood scotch and an entire mound of house-made marshmallow. But this menu is in addition to the other numerical alliteral 5-6-7 happy hour menu available from 5-7pm.
But why multiple menus? At first this tactic comes off as a bit desperate. I mean, there’s only an hour per evening from 5-10pm when you can’t order something under 10 bucks (a la you blew it showing up at 7pm). But I don’t think it’s desperation, rather a hedging of bets. These restaurants need us to walk through that door to build the future generation of patrons. Because old money dies. And to grab two cocktails and a shareable plate, then walk out the door circa $30 later, I think we’re going to walk through that door. And their hope is that the next time you’re making a reservation, it will be for the main dining room to grab their deconstructed porterhouse for two ($99, not on the regular menu).
Pictured below are a few of the items we sampled from the 8-9-10 Fashionably Late Happy Hour Menu. Not shown are the Savory Ahi Tuna Tacos, The Prime Burger and the rest of the wines/cocktails, including a Bourbon Peach Martini, Winter Chai Mule and Spiced Mango Smash, among others.
With the seemingly endless S’more dessert options available now at restaurants across the country, the S’more option from Fleming’s stands out. First, there’s alcohol involved. We like that. Second, they give you a heaping mound of charred, house-made ‘mallow at the table. Probably smart too, since restaurants that give patrons an open flame to char the ‘mallows seems real risky (we’ve seen it).
Dessert seems to take the cake since the other standout was the Chocolate Lava Milkshake with Maker’s Mark Bourbon. Imagine that lava cake you already order but in a frosty, boozier form. For those looking for a savory option, the best shareable seems to be the Filet Mignon Flatbread. You also can’t be mad at restaurant burger of that quality for under 10 bucks.
Warm Cinnamon Crusted Donuts
House-made Burrata. I could take a bath in Burrata.
Filet Mignon Flatbread with Danish Blue/Monterey Jack cheeses and red onion confit
Chocolate Lava Milkshake
Lobster Lettuce Wraps with bacon, onion strings, radish jicama slaw and soy lime aioli
Short Rib Empanadas with roasted poblano sauce