AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: ERS (Empty Restaurant Syndrome) DATE: 6/13/2009 12:20:00 PM ----- BODY:
I recall learning about this in culinary school. Our instructors warned us of this problem – potential customers walk into your restaurant and see nary a soul dining. They think something must be wrong with the restaurant and walk out. No one wants to be the first customer of the evening. And when the first customer is seated, we were taught to seat them in the window so passers by don’t get the feeling of Empty Restaurant Syndrome (ERS).

In the past few weeks the local papers have been covering the closing of several restaurants. Most recently, Great Bay announced it’s shutting its doors. The last time I ate there, the cavernous room seemed eerily empty. Sure, there were other diners, but nowhere near a full house. And when I go to Open Table to peruse restaurants for an evening out, invariably they have the coveted 7:00p.m. table available.

I’ll be honest, ERS has prevented me from dining there more. When it first opened, they were packed. In the past 2 years (and not just when the economy soured), when I’ve consider dining there, I’m suspicious as to why a seemingly good restaurant is empty. And now it seems that a collection of people, just like me, stopped eating there for no other reason than other people weren’t either. We created a self-fulfilling prophecy and the restaurant is now closed.

My father, on the other hand, has reserve-ERS (Full Restaurant Syndrome??). He actually prefers the empty restaurants because they are quiet. As someone who is hard of hearing, he cherishes the quiet ambiance so he can enjoy the conversations with his dining companions.

Have you fallen prey to ERS?

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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger samaBlog DATE:6/13/2009 12:51:00 PM Great Bay was empty because is wasn't particularly great and was living off of the reputation of Radius. I ate there once. I liked it, but not enough to return. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Lori Lynn DATE:6/13/2009 03:33:00 PM Not really, but I do think that an empty restaurant is less fun (obviously has less energy) than a full one.

We recently ate at Le Cinq in Paris, could not have cared less if no one else was there, it was so fabulous, and the service impeccable.

If I ever open my own, it will have partitions or rooms so it always has energy when the guests are, whether there be a couple tables or a full house.

Good post.
LL ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Katie DATE:6/13/2009 03:48:00 PM Interesting observation! For me, it depends on my history with the restaurant. If I've been there many times and it's one of my favorites, I prefer for it to be empty when I'm there (but obviously I hope they're getting business at some point during the day). If I'm going somewhere for the first time, I'm definitely more willing to try it out if the place is full. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Penny DATE:6/13/2009 06:25:00 PM My husband I once shared lunch in the small front room at the old L'Espalier with one other table for three.

It turned out that both men were celebrating a birthday. We began chatting and it turned into a charming private party.

ERS has never stopped me. I treasure quiet places and seek them out. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger ChristyACB DATE:6/13/2009 08:53:00 PM I always like a partially empty restaurant and try for early reservations for that reason. When the kids were little it was to avoid embarassment when they decided it would be funny to burp or something, but as time went on I realized how much better the service was. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Anonymous DATE:6/14/2009 08:39:00 AM I believe it's more complicated that ERS. The opposite is Full Restaurant Syndrome. Do I want to go to Not Your Average Joe's just because it's full? Probably not. Just as I don't want to go to a full Chinese restaurant with narry a Chinese person eating dinner in sight. FRS and ERS and indicators. I've been to full restaurants and had an awful time with bad food and service, and empty restaurants with unbelievably good food and service. To me, it's the attitude of the place and the people that really matters, and how welcoming it is as well as the food and service. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Grace DATE:6/14/2009 02:57:00 PM you know what, i think i enjoy an empty restaurant more too--the waitstaff is more devoted to you and i can hear myself think! it's a sad situation though, and i'm sorry it's happening. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Melissa DATE:6/17/2009 06:31:00 PM I haven't fallen prey to ERS because I prefer when it's right in the middle, or leaning toward being emptier. Restaurants that are packed are too much for me to handle usually, energy-wise.

Interesting take though. Very true, that ERS, and something I hadn't thought about much before. ----- --------