Still, I was thoroughly surprised by the restaurant's marketing of their food and their dining room -- and not surprised in a good way.
Prior to grinding my way through rush-hour traffic to get there for dinner, one of my colleagues had told me that we'd be seated at the "Chef's Table". Now, being someone who enjoys my share of food and restaurant experiences, I must say that the idea of being at the Chef's Table had me hopefully optimistic. Perhaps this would be one of those enjoyably unique experiences that would walk back my previous brunch experiences. Imagine my surprise to see some of my colleagues sitting at a large table by the front window of the restaurant as I walked up.
I wasn't the only one. A couple of others asked the waiter about the "Chef's Table" and he said, "oh, that's just what we call this."
As I posted on Twitter last night, I suspected that they had switched tables on us for some reason (perhaps group size), but when I spoke with my wife about it, she said that she knew about LB Steak's "Chef's Table". So I looked it up this morning. Here's the link to LB Steak's private dining page. Further, on the PDF of their private dining menu (page 3), you'll find a description and picture of their "Chef's Table".
Of course, as I mentioned on Twitter last night, I don't think that the common perception of "Chef's Table" is "Big Table in the dining room by the front window and door". So I went looking for a definition of "Chef's Table". Here's what's on the Wikipedia page for restaurant:
A chef's table is a table located in the kitchen of a restaurant, reserved for VIPs and special guests. Patrons may be served a themed tasting menu prepared and served by the head chef. Restaurants can require a minimum party and charge a higher flat fee. Because of the demand on the kitchen's facilities, chef's tables are generally only available during off-peak times.Note: the emphasis added is mine.
Clearly, LB Steak intends to set an expectation with the "Chef's Table" designation. It's an obvious attempt at priming (psychology) the customer's perception with a perception of exclusivity. For me, that core misrepresentation ate at me more throughout the evening than I ate at the food.
Being Sold on the Prime Rib Eye
In another round of adventures in labels versus products, the waiter sold a significant portion of the table on the 12oz Prime Rib Eye. He made some explanation about it, but mostly emphasized about how tender it was. Perhaps you are wondering what a Prime Rib Eye is?
- Expectation-wise, you might think it was Prime Rib...
- Or maybe you might expect that it's a big thick Rib Eye steak.
The LB Steak menu lists this "35 Day Dry Aged Prime 12 oz Boneless Ribeye" at $52. I suspect that if I went to Costco right now, I could get a three-pack of prime Ribeye steaks for about the same price, any one of which would have delivered a product closer to what I would expect a business that features "steak" in it's name to be able to produce.
So the question that you might ask is, are these misrepresentations by the business puffery? Merriam Webster has the definition of puffery as, "exaggerated commendation especially for promotional purposes : hype". Wikipedia goes further.
In everyday language, puffery refers to exaggerated or false praise. In law, puffery is a promotional statement or claim that expresses subjective rather than objective views, which no "reasonable person" would take literally. Puffery serves to "puff up" an exaggerated image of what is being described and is especially featured in testimonials.There's also this great link from the puffery page to restaurant menu writing style. In short, it's not unusual to attempt to inflate the description of dishes or make them sound more exotic. In one sense, you could say that that is what LB Steak is doing.
At the same time, while a "tenderloin of pork avec compôte de Pommes" may be "a pork chop with a dollop of applesauce," most people would probably be unhappy to be served some thin slices of lunch-meat-cut ham with some applesauce under the guise of a "tenderloin of pork".
This is the problem with their "Chef's Table" nomenclature. They could name it anything -- the Silicon Valley table, the Grand Table, anything -- without creating the false expectation of a "Chef's Table". Rather than elevating the dining experience, I think it undercuts the restaurant's credibility with the customer. I think that this is a clear-cut case of marketing quackery.