Saturday, December 15, 2007

Compete or Cooperate?

One of my favorite restaurants in New York, if not THE favorite, is Pearl Oyster Bar. The lobster roll there would probably be what I'd ask for if I had to request a last meal before dying. A lot of other people feel the same way, so it's a very popular restaurant. There is always a line outside the door before they open at 6pm, and since they don't take reservations, chances are you'll have to wait a while before getting a table.
Across the street from Pearl, there is another restaurant called the Cornelia Street Cafe. You'd think they would be considered the competition, right? But no... the two restaurants actually manage to do each other a lot of good. When people are waiting for a table at Pearl, the hostess says they can go and have a drink at Cornelia while they are waiting, and that she'll come and get them when their table is ready. Meanwhile, at Cornelia, if the bar is full, they'll seat you at a table for just drinks if they know you're waiting for Pearl. And lest you should worry that you won't have time to finish a drink or two, they tell you that you can take your unfinished drink with you over to Pearl, who will know to return the glasses. (Never mind that walking across the street with a drink is actually illegal in New York!)
Anyway, I just love this little arrangement. Everyone's happy, and everyone makes money. Well, the restaurant owners are making it, while the happy drinkers and diners are spending it! The tab for 4 people: $40 for drinks at Cornelia, and about $225 for dinner at Pearl. But the taste of that lobster roll, of course, is priceless.


Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I think it is brilliant -- especially because Conellia probably gets return customers who are looking for something other than the Pearl, but wouldn't have even found them otherwise.

Also, it is quite possible that they are owned by the same people. In Omaha there are two restaurants who are on different sides of the same block (not street --their back doors are at right angles) -- they seem like they are in competition until an insider tells you that they are owned by the same person and share kitchen facilities.

Noel Larson said...

One of the key reasons that people love Ney York is the too!

One of my favorite restaurants is there Del Frisco's. We try to eat there when attending trade shows. Expense, but very cool. And for an expensive place, really nice staff.

Anonymous said...

Very nicely symbiotic. It sounds like they're both getting a lot from it. I'm sure the host/esses appreciate not having to deal with stressed customers in the lobby. I know that even when I'm in a good mood, waiting for a while puts me on edge. I imagine it's the same for most people.

Anonymous said...

I can see you're partial to Pearl, but I would strongly recommend the brunch at Cornelia's. The farmer's breakfast is fabulous, and for a very reasonable $15 a head you get a drink, pastry, coffee, and a meal.