April 18, 2008
Expanding, Not Contracting

Monica Deconinck, who with her husband Marc runs the fine French restaurant Le Bilig in Auburn, has weighed in on a Washington Port article for which a link was posted here earlier this week.

The story tells how restaurateurs are coping with rising operating costs just as diners are cutting back on their own expenses during these tremulous economic times. A common maneuver among restaurateurs, the article notes, is to reduce portion sizes.

The Deconincks will have none of that. "We have never measured or weighed ingredients, and although it may be a poor business practice, it is not in our mentality to 'calculate' how much of something will go into a dish to make it financially rewarding. Cooking is and always will be about generosity for us," says Monica Deconinck in an email.

In acknowledging that restaurateurs are facing more challenges in trying to stay afloat financially, the Deconincks are taking approaches other than reducing portion sizes, raising prices and the like. They've expanded their hours, started to open on Tuesdays, introduced a fixed price ($22) dinner Tuesday through Thursday, more aggressively marketed their catering and takeout, and stepped up their slate of cooking classes and entertainment. Monica Deconinck long has taught Saturday morning cooking classes for children, while Marc Deconinck now is teaching "men only" and "bistro classics" cooking classes a few times each month. Their entertainment schedule includes a Spanish flamenco night May 16, with guitar music, student dancers, tapas and wine.

"No change in quality or quantity. We're just working more hours and being more available for our customers. (And never stopping to calculate our hourly wage!)," she concludes.

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