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The "Check, Please" Effect
May 20, 2004 | 8 Comments

The June '04 issue of Chicago Magazine has a one-page piece about how publicity from the WTTW show "Check, Please" has negatively effected different small eateries. They cite bursts of overcrowding, wait staffs that are stretched too thin, declining food quality, etc.

The story is really just a list, and it's not particularly insightful, but it does raise an interesting issue: Are we ruining our own dining experiences restaurants by publicizing them? Every restaurant critic, journalist, and food-lover wrestles with this issue. Do I tell my friends about the great little place where the food is great, the prices low, and I can always get a table? What if they tell two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on....??

EatChicago contends that it is our duty to tell other food-lovers about the places we love. Damn the consequences.

First, it is our duty to the restaurant proprietor. They did not open their doors to serve to a half-empty restaurant and teeter on the edge of survival. Their livelihoods depend on word-of-mouth publicity. Hema, of Hema's Kitchen, a Devon Ave. Indian institution, has doubled the size of her place since her Check, Please publicity, and she is now opening a Lincoln Park location. Ask her if she's angry about being on Check, Please.

Secondly, it is our duty to other food-lovers. It is downright selfish to hide something from someone if you know they'll love it. Share the wealth, there's plenty to go around. For every Hema's Kitchen that we're talking about, there are two others waiting to be discovered, and two more opening next month.

Finally, it is our duty to our community. If we aren't proud of the vast and diverse dining experience that our city has to offer, we risk losing it. If you stop telling your friends about that great little family-run place on the corner, your friends will stop considering those kind of places as an option, and our city will lose a tiny bit of the diversity that makes it great. Publicity might me a short term loss for your stomach, but it's a net gain for the city. Hema's story should make you feel proud to be a Chicagoan.

Granted, I am a little upset when I see a place like Friendship Chinese crowded, but I also feel a little bit proud that I live in a place where it's possible to open your kitchen and watch people line up.

EatChicago wants to know what you think. Leave a comment, or email us.

Posted 08:41 AM
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