On Thursday Campanile general manager Johann Drolshagen issued a statement explaining the restaurant's new anti-DineLA Restaurant Week menu, which offers diners multi-course dinners and lunches for just $35 at chef Mark Peel's iconic Los Angeles restaurant.
Campanile's website features the DineLA logo in a crossed-out red circle, and the restaurant has posted a statement on its Facebook page and issued a news release that reads in part:
We are not opposed to dineLA, but over time dineLA and its sponsors [OpenTable, Amex, etc.] have begun taking more out of the restaurant community than it is contributing. The costs associated with participation have grown to the degree that it is prohibitive of any restaurant to deliver a true value to their customers. The only ones to benefit are the marketing companies and the sponsors. This is true with this promotion and the market as a whole.
The release concludes, "Finally, please do not let our final message be that dineLA is bad. That’s not the case; it’s not how we feel; and, it is not the message we want to send."
Other chefs have not been outspoken about the purported pitfalls of DineLA. Chef Mary Sue Milliken of Border Grill says the cost of participating in Restaurant Week is not prohibitive.
"The cost is really affordable for the kind of promotion and exposure that the program offers," Milliken says. "You can’t get a 1/20th page ad in the L.A. Weekly for the price it costs to be in dineLA."
She also says, "The people who run the program are deeply thoughtful and receptive to evolving it, and year after year I think it gets better. So I don’t feel like there’s any ... sitting back and watching the program take off and collecting their money — they are constantly working to tweak it and make it better."
Peel was not always so sour on dineLA and is shown in multiple pictures at kickoff events on DineLA's website, including at a 2010 cooking competition where, according to a news release, "Campanile and the Tar Pit executive chef/owner Mark Peel’s guinea hen dish was declared the winner against Ford’s Filling Station executive chef/owner Ben Ford and Water Grill executive chef David LeFevre in today’s kick‐off dineLA Restaurant Week Quickfire Challenge competition."
DineLA started in January 2008 with 140 participating restaurants and chef Neal Fraser on the advisory committee. At the opening-day press conference Fraser told The Times that he had been pushing for an event like this for years and that he hoped to see L.A. become a "destination city" for diners. That year, participating restaurants saw a 25% increase in business during dineLA, according to organizers.
In 2009 participation in DineLA grew from 143 to 172 restaurants. This year -- DineLA's 5th -- more than 300 restaurants are involved. Organizers say that last year's event set a record by attracting more than 35,000 diners to L.A. restaurants.
Happy National Lollipop Day!
Dinner Tonight! Yakitori!
Royal/T in Culver City closes.
-- Jessica Gelt
Photo: Chef Mark Peel during happier times with DineLA. Credit: DineLA