For much of their profit, restaurants rely on the infrequent whale customer.
You know the kid of person I am talking about.
Sometime they are alone, but more often than not they are entertaining customers with a corporate credit card.
With 20 or 30 people at the table, the four drinks a piece that they order adds up quickly.
Of course, I think most businesses find the majority of their profits with a minority of their customers.
I have only seen one a time or two, but a $5,000 dinner bill is a sight to see.
What a lot of people won’t tell you is that, for many full-service fine-dining restaurants (the kind with elaborate service, freshly changed floral arrangements, “chef’s tables,” and a private dining room), the prevailing business model before the crash was the reliance on the “whale customer,” the regular patronage of the kind of customers who’d spend a few hundred dollars on a meal—and ten thousand (or more) on wine. The percentages on wine are generally excellent—and it requires relatively little in the way of labor or equipment. The margin on food, however, is razor-thin in the best of times—even when the prices on the menu appear to be outrageously expensive. The best ingredients cost a LOT of money. The quality and sheer number of personnel needed to handle those ingredients also require a lot of money. And by the time those ingredients are trimmed down, cooked off, sauced, garnished, and accompanied by the kind of bread, butter, and service one would expect them to keep company with—there’s not a lot of profit left over.