What was interesting about this wrinkle was that Dave Berns, the host, quizzed the fellow about the cause. (Hear it here.) Stratosphere was bought about a year ago by Goldman Sachs, the troubled NYC investment house. Berns asked James if weaker business or the banking industry mess caused the cutbacks. James doesn't know, but his responses were interesting:
James said management said they'd get more hours if business increased. He's clearly distraught:
This situation raises some interesting questions about the impact of the recession in this particular arena. It's strange that the Goldman Sachs folks jacked up the prices at Top of the World when they did; it reminds us once again what bad business decisions know-it-alls in New York make when they don't understand the Vegas market. (Yes, that means you, Elad.) Goldman Sachs has maimed the only golden goose they acquired in the transaction and who gets to suffer? James and his colleagues.
But, beyond that, restaurateurs are in an especially awkward position in this environment. Hotel rooms and show tickets can be discounted, but by and large there's no such thing as getting a 20 percent off coupon at Picasso or the Eiffel Tower Restaurant. And it is almost impossible to DROP prices on the menus, partly because the cost of ingredients and labor usually does justify the current food prices. (They make the big bucks not on the $150 prix fixe meal but on the 2,000% markups on alcohol, as I understand it.)
What's more, even if a restaurant did lower its prices, how would they tell anyone? Can you see Guy Savoy running coupons in What's On or Aureole taking an ad out in the R-J to announce such a thing? Once a restaurant has a reputation for its price point, it seems impossible -- and, long-term unwise -- to alter that perception.
No, the only realistic way for restaurants to cut costs is to dismiss some of its staff and, perhaps, close sections of its dining area. Hence, James and his colleagues are screwed.
That said, there is one other way. Caesars food headliner Bradley Ogden was on KNPR's State of Nevada last May with a shocking admission: He's taking the same money for smaller portions at some of his restaurants, although he seemed to avoid saying he does at at Caesars. "Rather than serving a 12 oz steak, you serve a 10 oz steak," Ogden says within the first four minutes of that show, linked to above. "For the same price?" Berns asks. "Yes, for the same price."
That strikes me as cheating. On the other hand, I'm not sure which is worse, people with money getting a little bit less food or working-class people losing their jobs. Sucks any way you, uh, slice it.