Friday, July 02, 2010

Just wondering: A question about the Roof Top Bar & Bistro for Sundance Madison

The question is not about the Negroni, the recipe for which the bartender had to Google on his iPhone. That was kinda cute -- miracle of the internet and all that. And it isn't about our OK but bland Caesar salads. We didn't go there for the ultimate gourmet experience, but to enjoy the sun, a drink and a light dinner before the show. Nothing wrong with that.

The question relates to something Raphael Kadushin also encountered and commented on in his Isthmus review this week.
Unfortunately, no one apparently was prepared for a sunny evening and a full house hoping to finish dinner before the early show of Sex and the City 2. A lot of them never made it. Most of the tables surrounding us on that first visit were waiting more than an hour for any plates of food at all, quite a few of them were vocally complaining, and the group of women seated next to us had to settle for their dinners packed in plastic carry-out containers.
By the time we went there recently, the service time had improved. Since we were at the bar tables, we had to order from the bar -- but it still took about half an hour from the time we got our drinks to the arrival of our salads. Our glasses had been drained, and we were starting to count the minutes until showtime instead of leisurely admiring the view of Hilldale Shopping Center cars, pedestrians and rooftops, as we had planned. My question is, why?

Sundance recently brought in Mark Shoup, the executive chef for Robert Redford's Zoom, Foundry Grill and Tree Room restaurants, to revamp the menu.
We're thrilled to bring A Taste of Sundance to the Sundance Cinemas in Madison open now, lasting until Labor Day. Mark Shoup, the Executive Chef for Robert Redford's Zoom, Foundry Grill and Tree Room restaurants has designed a special menu gleaned from all the restaurants. All summer our patrons will get a wonderful hint of what it would be like to visit and eat at the Sundance Resort in Utah.
That's all fine and dandy, but again, my question for Sundance is, why? I don't really want a "wonderful hint of what it would be be like to visit and eat at the Sundance Resort in Utah." The rooftops of Hilldale aren't the mountains of Utah -- or even the shores of Lake Mendota. The Roof Top Bar & Bistro is not your ultimate fine dining or scenic destination.

I'm going to a movie in a shopping center, for chrissake. At a theater that offers a premium movie-going experience at a premium price. If you're redesigning the menu, why not design it with that in mind? You know patrons don't have a lot of time. If they had more time, they'd be eating earlier and elsewhere. So wouldn't it make sense to design your menu and your operation for speedy and efficient service? What is it about "moviegoer" that you don't understand? Just wondering


Dave Wilcox said...

You make a great point. This should be a restaurant in tune with their overall operation, not a hindrance to it. We tried it once before and once after a movie. Both times, the service was really slow and inattentive, and the food was comparable to many other places.

As it is, I see the Sundance Theatres slipping in terms of the premium movie-going experience goal. Last few visits the staff seemed kind of surly and sloppy. As they move more to mainstream film presentations, they had better be mindful of maintaining their point of difference, especially for the premium price.

It's still our first choice for seeing movies, and we drive 30 mile to do so. But they sure could be doing better... like when they first opened.

Anonymous said...

Ditto. Had a couple of bad experiences there a couple of years ago. We go for the movies now, buy a tea, pop or beer and that's it. I don't get it. What's so hard about offering a few decent items? Soup, sandwich, salad, pie, thanks very much. In season ingredients, limited menu, veggie option, that's it. Keep it simple, stupid.

(But don't get me started. UW can't figure out how to offer yogurt that doesn't taste like a science project gone horribly wrong, either. Dairy State, what Dairy State? Local, what local? )

The Near West Side should be ashamed. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a grocery store or a farmer's market at University and Midvale, but the restaurants are an embarrassment.