Friday, September 25, 2009

The Record turns its back on frugal dining

Eating Out on $50 once was a popular monthly restaurant feature in The Record of Hackensack, because it focused on places where four people could eat well for that amount, including tax and tip. I wrote more than a dozen of those reviews in 2005-06, when I was employed there, and the newspaper paid for the meals.

But this year, in a bid to save money, the reviewer only writes about restaurants where two people can eat for $50. How did the change save money? The reviewer, a former reporter by the name of Jeff Page, was having an increasingly difficult time finding restaurants that could feed four for $50. So the editors, rather than boosting the amount Jeff is reimbursed for a meal to $60 or $70, kept it at $50, but knocked off two diners.

Do we really need The Record's help in finding restaurants that can feed two people for $50? They are a dime a dozen. Today's Eating Out on $50 review is of La Batalla in Bergenfield, a Mexican restaurant where the food sounds pretty unexciting, the usual Americanized mix of loads of melted cheese and tame spicing.

When The Record started the $50 restaurant reviews, it appeared the main goal was service to readers. But the food editor at the time dissuaded me of that notion, explaining the newspaper's prime motive was to cut the cost of buying restaurant meals for its reviewers. Nothing seems to have changed much.


  1. You would think that in these days and times The Record would find a frugal dining column very useful to its readers. They should also incorporate value for the dollar into the editorial. Instead they are shamelessly promoting Bobby Flays Burger Hut

  2. Every day, The Record is worrying more about money and less about journalism. Many of its most experienced employees have left the paper on their own or have been forced out, and local news coverage is suffering as The Record pursues big journalism prizes. The promotional coverage of Bobby Flay and restaurants in general is probably driven by the advertising department. By the way, Flay has the nerve to call his restaurant a hamburger "palace." Just last week, the paper's restaurant reviewer wrote a Sunday column about restaurants re-thinking their wine selections. The column is called the Corner Table and presumably is supposed to be written from the point of view of the restaurant-goer, not the restaurant owner. She could have written a column about the outrageous prices some restaurants charge for wine by the glass or bottle, but that might endanger advertising contracts.

  3. I have noticed the level of local news diminish vastly in the past year at the Record. With respect to restaurants, visiting a few to discuss a mid-day lunch for my son's Christening really left a bad taste in my mouth with respect to the outrageous prices that still exist in this economy.

  4. Yes. Local news is no longer a priority of The Record, which earned its reputation as a local newspaper. Perhaps The Record thinks it can leave local news to the weekly papers, a bunch of which it purchased several years ago. In fact, the weekly Hackensack paper is delivered with The Record on Fridays! About restaurants, they all belly-ache about how bad business is, but do little in terms of adjusting prices to attract customers. I don't see discounts or two meals for the price of one promotions that are much different than before the recession. And only a few places have lowered the ridiculous prices they charge for wine, which is why I usually go only to BYOs.


Please try to stay on topic.