Next Restaurant offers off-peak pricingTrains, airlines and theaters do it, why not restaurants? Off-peak pricing is coming to Next Restaurant in Chicago, which is scheduled to open in the fall. The price of a meal -- which will be five to six courses and include food, beverage pairings and service -- will depend on what type of seating a diner wants to buy. As the Next website puts it, a Saturday table at 8 p.m. will be more expensive than Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.

"This will allow us to offer an amazing experience at a very reasonable price," according to the website. "We will also offer an annual subscription to all four menus at a discount with preferred seating."

A meal will be $40 to $75 for the entire prix fixe menu, and wine and beverage pairings will begin at a $25 supplement. So let's assume an average patron buys the cheapest beverages, making a meal cost $100 on a Saturday night versus $65 on a late Wednesday night. That's at least a $35 savings on a weeknight out. Is it worth it to make all of the necessary arrangements to spend a weeknight out?

And I'm just going off Next's pricing sample on its website. A Next representative declined to be interviewed for this story.

The restaurant will be selling tickets for meals in advance on its website, making a night at Next seem like a night out at the theater or movies, or like buying a plane ticket. It's an interesting idea that will make dining out more like an event to be planned months in advance. But again, is it worth saving $35 per person to go on a weeknight versus a Saturday night? It depends on your schedule.

For example, I want to take my family to see the play "Peter Pan" in San Francisco, and the off-peak pricing is appealing. A peak adult ticket for a Friday evening or Saturday show is $85, versus $70 for the best seat at an off-peak show, such as a Wednesday matinee. That's a savings of $15 per person, and children 12 and under are $50 for off-peak shows. So my family of three would save $60 by going on a Wednesday instead of a peak show on a Saturday night, for example.

But factor in that my wife would have to take a Wednesday night off work, and $60 in savings is quickly gone to lost wages.

A Saturday night out, as it is for most people, is easier to do with work and school schedules. At least Next Restaurant isn't basing the price on the weather, and charging more for eating on a sunny day and less on a rainy night. That's what some sports teams are doing, making a once affordable pastime less so.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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