The ubiquitous Restaurant Week that's, in fact, at least two weeks everywhere participating and, yes, even a month some places... is starting up here again on the 15th... and has it's fair share of critics (I'm not quite so down on it). But apparently Tim Zagat... yes that Zagat... was one of the originators of the concept in New York City and has this to say about why, in many cities and towns, it's being even more expanded this year:
There's little doubt that many restaurants are struggling in the aftermath of the recession. We know from surveying hundreds of thousands of customers that they are eating out less and generally being far more price-sensitive in choosing where and what to eat. They're also cutting back on things like appetizers, desserts, and alcohol: those fancy bottles of wine sold at juicy markups are largely things of the past. All this amounts to an erosion of revenues and profits.So yeah, people do it to save money at fancy restaurants... but then end up spending a bunch more anyway, because they don't factor in the wine etc. This, of course, is the primary argument against it... besides the crowds and difficulty getting a table. It's not that great of a deal, especially if you're not a dessert person, if'you're not careful. I still think it can be, if you do your homework, but it is worth mentioning the obvious: restaurants aren't doing this to save you money.
On the other hand, bargain prix fixe menus are always a lure for customers, especially now. They mean you can walk in and out of a restaurant with dignity, at a price that you know in advance is acceptable. Of course, once in the door, patrons very often go à la carte, add an extra dessert, or celebrate by buying wine with their meal. The amount actually spent is thus usually far more than the prix fixe price, especially since drinks, coffee, and tip are all extra.