Restaurant puts its faith in the milk of human kindness


A RESTAURANT owner is praying a spur-of-the-moment decision to tear up his price lists for the rest of the month and allow his customers to pay what they think their meals are worth wont end up costing him dearly.

Gavin Gleeson of the Vanilla Pod in Killarney has taken the unusual step in an effort beat the economic downturn and drum up some business for the restaurant he opened six months ago.

Mr Gleeson is following in the footsteps of the Little Bay restaurant in central London which announced a similar move earlier this week. He was stirred into action after hearing an item on the Little Bay move on Today FMs Ray Darcy Showyesterday morning.

The presenter wondered aloud if any Irish restaurants would take such a bold step and what the consequences for their takings would be. “I felt that when it was being discussed on the radio yesterday morning people were not showing a lot of faith in the Irish public,” Mr Gleeson told The Irish Times.

“People are so aware of food now that when they get a good product they are happy to pay for it. I don’t anticipate people doing the dog on it.”

He trained in Dromoland Castle and worked in London under Richard Corrigan and in Dublin under Kevin Thornton before becoming the executive chef in the five-star Aghadoe Heights Hotel in Killarney where he worked for more than three years. Last autumn he left behind “a huge salary” to set up on his own despite the fact that the downturn was looming so large.

In London, Little Bay’s owner Peter Ilic said that in the first days of his promotion customers were paying 20 per cent more than the original price and he expressed confidence that he would more than cover his expenses. “People want to be polite and would be embarrassed not to pay enough,” he said.

Yesterday was the first day the scheme was in place in the Vanilla Pod and Mr Gleeson says that the majority of the somewhat confused diners were asking how much the bill would have been had there been one and then paying close to that amount. “I think that someone would want to have a lot of gall not to pay anything for one of our meals but I think that Irish people are better than that.”

While he decided to stop doing evening meals this month because business was slow, he is opening on Valentines Day when the four course meal would have been €35 including a glass of champagne.