It’s getting more and more expensive to dine out in DC—especially at the top-tier restaurants. Pineapple and Pearls chef/owner Aaron Silverman is increasing the cost of dining at his modern American tasting room from $280 to $325 per person in April 2018 (that’s including food, wine/cocktail pairings, tax, and tip). The price hike comes on the second anniversary of the Capitol Hill restaurant, which also raised prices last April from the opening $250 to $280.
Online ticketed reservations for the bar seating, which doesn’t include drink pairings, will also go up from $180 to $225.
Silverman says the decision was prompted by a desire to improve the quality of life for his staff, and the quality of the experience for diners. For patrons, he plans to add more “premium, rare, and unusual pairings,” and says the increase in cost will add more creative license to the kitchen.
“With our menu, we have operated under pricing constraints that have not always allowed us to be as creative and dynamic as we would like,” says Silverman. “We want to push the opportunities and be even more spontaneous with what we are serving.”
Another cost factor is a “small but impactful” redesign of the space. The biggest change will be that the reservation-only dining room and seasonal patio will shrink from 90 seats a night to around 70.
“Given the price of a ticket, we want to enhance the quality of time our patrons spend with us and want to make sure we can offer them the best experience possible,” says Silverman.
Silverman says a roomier environment will also mean more table-side preparations for dishes, as well as elbowroom for patrons. The outdoor patio will also be reconfigured for more of a lounge-like atmosphere for diners to eat and relax—though sadly, that also means the loss of separate patio reservations (one of the better-kept dining secrets in DC).
Silverman says a big driver for a price increase was also to benefit the staff, including forthcoming pay increases. In addition to health benefits and paid maternal/paternal leave, the restaurant recently brought on a human resources manager —an increasing role in restaurant groups amidst the wave of sexual harassment scandals—and plans to offer classes for employees on everything from self-defense to financial planning. Pineapple and Pearl’s staff has also increased in number across the board as the restaurant matured and gained national attention.
Even with the new $325 per person fee, Pineapple and Pearls isn’t the most expensive restaurant in Washington. Jose Andres’s Minibar also quietly raised prices this year for its (highly recommended yet optional) beverage pairing, to include more premium options. A recent ticketed reservation there with the $115 “experience pairing”—the least expensive alcoholic option—came to $507 per person with gratuity and tax.
Silverman says such decisions to increase costs aren’t easy, and acknowledges that there’s often a public backlash or misunderstanding.
“We want our customers to know that we do not take any decision lightly. Our guests’ trust is a privilege,” says Silverman. “We force ourselves to provide quality beyond ‘just spending more money’. At our opening price we believe we were able to provide a superb experience but had to be very creative in how and where we used ingredients and beverages. We believed that as time went on we may need to increase the price to allow the restaurant to fully realize itself. Not until our second year have we been able to formulate a long term plan for our future.”