Restaurant tries unusual recipe to boost business

Restaurant tries unusual recipe to boost business »Play Video
EDMONDS, Wash. -- The roller-coaster economy has restaurant on the lookout for a new business recipe. But one idea might top them all: pay what you can afford.

"It's been tough since the beginning of the year," said Brian Petoletti, owner of Shell Creek Grill.

And the rocky economy in past month has only made the restaurant business even tougher. Customers who used to dine out once or twice a week at a certain eatery are now returning once every two months.

So Petoletti and his wife decided to make a drastic move to start filling the tables.

"So we said to ourselves, 'Let's start at crazy and work backwards.' And as we drove home, we thought, 'what if we didn't charge any prices? What if people just paid what they could afford?'"

And so they tossed out set prices for all food items on the menu, including the scallops that used to go for $25.50 and the sizzling full rack of lamb previously priced at $32.

Petoletti says the risky gambit is working, and no one seems to be abusing the generous offer. Some customers, however, remain skeptical.

"You're still a little uncertain what to pay and what the whole premise is," said Laura Karas.

Also eager for business is The Loft Restaurant and Bar. It opened just two months ago and became the new "it" spot in downtown Edmonds.

With consumers cutting back, but the owners say they're hanging on.

"I think it makes everybody nervous. Sometimes I'm very nervous. But you do what you have to do," said Niko Raptis.

And that sometimes means thinking outside the box during trying times to get people spending again.

"Fear has a way of paralyzing people, and this is our way of breaking through that fear and saying, 'you can come out and enjoy yourself and you don't have to be afraid of spending a little money with us. We're appreciative if you do," said Petoletti.