See how this Cantonese destination creates an in-demand dining experience and predictable revenue
Type of restaurant
of guests found the experience on OpenTable
No-show rate from guests
who booked through OpenTable
The Empress by Boon, a Cantonese destination in San Francisco, opened its doors in June 2021 after a delay due to the pandemic. James Minch, general manager, and his team were eager to ensure the opening went off without a hitch. To achieve the right balance of operational and hospitality success, they opened the restaurant with a 3-course prix fixe menu experience featuring seven dishes.
Before opening, the media and industry were abuzz about The Empress by Boon. The prime location, formerly Empress of China in Chinatown, and Chef Ho’s reputation from Hakkasan Group both contributed to the pre-opening hype. To get word out about The Empress by Boon, they hosted multiple preview events for the media, friends, and family at the restaurant, as well as a grand opening VIP reception.
“We were fortunate to have a lot of eyes on us, and wanted to control the guest experience and reservation availability for a good debut, else we would be overwhelmed,” Minch says. The answer for Minch and his team was a prix fixe menu experience on OpenTable.
Featuring their prix fixe menu as an experience on OpenTable tells the diner it’s a special meal and sets accurate expectations so there aren’t surprises. It also attracts new types of guests, beyond those celebrating special occasions. “We want to bring in the foodies, regular everyday diners, and of course we love people who want to celebrate a birthday or anniversary.”
Many restaurants turn to the added security and predictability of charging guests for their experience upfront; however Minch has found that simply offering a set menu experience is a helpful tool to forecast revenue.
The prix fixe menu experience allows Minch to control their staffing and sourcing of ingredients because they know the exact shifts and covers. With seven menu items, it’s easier to staff the restaurant, as opposed to having an a la carte menu with 30 items, says Minch. They currently have 45 staff members, and would need a handful more for a la carte. And the prix fixe menu plays well with Chef Ho’s farm-to-table approach to using seasonal produce, as he’s able to rotate in local ingredients from their farm in Gilroy.
“The value of Experiences is two-fold for us,” Minch says. “People get to fully enjoy the restaurant and our chef and they leave happy. And we bring in revenue—and know what we’re going to bring in each night.”
With Experiences, Minch can estimate the revenue and have accurate forecasting that wouldn’t be possible with an a la carte menu.
Minch says he intends to continue the prix fixe menu experience indefinitely, and may consider offering additional experiences if the labor pool opens up. As people return to the Financial District, The Empress by Boon will offer lunch service, in addition to partnering with the neighboring tea company for a tea tasting and dim sum experience. They’re looking forward to creating buzzworthy events that bring the community together, while exposing more people to the true essence of the restaurant.
James Minch, General Manager
The Empress by Boon
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