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Choice Dining Time Surcharges Likely Coming To New York City Restaurants

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- The next time you go out to eat, you may end up paying more at your favorite restaurant.

But it's not about what you're eating, it's about when. Soon, it could cost more just to be seated during high demand times.

But will a higher check leave customers hungry for more?

When it comes to getting dinner reservations at one of New York City's 24,000 restaurants, there are no guarantees. And now eating when you want could end up costing you more, CBS 2's Kristine Johnson reported Tuesday.

"I would pay more because Saturday night is a night out," said Michel Parempe of Manhattan.

For most restaurants, prime time usually means dining between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. And it's those customers who might soon see a surcharge on their bill.

"The restaurant business is a new frontier for this and it's more is the guest willing to pay to go to a prime restaurant at prime time and pay more?" said Stephen Zagor of the Institute for Culinary Education.

"If they gave me more food and the food tasted better than it did on a Monday or a Tuesday, maybe," Westchester County resident Chris Nordland said.

"It makes no sense to pay more for food to eat in a crowded restaurant," James Roditi added.

A customer paying extra for something special is not a new idea.

"People were slipping the $20 or $100 bill in the hand off the maître d'," said Carlo Mantica, CEO of the Maccione Group.

But at the famed Le Cirque restaurant, there is talk of formalizing a prime time price increase.

"We're definitely still in the planning stage. It's something very new," a restaurant employee said.

Then there's "21," another iconic New York restaurant. It seems to have a different plan.

"The reverse is true. Restaurants are willing to charge less during so-called 'need' periods," general manager Bryan McGuire said.

In the Flatiron District, Bocca chef James Corona said if there was a demand, he would raise prices across the board, not just for specific times.

"I think it's good for the business, you know? You're basically appealing to everybody," Bocca said.

"You can't really fault the restaurant person for thinking there's a way that I can make a little bit more money on something that I hadn't thought about before," Zagor said.

For diners still looking for bargains, there are still some early bird specials being offered.

Would you pay the surcharge to eat during prime hours on a Saturday night at a top restaurant? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below ...

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