Times Square, you might have heard, is a fairly popular destination for revelers on New Year's Eve. However, there are some people who want to see the action or at least be sort of near it without having to stand for hours on end in the cold among a jampacked, drunk crowd without access to a bathroom.
And some of those people have money to blow, which is why the already overpriced chain eateries of Times Square are apparently able to charge hundreds of dollars per head for their countdown parties. As the New York Post reported Monday, the Olive Garden's shindig will cost $400 a person, even though the establishment only has a "limited view" of the ball drop (also, apparently no breadsticks will be served). Ruby Tuesday is asking $1,699 for a “VIP Couple's Table,” though tickets go for as little as $349 (also, no view). There are also cheaper options geared to tourists (tickets for dinner at Guy Fieri's restaurant start at $99), but the bottom line is that there are always going to be price insensitive out-of-towners in the city for big events like New Year's Eve who don't necessarily know the ins-and-outs of local nightlife, and there will be large, national chains happy to cater to them.
However, there's one restaurant that I think is pretty obviously, um, dropping the ball on its pricing strategy. That would be Bubba Gump Shrimp, which at $799 a pop is already one of the most expensive options for the night, presumably because it has one of the best views of the festivities. Eater New York says it's "ridiculously priced," but if anything, it seems to me that the restaurant is leaving money on the table and should be charging more. According to the Bubba Gump website, spots for the night are already sold out. And, though its parent company hasn't gotten back to me to confirm this bit, according to at least one TripAdvisor reviewer, tickets have been sold through a lottery in past years, suggesting demand way outstrips the fixed supply of space in the restaurant. When that happens, a rational economic actor is supposed to raise prices until supply and demand meet. [Update, Dec. 29: Bubba Gump Shrimp confirmed that its New Year's Eve tickets sold out in five days and that it uses a lottery to distribute them.]
In conclusion, if you're paying $800 to hang out at Bubba Gump Shrimp on New Year's, you're probably getting a bargain. Enjoy.