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Aug 11, 2008 09:50 AM

Bad Spice experience

The wife and I decided last minute to go to OLA Saturday night. We didn't have a reservation so understood when Maitre d said that we would only be able to eat at the bar. The tables in the bar area were preset for a dinner party later in the evening and the patio was empty. As we were looking at menus, a party of two was seated on the patio. Another manager then says of the patio couple , "They're just Spice, turn and burn them. Get them out quick."
My two problems with this:
1) If you don't want to offer a Spice menu, then don't. But if you do offer it, don't treat guests who take advantage of the promo like second class citizens. Restauranteurs should be responsible for all of their staff understanding why they have chosen to participate.
2) I don't want to hear this manager's negative attitude when I've chosen to come to his restaurant. We hadn't yet decided which menu we were going to order from.

With a bad taste in our mouth, we left. To his credit, the Maitre d did recognize that we were leaving without eating and asked if everything was okay.

We went to Escopazzo and had a great tasting menu with wine pairings, but that wasn't the best part of the meal: Seated right next to us was a young couple who ordered Spice menus with soft drinks. They received the same pleasant service as we did, with no attitude. Congrats Escopazzo!

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  1. That's awful. I can't stand to hear stories like this. :(

    1. Well I feel like a total dimwit, but what is a Spice Menu?

      2 Replies
      1. re: Manderley

        Manderley, maybe we attended the same public school... :-)

      2. The condescending attitude of participating restaurant owners toward the miami spice program first starts in their fobbing off cheap offerings like 1/2 chicken,chilean salmon,or churrasco as their miami spice offerings.When the spice program first started restaurants tried to impress new customers to be eventual steady customers.Sadly it has degenerated to the point where even though the restaurants "pay to play" about $1000 to participate,their waiters try to ignore offering the spice menu,and managers view these customers with the same attitude as they do early birds.I suggest replacing the miami spice offerings with a standard 35% off the price of their regular menus so people could actually taste the normal food served by that restaurant.Does anyone else feel like me?

        2 Replies
        1. re: travlnmike

          Yep, last year we went to Emeril's for their Miami Spice menu -- when we got there we sat down and the waiter brings us the normal menus and says nothing about Miami Spice being offered. We told him we wanted the Miami Spice menu, then he says he has to go ask if its still being offered.

          I think the 35% off normal items would be a good solution.

          1. re: travlnmike

            35% off might be a great idea for another reason. You could enjoy another couple of appetizers instead some of the usually unforgettable desserts that are being offered.

          2. I'm going to Talula this weekend, and I'm really excited!

            I went to Table 8 last year. The service was excellent. When we sat down they gave us the Miami Spice Menu and everyone around us was ordering it as well.

            But at Tantra, where I went for the Spice preview, we had to ask for the menus and the server looked very unhappy about that decision. She obviously perked up as soon as we ordered a nice bottle of wine. That made me a little peeved. I probably wouldn't go back there.

            I totally agree...if these places are going to have an attitude about it, they should not offer the menu at their restaurant at all. The whole point of this is to have a wonerful experience and to get you to come back.

            2 Replies
            1. re: butrfli1227

              Out of town for August and missing the whole Spice menu experience. The Spice promotion is for a restaurant to offer a user friendly menu and pricing to entice people to return for their regular menu once the promotion is over. I find that in the past the majority do a half-ass presentation, so when it is my first time to a place if I get that, I never return and wait for their obituary. That irks me as well when you have to beat it (the Spice menu) out of them before they offer it. Pacific Time on their last Spice menu outing went above and beyond and we left impressed.

              Can't wait to hear more rants and raves for my list of must do's from Spice!

              1. re: jmdhsmiami

                We had the spice menu at Pacific Time on Fri. night and at the Restaurant at the Setai last night. We were offered the spice menu at both places, and the service was gracious and professional in both restaurants. We ordered moderately-priced bottles of wine both nights. The food was really good at Pacific Time and great at the Setai. The Setail was a real value, based on the menu prices. Bourbon Steak is up next, and I'm hoping for equally gracious service and great food.

            2. I've found that the better the value that the Spice menu is, the least likely the restaurant is to offer it up. Places like Rosa Mexicano & Por Fin where the Spice menus offer negligible savings have no problem promoting the spice menu. However, at Capital Grille the other day, you did have to ask for the spice menu (which is a monster deal there, as just one of the featured steaks is worth more than the whole full-course Spice meal).

              However, after asking for the Spice menu at Capital Grille, we were still treated like royalty. So I don't judge a Spice restaurant on its ability to procure the menu. If you're a place like Capital Grille or Bourbon Steak you do NOT want a diner who is more than happy paying going prices to be talked down into paying less for more. It's there, like a locals discount or a secret speakeasy password or the In-N-Out off-menu.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Gabled

                I agree that any restaurant would rather have its guests order from the regular menu, but I don't think it's fair to "advertise" a Spice menu for two months and not present it to every diner or consider it a speakeasy password. Speakeasy passwords or treats from the kitchen are for regular customers. Promotions like Spice are meant to put butts in seats and make at least some money off the booze at a time of year when most places are dead all week. At the same time, I would rather order off of the regular menu in almost every case as the "signature dishes from renowned chefs" (according to the Spice website) are RARELY included on the Spice menus. I have admiration for the chefs who do try to replicate their non Spice dishes and not offer 4 or 5 ounces of salmon, chicken, or churrasco with a caesar salad and desserts they don't serve the rest of the year.

                1. re: Gabled

                  I think your perception is off - I don't think the "value" element plays into the attitude at all, I think some restaurants actually give a shit about pleasing their customers and others just want to make off with as much of their cash as possible. The OLA example which started this thread is a pretty obvious example of the latter and suggests that (at least there) the attitude comes from the top down. Meanwhile plenty of folks have described good experiences at other places such as Talula (where the average non-Spice ticket would be much higher than $35) or Pacific Time and several others. And then there's places like MGF&D who elected not to participate in Spice but are still offering fixed price menus and making their customers happy.

                  What I don't understand is why any restaurant would choose to participate (which, as someone noted above, now costs them money up front) and then crap on the customers that try to avail themselves of it.