An Open Letter on the Eve of Miami Spice

by Ryan @ MRPR on July 29, 2010

Dear Restaurateur:

I’ve just received an advance copy of your horoscope from Sunday’s Miami Herald (Victoria Pesce Elliott sent it to me in exchange for me no longer stealing her mail) and I wanted to share it with you.  It reads:

“You are about to squander a great opportunity.”

As I’m sure you are already aware, Miami Spice begins this Sunday, August 1st.  You may be under the impression that Miami Spice is a promotion meant to attract locals during Miami’s “off-season.”  But you’d be mistaken.  Miami Spice is actually an elaborate test, and you are the subjects.  Like most tests, you can either pass or fail (or you can sleep through it).

There is a surefire way to fail this test: You’ve ordered extra sides of salmon, chicken breasts, and churrasco.  Your walk-in has all of the variety of first class on a trans-continental flight circa 1992.  And you’ve crafted a menu that, in each of its various iterations, costs no more than $34.99 to produce.   You get an ‘F.’

The test can be aced by highlighting your signature dishes, and by a willingness to operate at a loss if it means putting your best foot forward.  Come October 1st, you’ll have loyal, regular-price-paying customers touting your restaurant to friends, family, visitors, passers-by, etc.  That leaves you ten months of the year to charge whatever you want (unless you now participate in “Autumn Spice,” “Winter Spice,” “Spring Spice,” and “Sporty Spice”).

Short Order has done a masterful job of scouring the menus for winners and losers.  Click here for the final entry in their five-part series (with links to the other four posts at the top of this last post).

It used to be easy to figure out which restaurants to visit and which to avoid.  See that one with the food sitting out front in the summer heat, steaming under Saran Wrap?  And with the hostess out front trying to sell you a used car with Armorall coating?  Say no to her politely, then forcefully, and then grab the Saran-wrapped lobster, slap her with it, and run.

Ever since the City of Miami Beach banned the outside food displays for “health reasons” it has become ever more difficult to figure out which restaurants are simply posers.  But like I said, Miami Spice is a test.  And it’s not too late for those restaurants called out by Short Order to revamp their menus.  The best deal for both the diners and the restaurants is if each participant decides to treat Miami Spice like an opportunity, rather than just a begrudging alternative during the summer months.

Do that and the Miami Herald will print a correction for Sunday’s horoscope.  It’ll read:

“You have made the most of a great opportunity.  And you won’t get slapped with a Saran-wrapped lobster.”

Sincerely,

MRPR

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