Posted September 10, 2014
By GABRIELLA CANAL
With humidity steadily rising and everyone going back to school, Miami Spice Week has come back just in time to feed your desire to get out to eat.
This promotion created to showcase only the best of Miami’s cuisine is, in fact, not just one week long. With offers running until Sept. 30, The Greater Miami Convention and Visitor Bureau (GMCVB) has organized 175 restaurants in the Miami district to price-set their menus. Each of the restaurants participating in Miami Spice will include their own signature appetizer, entrée and dessert, offering an average discount of 40-50 percent off the regular value.
Founded 13 years ago, Miami Spice started as a way to bring in local customers to Miami restaurants after the 9/11 tragedy.
“It was modeled after New York’s Restaurant Week, which started in 1992,” said Rolando Aedo, senior vice president of marketing and tourism at GMCVB.
The whole promotion is aimed at stimulating demand during South Florida’s slower fall tourism period.
“We were looking for different, creative ways to kick-start the economy. Doing restaurant promotions isn’t unique, many other communities have done it. The difference is we originally made ours a month long. Now after 13 years, it’s become two months,” said Aedo.
And no one is complaining. These restaurants are typically two, three and four dollar-signs worthy on Yelp. The GMCVB reviews each restaurants’ menus and determines the average price.
“This way,” Aedo said, “we set the price so that the consumer is getting a tremendous value.”
These linen-laid and fine-dining restaurants also gain from no longer appearing so intimidating and creating loyal customers.
Donatela Vacca, a senior studying journalism at the University of Miami, was eating at Jaguar, a Latin American-themed restaurant in Miami’s glamorous Coconut Grove, with her mother when she learned about Miami Spice.
“I’ve always heard good things about Jaguar and wanted to try it out. The Miami Spice menu they offer is really economically-friendly,” she said.
Carlos Reyes has been working as a shift leader at Jaguar for five years now and for the three or four years that the restaurant has participated in Miami Spice, he has noticed that the excitement of offering new options has brought in more customers.
Vacca and her mother were excited to try the snapper “a lo macho,” which is usually served as swordfish “a lo macho.”
Reyes notes that “the customer usually ends up asking something like: ‘But does this promotion serve less food?’ To which we tell them it’s the same portion. And what could make them happier?”
Every year, the GMCVB does a recap of the program and asks the restaurants to provide them with their sales data.
“Last year, approximately 150,000 Miami Spice meals were served,” said Aedo, “some would serve lunch and dinner, some would serve either or.”
At Jaguar, usually 15 to 20 Miami Spice courses are served for lunch and 15 to 30 for dinner in one day. Reyes has noticed an overall increase in revenue from lunch alone.
Ronald Sheffield, Jaguar’s bartender, noticed that “the majority of the customers who have come in and known about the promotion are tourists.”
GMCVB, the organization that put the program together, is focused on tourists. However, programs like Miami Spice is a program for locals to enjoy as well.
“We know that the better educated locals become in Miami experiences, the more they’ll become ambassadors to their friends, family and relatives,” Aedo said.
The options that are offered serve all palates.
With 25 new restaurants in this dynamic program and an already extensive cuisine, Miami Spice has made chefs celebrities and turned Miami into a certain cache.
“Restaurant business a tough business. Some close, some open, but there are always fresh, new options. Our guiding principle for the restaurants that participate in Miami Spice is that they showcase the finest and best that Miami has to offer,” said Aedo.
For a list of restaurant options, visit http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/special-offers/monthly-deals/miami-spice-month.