Saturday, April 05, 2008

SI Rumors?

Some potentially interesting rumors were floating around last week regarding the new "SI" -- Scholar's Inn, Sexy and Intimate, oh, whatever. It was not the first I'd heard of it, but Bil Browning over at Bilerico posted an interesting blind item asking if anyone knew whether SI was trying to shift its customer base away from a gay market. I'd find it hard to believe what with the redesign and their solid support of the LGBT community, but stranger things have been known to happen. Owners weighed in with Bil adamant that any unfriendly displays have been the result of a rogue employee (whose identity they've been scrambling to confirm.)

As for me, I'm offended by the $6 fee for splitting an entree on the dinner menu.

20 comments:

Laker said...

I've heard too, that if you make reservations for 8 or more people, you are charged $20 per person for each person in your party who doesn't show up. I know that no shows are a constant problem in the business, but I've never heard of this approach before, at least in Indianapolis.

Gastroholic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

You are kidding right?

K said...

Someone I know refuses to patronize Scholars Inn because "they stiffed the Damien Center" (I don't know if it was related to Dine Out For Life or what).

Bil Browning's item isn't quite "blind," is it?

Anonymous said...

I don't know the owners of S.I. or whatever they are calling it, and I have only been once (for a glass of wine) to the most recent incarnation of the restaurant because I have always heard such negative comments about it in just about every regard. I had aways heard that the food was mediocre at best and the service was inconsiderate and that aside from martini nights the place had a pretty negative vibe.
Then they decided to remake themselves, which for intents and purposes was probably the best decision they could have made. Close the doors, freshen the look, cleanse the staff of bad energy, bring in an energetic new chef, and give the place a reason to be talked about.

And then this.

Aside from any anti-gay rumors, which I think have been adequately quashed, the 6 dollar plate-split charge is like a heavy weight upper cut to all of their efforts and could be enough to completely knock the wind out of SI. I hate to point fingers, but it sounds to me like the only change that they needed to make and didn't was ownership. Charges like this come from the top down and when the focus is so obviously on the bottom line, the top line (quality food, hospitality, customer service) almost always suffers. Mr. Feigenbaum, I would very much recommend abolishing your split plate charge and instead examine your portion size (if necessary, I have no idea). This way you can make a little money and avoid some bad PR. And just a side note, if it is true about what laker said and you do have a $20 no show fee. I will look forward to the next reincarnation of that location. A hair salon.

Erin said...

Ok, I have to weigh in here. While $6 is a bit extreme for a split plate charge, it is to deter folks from trying to do it. There is nothing wrong with ordering an entree with the intention of splitting it, and just asking for a couple clean appetizer plates to do the job yourself. A bit of continuity is sacrifieced when you try to split a half chicken or filet (and it's just plain cheap and tacky!) Suck it up or do it yourself. Most of the times when restaurants charge a split plate fee, each person gets half of the protein but a full serving each of whatever starches/vegetables come with the dish. Twice to work goes into it, and to expect a chef to give a couple a double portion of sides for the same price is just plain silly and bad business.
Now for the $20 cancelation charge. The expample I sight is from when I was the event and large party manager for a well known fine dining restaurant on the North side. I worked with a woman who wanted to make a reservation for 20 women. They wanted to utilize our private dining room, they wanted seperate checks and wanted to order off the regular menu in lieu of the banquet menus. We had a room deposit which she balked at (even though it would be deducted from her balance). When you run a restaurant your goal is to make things as even and fair for your servers as you can, which means balancing out covers (# of guest for laymen). So I had ONE server assigned to this party, she spent an hour setting the room up and wasn't going to get anything else for the rest of the evening. This party wasn't coming in until 7:30, so the majority of our rush had come by the time they showed. They trickled in and then let the server know when everyone was there. FOUR OF THEM SHOWED UP!!!!! Give me a frickin break. They complained that they were in this big room all by themselves and ended up getting moved into the regular dining room. RUDE! When asked, the orgainizer said "well, I didn't know final count until this afternoon" THAT would have been a good time to call me! But I digress....... I understand why SI has the policies they have and usually they are just a bunch of CYA that rarely, if ever get used. I wish WE had a policy like that when the mother's group from the International School came in (you know who you are!) MUAH!

kc said...

For a $6 charge, to get half the protein and all the sides makes sense to me. And if this is what SI does, then I can buy into it. Does anyone know if this is the case? But if you get half the protein and half the sides, a $6 surcharge doesn't make sense to me, especially if it's a result of having too-large portions (I haven't been to the revamped SI, so I don't know if this is the case). I wish more restaurants in town would have portion sizes that are reasonable ... I'm all for a value, but I'd rather pay slightly less/get a smaller portion than receive more than I can eat and then have to take it home (which isn't always viable; checking a doggie bag at the theatre is awkward at best and a recipe for a food-borne illness at worst) or, worse, have to throw it away.

erin said...

kc, I can tell you that they prob don't get half portions of everything. It would look pretty dumb to have a half portion of potatos and 5 green beans with half of an 8 oz filet on a dinner plate all by themselves. The full portion of sides is a filler if nothing more, to make sure the presentation isn't completely blown by "plate splitters". If you're at an Applebee's or O'Charley's or TGIFridays and ask for a split plate they won't bat an eye b/c it's not uncommon, but a certain higher level of refinement is expected at these higher end establishments. IDK, I guess I'm a little sensative on the topic.....

Anonymous said...

As I said previously, I don't know if their portions are large or small because I have never eaten there. The 6 buck *&$!@ is rediculous though, and here is why. When your restaurant is trying to reinvent itself, it needs to be handled with delicacy, you have to start by making subtle changes that are for the better, adjusting the details so that people start to take notice. I'm not sure about you, but I would assume that the reason they "relaunched" S.I. was because it wasn't performing as expected. If you are going to commit to that, than it needs to be done in a holistic way, that is to say from the bottom up, and with a new attitude. Do you think the service staff of SI are comfortable telling a guest that there is a 6 dollar fee? Do you think the kitchen staff finds any extra satisfaction in serving a split plate of food? I would argue no to both. So the only party involved that is "happy" about the transaction is the owner. And that is NOT hospitality. From a perception standpoint, this would have a PR person on red alert.
As for the $20 "no-show" charge? I still think it will appall most diners in a city that can buy tomatoes at a roadside stand on the "honor system". The twenty dollar charge should be utilized as a last resort, for a restaurant that is packed and would make at least that amount of money on that particular seat, guaranteed. Not as a way to make up for a lack of business.

Anonymous said...

Scholars or "SI" has always had this $20 no show charge. It came about by a large group who did not want a private reservation upstairs in the designated banquest area, but instead wanted to reserve the lower back dinning room for 40 guests. The group never showed and in turn they had to turn away many guest for the evening in anticipation of the eventual no-shows. This did come down from the owners and it should be noted the Scholars never actually charged anyone after this point. I suppose it was rather used to encourage guests to follow up with their reservation.

As for the recent rumors, I have heard the same in regards to changing the guest dianamics-wouldnt surprise me a bit. A change in ownership would have done more for Scholars than a facelift ever could...giveit a bit and I would expect the same from the new SI that most experienced from the old Scholars.

Anonymous said...

So one large group pulls an amateur move and ownership decides to institute a universal policy for *everyone* that just creates bad PR? That's just silly and shortsighted on their part. That's a reservations problem. (Who takes a party of 40 for dinner without some sort of assurance and then lets them completely no-show?) I'm a diner, a customer, and I'm not stupid. And the whole "they don't enforce it" doesn't matter. The fact that they threaten it is enough. If they were a place with 30 seats that they had to turn twice enough, I could better understand. (RBistro could probably get away with it.)

Based on the menu items I've seen -- and I think we've had almost everything on the new menu at this point -- they've made almost every one of the appetizers very diffcult to share. Makes no sense for a place where groups often gather to share snacks and have a few drinks. The bar menu may be a bit more share-friendly, but you can only get it in the dark downstairs bar and I haven't liked what I've tried on it so far.

So, if I've eaten an entire appetizer, and I know we might want dessert, I would tend to split an entree with someone. I don't expect that split to be a half-portion of the meat and the same amount of "sides" or garnish, or whatever. I expect to *split*. And I definitely don't want to be charged for it.

Anonymous said...

I work in the business and wanted to add a little insight on the split charge. Restaurants charge split charges because when you come in and order 1 entree instead of 2 for a table of 2 people, the restaurant potentially loses money. For example, on a busy night, if a restaurant turns away another table of 2 who could have sat at the same table your 2 top is sitting in, and then you only order 1 entree, obviously the restaurant is losing $20-35 and has turned away other guests to seat you. They only have so many seats to fill.

Anonymous said...

I also work in "the business" and think that's a pretty lame excuse! Who cares if the two top orders two $20-$35 entrees if they don't order appetizers, dessert and a bottle of wine or two? With "fine dining" (obviously we are using this term very loosely here) the idea is to maximize the experience your patrons have which will in turn maximize your check average. Simply said, why charge six dollars, and piss someone off, when you could upsell them on wine, drinks, apps, dessert, etc? Seems like the lazy way out if you ask me!

Jen Fu said...

All I have to know about this place in order to avoid it forever is that the owners have nicknamed it "Sexy and Intimate." Could they get any lamer?

Anonymous said...

The truth of the matter is that most people these days can't be trusted to follow up with anything. We have little or no respect for other people or the work they do. Simply put, our lack of commitment has driven many industries to charge us for not keeping an appointment. Make a reservation at a hotel and pull a no show...you will be charged! Many doctors, hair stylists, massage therapists etc. all charge people when they no show. Why should a rest. be any different? They are trying to run a business! An 8 person reservation can mean a lot of money to a rest.(especially a small business)! They should charge! Pick up the darn phone and cancel the reservation! Are you really that lazy and inconsiderate you can't take 30 seconds out of your day to cancel an appointment that YOU made? You usually aren't charged even if you call and cancel at the time of your reservation. Don't punish others for your lack of responsiblity. Have a little respect and stop complaining!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree about the $20 no show fee for parties of 8 or more! Just take the time to cancel your reservation and you won't need to worry about it!

I have heard the rumors of anti-gay feeling flowing throgh "SI" and I have it from a very reliable source that they are true! Plus, the owner DOES know who made the comments and plans on doing nothing about it!

Anonymous said...

I think people are confusing trying to attract a straight crowd with being "anti-gay"

zcalgal said...

Hmmm...let me see. I am a married, stay-at-home wife/mom. Due to kid activities, lack of babysitters, etc. my husband and I get out to great restaurants about once a month. My gay friends (particularly those in relationships) have twice as much money, no kids and go out a couple of times a week (dropping some serious money). Which customer would YOU be trying to attract?
Isn't the above anonymous quote equal to saying, "We aren't an anti-black restaurant, we are just trying to attract a whiter crowd?" I'm sorry but it is my gay friends that always know the hottest places to go to!

Lyle said...

My name is Lyle Feigenbaum. I am the owner of SI Restaurant & Lounge. In my life I have never felt more hurt by the comment that my wife and I are anti gay. Clearly no one who ever said that has ever met Kerry or myself. We bought this property to be a part of the gay community. Our restaurant was designed by a gay man and done in a way to attract the gay community. Kerry and I have not only been supporters of the Damien Center with Dining out for Life and the Grand Masquerade, we routinely had special Damien Center nights throughout the year. I'd ask anyone to speak directly with Merrill Kenna or Tracy Elliot before him. All we want to do is be able to offer Indianapolis a dining experience that is worthy of any large city. If the new Scholars Inn is not for you, then I understand. But to spread these rumors is simply wrong. I am so hurt to read some of these comments that words cannot describe. If you wish to talk to me personally, please call me any time. (812) 331-4486 ext.1 or come into SI. My door is always open.
As for the split fee, we put it on the menu because we give ample sides to any plate and food cost is a major concern. You'll notice our prices are far below that of major chains who do not include sides. If you feel it is too much, then I will gladly adjust or eliminate it as long as splits don't get out of hand.
As for the $20 per person no show fee. That is a policy that we have to insure that larger parties that are booked will call and cancel or give us an accurate headcount. We are very flexible with this policy, and have in fact never had to charge anyone with this fee.
Lastly we own restaurants because we love to entertain. We love to see people happy. If ever you have an issue, we want to know. We always strive to go above and beyond everyone's expectations. I want nothing more that to own a restaurant Indy can be very proud of.
Thank you all for taking the time to read this.
Sincerely,
Lyle Feigenbaum
Owner Scholars Inn Restaurant & Lounge

Anonymous said...

Lyle, Indy is lucky to have a restaurant owner like you.