Picnic Is Over: The Backstory

The Picnic is over. The restaurant on 20th Street in the Sunset Harbor neighborhood of South Beach might have been able to overcome its questionable concept (Brunch...It's what's for dinner!), and even its weird menu (fried bologna sandwiches, mac & cheese spring rolls with gouda sauce, etc.), had it been operated by people who knew how to run restaurants. All clues point to this not being the case.

Last April, I visited Picnic on a number of occasions and wrote what ended up being the worst review I handed down all year. A short while later, Victoria Pesce Elliott of The Miami Herald gave it another very tough writeup, beginning with the opening sentence: "It isn't every day that I come across a restaurant as bungling as South Beach's Picnic..." In between the two reviews I received an email from a man claiming to be a consultant hired by Picnic to help get them going. He thanked me for writing what I did, saying he'd been telling the owner the very same things but she wouldn't take his word for it. "Now," he said, "it seems like she is willing to listen and make changes."

He went on to tell me that the menu would be undergoing an overhaul, and that service would be sharpened. What he really wanted to know is if I'd be willing to come in when all was fixed and give Picnic another review. My response was that I wouldn't do another review, but when he felt good about the place being ready, I'd come in to try the new menu and blog about my experience. He thanked me in a follow-up email, and that's the last I heard from him. I assume he was let go, as a short while later Picnic released a new menu with only minor changes. Just about everything about the place remained the same.

In other words: The owner received devastating reviews from the only two print reviewers in the city. Food bloggers were hardly kinder. Her own paid consultant begged her to shake things up. The seats in the restaurant remained unfilled. Yet although she had no prior restaurant experience, the rookie restaurateur thought she knew better.

The downfall of Picnic appears to be at least partially due to an inexperienced owner being reluctant to take advice concerning something that clearly wasn't working.

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