Editor's note: We have received a statement from Cleverley Stone about her decision to remove L'Olivier from Houston Restaurant Weeks.
It appears you can get kicked out of a charity event for breaking the rules. CultureMap Houston's Eric Sandler broke the news earlier this afternoon that L'Olivier was removed from the lineup of restaurants in Houston Restaurant Weeks for its $30 lunch menu at the restaurant; the online menu displayed on the Houston Restaurant Weeks website is for three courses at $20, but at the restaurant, diners must choose between two courses for $20 or three courses for $30.
The French restaurant on Westheimer posted its HRW lunch menu on its own website which clearly states at the top of the screen, "Choice of 2 courses for $20," and proceeds to list homemade pate, a goat cheese salad, and choice of watermelon gazpacho or soup du jou, followed by the entrees and dessert. There is no indication on the menu that adding a third course to your lunch costs an extra $10.
As noted by Sandler, there is no information as to whether or not the extra $10 added to the cost of a single lunch would be included in the donation to the Houston Food Bank.
Cleverley Stone was contacted by an HRW diner at L'Olivier during the afternoon on Friday, August 15, about the $30 menu. According to Culture Map, Stone removed L'Olivier from this year's Houston Restaurant Weeks and told the restaurant's chef and owner, Olivier Ciesielski, he couldn't allow his customers to make reservations for HRW.
Stone tells CultureMap Houston, that Ciesielski offered the $10 increase for lunch just as other restaurants provide supplement dishes on their HRW menus.
"The problem is that the $20 three-course lunch that he submitted and was posted on the HRW website was exactly the same menu that was being presented to diners at his restaurant for $30. There were no supplements offered for an additional charge," Stone tells CultureMap Houston. "Giving HRW a $20 three-course lunch menu to post and promote on our website, and then charging customers $30 for the exact same menu when they get to the restaurant was the problem."
Was there a miscommunication between Ciesielski and Stone? Or was L'Olivier trying to make more profit off of its HRW lunch menu? We will update when we receive more information.
Update: Ciesielski contacted CultureMap explaining that the three-course menu priced at $30 is the restaurant's business lunch menu; L'Olivier offered this menu last year alongside its two-course lunch priced at $20. According to Ciesielski, Stone was informed about the business lunch last year, as well. Three dollars from each $20 two-course menu sold were donated to the Houston Food Bank.
L'Olivier's chef and owner continues in his email to CultureMap, "We did not realize it would be a problem for Ms. Stone until this happened. We made an internal decision to go ahead and make a $5 donation to the Houston Food Bank from each 3-course lunch as well - something we didn't need to do but were happy to because our of love for the charity. We did offer to make any changes to meet her criteria, but she has refused to discuss it further. She unilaterally made the decision to discontinue our participation in the middle of HRW month."
Ciesielski says L'Olivier will continue to support the food bank, just in different ways than through Houston Restaurant Weeks.
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11:15 a.m. on August 19: Stone provided this statement to the Houston Press about the incident:
"L'Olivier restaurant submitted a $20 three-course lunch menu to be promoted by Houston Restaurant Weeks and posted on our web site. Which we did.
Three diners advised me that when they went to L'Olivier for this HRW promoted lunch, they were presented with a $30 three-course lunch menu that was exactly the same as the $20 three-course menu that was posted on the HRW web site.
Houston Restaurant Weeks, the largest annual fundraiser for the Houston Food Bank, does not permit restaurants to submit a $20 three-course lunch menu to us to promote and post on the HRW web site, and then charge diners $10 more for the same menu at the restaurant. L'Olivier restaurant broke the rules of HRW and has been removed from the event."