Marilyn Spiegel interview

About 2 weeks ago, I interviewed Marilyn Spiegel for a profile piece in Vegas Seven. There are always space constraints, so I thought it would be a good idea to record the interview and post at at UNLV Gaming Podcasts, mostly so she can share her story in her own words.

I”m having some issues with iTunes presently–it may not show up in your feed, but you can get it here:

29-March 3, 2011
Marilyn Spiegel, President and CEO, Wynn Las Vegas
In this interview with CGR Director David G. Schwartz, Spiegel shares her thoughts on luxury at Wynn Las Vegas and chronicles her career in gaming.

Listen to the audio file (mp3)

One area that I’m sure people will be interested in is her thoughts on the closing of Alex. In his February conference call, Steve Wynn credited her with making him rethink the restaurant. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“There were already thoughts about customer preference at Alex,” she says. “Alex Stratta is a phenomenal chef, but the dining experience is lengthy and American tastes have changed.”

Spiegel has no doubts that she made the right call.

“We have capacity in our other restaurants. If you’re able to drive the fixed costs of your restaurants over more covers, it’s more efficient. And if that space can be used better for a different idea, so be it.”

Its at about the 24-minute mark of the podcast, if you want to skip ahead.

I wanted to know what a food critic thought of Spiegel’s call, so I asked John Curtas of Eating Las Vegas. Here’s his response to me, which regrettably didn’t make the final cut of the article:

Great restaurants inside hotels are amenities that the hotel either does or does not want to offer its guests. Wynn has made a calculated decision to abandon his “great chefs/restaurants” brands of ‘o5, and it has nothing to do with “America’s changing tastes.” They think their customers won’t mind, and they think they can make more money with mediocrity.

The whole “fine dining is dead” chestnut is used as an excuse by chefs/restaurateurs/hotels to cut back on quality (and increase their profits) by pretending to be “with it.” My educated guess is Ms. Spiegel is more interested in pushing steaks and booze on her high rollers/nightclubbers than anything with a whiff of sophistication about it.

Leisurely, fine dining has always been a niche market for the aspirational and well-heeled. It hasn’t gone away, it’s simply not (quite) as fashionable as it was five years ago. Every high-end restaurateur I’ve spoken with, from the Bellagio to Caesars Palace, has told me their business is up…and doing even better now that people who would’ve dined at ALEX are looking for their big deal meals elsewhere. (If you don’t believe me, I’ll take you on a tour of a few of them some night).
John Curtas, Eating Las Vegas

Pretty strong stuff that definitely adds a different perspective.

Overall, I think Marilyn Spiegel has a great story that I’m glad I could help her share with people.