At Citron, Pay What You Want

A recent party at the Viceroy Palm Springs hotel


All restaurants, whether they say it or not, like feedback. It’s why restaurateurs will troll review sites like Yelp with a giddy mixture of dread and glee. Other dining places – shall we say of the Applebee’s variety – will leave comment cards on the tables for guests to fill out before leaving, an approach so pre-Internet, it’s almost nostalgic.

But perhaps it’s Citron, the dainty little restaurant at the Viceroy Palm Springs, that has come up with the most playful – to say nothing of daring — approach of gauging  customer satisfaction.

At Citron, they give you a menu, lacking what may be the most pertinent of pieces of information – the prices.

“We’re saying, pay what you want,” said Don Devine, director of guest services and public relations at the Viveroy, as he explained the idea behind the program, which the hotel is dubbing simply What it’s Worth. “And we admit, we have no idea what to expect.”

For starters, let’s go over some ground rules. After all, this idea isn’t entirely free form. You must pay full price for any alcoholic beverages. (There will be no $5 bottles of Veuve Clicquot flying out of the restaurant.) Also, don’t look at this offer a chance to skimp on gratuity. Tipping should be at a rate commiserate with the menu’s regular prices. Ask your server. I’m sure he or she will be happy to offer guidance. And the What It’s Worth offer is only available for dinner each Tuesday through Dec. 4, and reservations must be made 72 hours in advance. The restaurant clearly wants to know what they’re getting into ahead of time.

The idea behind What It’s Worth is twofold. One the one hand, the Citron staff wants feedback from diners and they figure many folks speak pretty clearly and honestly with their pocketbooks. And secondly, it’s a way to introduce the Viceroy’s new head Chef, Warren Cordoba, to Palm Springs as he further develops the hotel’s menu

“We’re really excited about the idea that this can really begin a conversation about the food, service and everything we do here,” Devine said.