Archive for the ‘Restaurant’ Category

Service of What’s The Back-Story? I’ll Almost Never Know

Monday, January 6th, 2020

I love to make up back-stories. I do it when I overhear conversations, embroider about something I notice or that happens.

I received a package addressed to my apartment that wasn’t for me. The doorman looked up the name and said the man had moved out in 2016. He added, “The return address has the same last name as the one on the package. I wonder what that’s about?” It dawned on me that the sender may be the recipient’s ex wife. Perhaps she came across a bunch of his things and sent them to an apartment they’d once shared. She didn’t know he’d moved. I’ll never know the truth.

There was the remarkably silent couple in their 60s or 70s at a stunning restaurant with toothsome food in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Why didn’t they speak even to discuss the menu or react to what they’d just tasted? Did they have a fight? Did they never speak in public? Were they struggling with some bad news? Did one of them have a sore throat? I’ll never know the truth.

Photo: pinterest.com

The couple in the pub in Georgetown was out of the 1960s. She wore a flip teased to death held in place with a can of hairspray. He barked orders to the wait staff. Because of where we were and what they looked and sounded like I guessed he was a military officer who had retired in the DC area. When the couple left the restaurant I asked our waiter to confirm my speculation. “He owns the pub!” he said, which explained how he got away with the nasty tone he used with the staff.

I see men schlumped in chairs at almost every retail store I visit. They’re either looking into space, sleeping or curved over their phones. Why don’t they tell their significant others that they don’t want to be there? It’s so easy to drop the spouse off and go for a cup of coffee or to a store that would interest them or even to stay home. I’ll never know the truth.

Do you like to imagine what the back-stories are?

Photo: boredpanda.com

Service of How Does a Company with Nasty Rules Attract Employees?

Monday, December 30th, 2019

Photo: businessinsider.com

The US unemployment rate is at 3.6 percent. If it truly reflects the numbers of unemployed then workers can afford to be choosey especially in a place like New York City that is crowded with low pay opportunities.

Jonathan Stempel’s article, “Starbucks settles New York probe into illegal sick leave policy,” opened my eyes to another nasty practice of some employers. The Reuters reporter wrote: “Starbucks Corp agreed on Thursday to pay restitution and accept greater oversight to settle a multi-year probe finding that it had illegally required New York City employees to find substitutes when they needed to use sick leave. ” The amount: $176,000.

Officials said Starbucks violated New York City’s Earned Safe and Sick Time Act from April 2014 to February 2016 by requiring employees to find replacements before using sick leave, or else face possible discipline including termination. [In the third quarter of 2014 the economy grew at a record pace.]

Who came up with this punishing concept? Picture you sick at home with the flu. You can barely call in sick much less call around to find someone to take your place.

In addition to continuing to deep six the mean sick leave practice, Starbucks must also clearly explain its policy to its more than 8,000 New York City employees, and detail its compliance within six months to regulators, Stempel reported.

In January 2018, Starbucks adopted a nationwide policy granting employees one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. That equates to roughly seven or eight days a year for a full-time employee.

Have you heard of over-the-top employment practices? Do you think this one came about because the company felt that too many employees called in sick simply because they didn’t feel like working and it wanted to discourage the practice?

Photo: insider.com

Tip Gyp at Doordash

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

Photo: cnbc.com

Seven years ago partners chef Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich paid a price–$5.25 million–for stiffing a percentage of the tips of their employees at Batali’s pricey Italian restaurants such as Babbo, Bar Jamon, Casa Mono and Esca to pay sommeliers’ salaries.

A chunk of the penalty money went to captains, servers, busboys and others.

Photo: blog.doordash.com

Small potatoes by comparison but “The attorney general of Washington, D.C., is suing food-delivery company DoorDash Inc. for pocketing tips on deliveries,” wrote Allison Prang in The Wall Street Journal. To meet the minimum pay promised deliverymen and women the company applied the tip money customers added electronically. Workers were not given the tip in addition to the minimum.

Karl Racine, DC attorney general, said Doordash also deluded customers who thought they were giving a tip.  Prang wrote: “The attorney general is seeking a court order to force DoorDash to surrender the tips and pay civil penalties.”

Doordash claimed that “the assertions made in the complaint are without merit and we look forward to responding to them through the legal process.”

Why do profitable companies pick on the smallest fries–all of whom are essential to their success–to squeeze them out of their rightful compensation? Is it OK because the owners take the risk and make the investment in their companies or is it wrong under any circumstances?

Photo: newsismybusiness.com

Service of Marketers Ruling the Roost: When Hip Overrides Clarity

Monday, September 9th, 2019

Photo: eyecatch.co

When service or communications are poor, customers must wonder whether an operation is being run for them, the owners or the staff.

It may be none of the above.

Frequently the marketers run the show. Many are enamored of technology, to heck with whether or not the hip, new effect does the trick. It’s more important to appear to be cutting edge. Take revolving digital screens that move so quickly that customers can’t read and/or absorb the information fast enough. This isn’t a good choice for a fast food restaurant–or for anything else if the fast-moving screen features more than a few words with an image.

Hot & Spicy McChicken Photo: McDonalds.fandom.com

Britton O’Daly wrote “Wait, Where Did That Burger Go? Diners Struggle With Fast-Moving Digital Menus,” in The Wall Street Journal. In one example a customer was frustrated because he didn’t catch the name of a new chicken dish at McDonald’s so instead of waiting for the screen to return–he feared holding up the line–he ordered a burger. I wonder why he felt he couldn’t ask for “one of those new chicken dishes?”

That customer may have been intimidated by marketers who are also in love with the cutesy names they give their products. To be considered “in,” there’s pressure to use them. I break out in a rash when forced to order coffee at Starbucks [I admit you rarely see me in there]. If I want a small coffee with skim that is how I will order it. You can keep your Grande, Venti and Trenta. Phooey.

Photo: pinterest.com

Back to the original subject. O’Daly wrote: “Digital billboards are now everywhere, and companies love them. The only problem: people have a hard time reading them.”

This harkens back to an amazing looking logo in an unreadable font that also irks me. What’s the point?

Why is the public intimidated into ordering food or drink using the names a company gives it? Why does management put aside common sense and allow marketers to incorporate the latest widget or gadget to communicate with the public even if the vehicle doesn’t do the job? And why does a marketing department, or its advisors, lead its clients down so many primrose paths?

Photo: eater.com

Service of No Room at the Bar for Women: A New Kind of Discrimination

Monday, January 21st, 2019

Photo: grubstreet.com

I know men and women who, especially when eating alone, prefer sitting at the bar in a restaurant. Look at the images of comfortable seating that illustrate this post. Clementine Crawford, a well-travelled executive does and during many visits to the Big Apple she sat at the bar at her favorite watering hole: Restaurant Nello on Madison Avenue.

On her last stopover she was told to get up from the bar and to sit at a table. The bar was suddenly off limits to women alone at this Italian eatery–which  is no neighborhood pizzeria. Google touts it as a place “only for Jay Z or Russian billionaires,” which given its reputation for charging $275 for a plate of white truffle pasta is no surprise.

Photo: tastingtable.com

I read Stephanie Maida’s coverage of how this new rule was discovered. She highlighted Crawford’s experience from her essay, “The Night I was Mistaken for a Call Girl.” Quoting Crawford Maida wrote on guestofaguest.com: “‘I perched at my favorite seat at the bar and started to respond to all the emails that had arrived on the flight over,’ she explains. ‘A waiter approached – a familiar face, but oddly hesitant on this occasion. He advised – with evident embarrassment – that I was no longer permitted to eat at my usual spot and that I must now sit down at a table.'”

Men could eat alone at the bar Crawford observed on a second visit.

“Crawford learned ‘that the owner had ordered a crackdown on hookers’ and assumed management believed ‘upscale escorts working the bar lowered the tone of the place and would be less obvious if escorted behind a table.’”

Photo: Verbinet.com

Maida reported “She spoke to an owner, explained that she had been misidentified, and he responded ‘that he could run his business as he pleased, and that [she] was no longer welcome to eat at the bar, only at a table.’”

Having been evicted from my favorite perch I wouldn’t return to this place. This is New York City: We have 24,000 restaurants here, according to one estimate, and I’m sure a few would charge  hundreds of dollars for a plate of pasta to satisfy the insecure.

Restaurant Nello, with its bar rule, has propelled us back to the Victorian era. Was this a clumsy attempt by management to generate publicity? Do you like to eat at the bar? Why do people agree to subject themselves to such arrogance at any price? Have you heard of rules like this in other restaurants in this country?

Photo: lessings.com

Service of Cashless Restaurants

Monday, December 3rd, 2018

Photo: time.com

A recent Facebook conversation I followed was about coins. The writer said coins drove him nuts and suggested they should be canned. Most of the respondents disagreed for reasons ranging from saved coins helped pay for vacations to fondness for them. I pay for less and less with cash but am nevertheless on the side of saving coins if only for nostalgic reasons.

As I use my credit card a lot I’m fine with paying for food or anything else with mine. But plenty of folks are paid in cash or don’t have one for whatever reason. They also might not own a smartphone to access digital payment via Apple Pay for example.

Photo: infobarrel

Ritchie J. Torres, a New York City Council Member, says “the [cashless] business model is classist and racist,” according to Chris Fuhrmeister on eater.com. Torres said he sees the trend “as a way to gentrify the marketplace.”

Some 22 million Americans don’t have a bank account Furhmeister reported. An early adopter whose restaurant is now closed told him that if customers didn’t even have a debit card they most likely didn’t have a bank account and shouldn’t expect to eat in his [now defunct] restaurant.

Photo: shakeshack.com

Celebrity restaurateur Danny Meyer gave up the model in his Shake Shack burger chain because of customer complaints according to Fuhrmeister. His pricey Union Square Hospitality Group restaurants such as Union Square Café and Gramercy Tavern remain cash-free.

The impact goes beyond the poor. Furhmeister wrote: “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter and critic, and former Eater NY editor, Melissa McCart made a salient point in her report on the topic earlier this year: ‘[I]n an era when an increasing number of restaurants no longer accept legal tender, it’s useful to think about who this system benefits most: the businesses and banks, at the expense of consumers.’ Do businesses and banks really need more power? It’s a question more local governments may want to consider.”

Photo: freecreditreport.com

There are other issues to consider, good and bad. A cashless retail business won’t be robbed. Also, many people pay the restaurant bill by credit card and leave tips in cash so that the right person gets the money. Would this continue or would the restaurant owner continue to control the tips? [Meyer, mentioned above, runs tipless restaurants as well.] The government must love the concept as there’s no revenue to hide from the tax man.

Do you pay for things mostly in cash, credit card or digitally? Do you like coins? Would you miss cash if it no longer existed? Do you agree with McCart that big time beneficiaries of the credit card/debit card only model are businesses and banks–Uncle Sam too–with consumers the losers? Will the cashless trend spread to other retail industries if it’s not stopped? Should the cashless retail model be outlawed?

Photo: freepik.com

Service of the Honor System

Thursday, September 20th, 2018

Photo: uvamagazine.com

These days you’ll walk out of Drug Store in Tribeca in Manhattan with a pricey health drink without paying–though the drink isn’t free. You’re expected to send a text message to the drink manufacturer, Dirty Lemon, that owns Drug Store, after which you’ll receive a link in which to post your credit card number. That’s the same way customers order cases of the lemon-flavored drink-with-supplements for shipment home.

Dirty Lemon bottles Photo: tribecacitizen

But this isn’t just any old lemon drink. Whatever your inclination, it is purported to have beauty, sleep, anti-aging, detox or other benefits depending on additives of collagen, magnesium, rose water or charcoal for example. On the website, Daily Detox, one of the drinks, costs $45 for six bottles, shipping included, and $65 on Amazon.

Erin Griffith wrote about the store in The New York Times. Dirty Lemon founder Zak Normandin doesn’t anticipate much theft from his largely young female customers, and said he’d allocate losses to his sampling budget.

Dim sum. Photo: cnn.com

And while much of the competition is closing retail outlets and increasing a digital presence, he plans to do the opposite by opening four more stores. In addition, according to Griffith, Normandin “shifted almost all of its $4 million annual digital advertising budget into its retail stores.”

[An exception is Amazon which by 2021 expects to have 3,000 stores without registers. People will pay via their smartphones.]

Photo: retailwire.com

Buying on the honor system is nothing new. Order dim sum in some Chinese restaurants and the waiter will tally the empty little plates on the table when you’re done. Checking yourself out at grocery and other stores similarly counts on customer honesty. Scofflaws could easily hide a few dishes at plate-counting time at the restaurant and pay for every other item in the do-it-yourself checkout line–but most don’t cheat or the system would have already died.

In Vienna, years ago, we were guests of local friends and eight of us sat at a big table. When lunch was over, the host told the waiter what we’d ordered and only then did he write anything down. I wonder if that’s still a custom. In a Scotland Inn if you made yourself a drink or took a soda from an unlocked cabinet in the living room you jotted down your choices. And all over the U.S., especially in rural areas, customers fill cash boxes with money owed for fruits, veggies and flowers at farm stands where nobody is around.

Do you believe that the honor system works equally well in cities as in the country? Can you think of other examples? Will it increasingly be in our purchasing future?

 

Photo: myjournalcourier.com

Service of Goofy Things Kids Do: Overnight Challenges in Stores & Restaurants

Monday, April 9th, 2018

Photo: guff.com

We made silly phone calls and tossed paper bags filled with water out the window into a courtyard to make a crashing sound to scare the neighbors. One Christmas Eve, kids–I assume it was kids–broke windows on the sidewalk side of every car parked outside the Brooklyn Museum. Ours was one. Kids who have no financial constraints steal candy and small items from stores for sport.

Photo: flickr.com

Jennifer Levitz, in “Where’s Your Teen Sleeping?” wrote about what some kids are up to these days. According to the sub-head of her Wall Street Journal story, they are “Adventure seekers hiding overnight in stores for ‘24-hour challenge’—and are really, really bored.” They hide in fast-food restaurants and big-box stores that close at night or hang out for 24 hours or more in those that stay open.

She wrote about the adventures of a few teens at a McDonald’s: “After the initial thrill of escaping detection, they passed the time by going down the small slide, flipping water bottles and filming themselves whispering in the dark.” Sleeping was hard. One tried to do so in a toy car.

“Young people boast of holding the overnight challenges in trampoline parks, bowling alleys, home improvement stores and supermarkets, too. Companies mostly seem perplexed,” Levitz reported.

What nutty things did you do when you were a kid and what wacky things do your children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren do today?

Photo: tripadvisor.com

Service of Supper Clubs: Newark, N.J. Has a Winner

Monday, January 29th, 2018

Photo: socialventurepartners.org

I’ve heard about contrived ways to meet people in a city, none of which appeal to me. One resonated in such a way that I wished I lived or worked in Newark, N.J.  Liz Leyden described it in her New York Times article, “He Was Tired of Eating Alone. 400 People Came to Supper.”

She described a supper club with a welcoming vibe. The founder did such a great job with his Brick City Supper Club, started in Newark eight years ago, that it continues to live and thrive even though he’s long left town. Far from a new concept, it’s a joy to learn about a project that works so well for all concerned.

Photo: Brick City Supper Club

Founder Frank Martinez moved to Newark from the Midwest. As the title states, he longed for eating companions so he invited colleagues from his office to eat dinner with him at a restaurant and half a dozen showed the first time. According to Leyden, he based his club on the ones around his grandparents’ Wisconsin dairy farm. Word about the weekly dinners spread well beyond the Department of Economic and Housing Development where he worked.

The club, now almost 400 strong, has an executive committee and chairman, Rob Thomas. Thomas uses Twitter to send out smoke signals about upcoming events. The team chooses the restaurants for dinners that today take place twice a month. Leyden wrote that there were 50 who gathered one cold night this month. “They were young and old, new to Newark, and born-and-raised. They work as lawyers, municipal employees, accountants, graphic artists and at least one elevator saleswoman. Most live here, others commute in for jobs and stick around for dinner.”

Photo: pixabay.com

The club meets on Mondays, because restaurants appreciate business on a traditionally slow day. They travel the city to dine at old favorites and seek out new watering holes that can use the exposure. In addition to seeing old friends and meeting new people, the members are supporting their city’s eateries. Thomas told Leyden they’ve been to some 75 restaurants over the years. One member created a spreadsheet of restaurants “so she is ready when office mates complain that there is nowhere to eat in Newark.”

Leyden wrote: “Bridges have sometimes been built beyond supper. They have eaten in one another’s homes, joined an investment club run by one member, become neighbors who borrow sugar and meet for brunch and birthdays.” One couple marveled at how welcoming to newbies the members were.

Have you been a supper club member? Do you know of successful ones? What other relaxed ways are there to meet people where you work or live?

Photo: Pennsauken.net

Service of a Happy Ending: Coogan’s Stays Open in Washington Heights

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Photo: amazon.com

I’m a sucker for happy endings and a recent one that hit the spot is about a 33 year old Washington Heights, NY restaurant/bar, Coogan’s, that was being forced to close when its lease ran out in spring because of a $40,000 rent increase–to $60,000/month–according to harlemworldmag.com.

Photo: phillymag.com

In two days Coogan’s gathered 18,000 signatures on a petition to save the Broadway and 169th Street hangout. Under pressure the landlord, New York Presbyterian Hospital, agreed to lower the rent increase and the owners, Peter Walsh, Dave Hunt and Tess McDade, are staying put.

Before the agreement, according to cbslocal.com, Walsh told the landlord: “’There’s community here, don’t build walls. Don’t pull a plug so fast on a person when they’re still breathing.’”

Harlemworld.com reported: “During the neighborhood’s dark days of the 80s and 90s — which were plagued by drug-related violence — the restaurant remained open, owners told the Manhattan Times. ‘When we opened, we were one of the first integrated bars in New York, and maybe the country,’ Walsh told the Manhattan Times. ‘We were Dominican, African-American, Irish, Jewish, and everyone got along. We embraced the neighborhood. It worked. But thirty-three years ago, you didn’t see that kind of thing.’”

Photo: airbnb.com

“‘We have served a very, very big part of the Washington Heights community in supplying that big living room that these apartments just don’t have,’ co-owner Dave Hunt told WCBS 880’s Mike Sugerman.

“‘Now the fact that Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted out and said everybody should get onboard, that certainly helps,’ said Hunt.” WCBS also noted “‘Hamilton’ creator Lin-Manuel Miranda celebrated his birthdays there.”

It also doesn’t hurt when in addition to hefty neighborhood support your cause is picked up by local media such as The New York Times, harlemworldmag.com, nbcnewyork.com, cbslocal.com, manhattantimes.com and patch.com/new-york for starters.

The owners are good souls—another reason so many jumped on board their cause and why the story resonated with me. Before the agreement happened, Harlemworldmag.com quoted the New York Times that the “owners are using their connections to help the 40 restaurant employees find jobs.”

There’s a flagrant contrast between the approach of this small business and the big ones that in spite of their tax windfall from the December 2017 “reform” bill are nevertheless collectively laying off millions—AT&T, Wal*Mart, Comcast, Carrier Corp. and Pfizer, to name some. Maybe we should rename “trickle down”  “riches up.”

Might this David & Goliath story be a template for supporting other worthy small fries against the greedy big ‘uns? Can you point to  instances where an aggressive collaboration by concerned citizens, backed by a celebrity and media, helped achieve a happy ending for a beloved neighborhood business?

Photo: Coogans.com

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