What’s the difference between a restaurant owner and a catfish?
There is something bad happening in the restaurant industry. Has anyone else noticed a significant decline? In story after story, some restaurant is royally screwing the pooch. The famed and family owned, four generation legacy, “RAO’s” restaurant in East Harlem, NY, opened a huge tourist trap in Caesars Palace a few years back. it’s located on the main floor, somewhere near “MESA Grill.”
The original RAO’s is nothing short of famous, highly regarded, and you can’t get in without waiting behind a year of reservations for one of their ten tables. Standing reservations for regulars who have been eating there since the beginning exist to this day. If you said “RAO’s sucks” in that neighborhood, you’d get probably get whacked. If you say “RAO’s sucks” to Google, you’ll get a ton of links that point to the Caesars Palace location.
Last year, with a bunch of his people who were in town from New Jersey, my pop goes to eat there. He’s with People that he grew up with that he hasn’t seen in a while. People that I have to call uncle and aunt, that I’ve met maybe twice in my life. My pop came away with a very unfavorable impression of RAO’s. “Fazoli’s” has better food than RAO’s restaurant, apparently.
He kept his mouth shut about it to his friends, and when they come back the next year, they wanna go to RAO’s again. My pop doesn’t say a word, but this time they were all served bad food. They said it was bad to the point of comedy, and the waiter was a total bozo. They said the meatballs were hard enough for a steak knife, and when the entrees finally arrived, half the dishes were not even good to look at. So much so, that “Uncle” Sammy pulled the manager over, and told him, “Listen, I got a restaurant in Jersey, and I wouldn’t serve this food to a dog.” The result:
Ten people, full comp, with coffee and dessert. They probably do that ten times a day.
Integrity is long gone. Restaurants are becoming less and less worthy of even calling themselves credible. Did you hear about the celebrity chef wage thief? The unrelentingly pretentious, “Mr. Vocabulary,” pony-tail sportin’, groomed-by-the-Food-network, ball of hot air, Mario Batali, was sued by his staffers. It’s old news, but his restaurant company, which operates about half a dozen concepts nationwide, was taking a percentage of the servers wine sales directly from their tips every night, claiming it was for broken glassware and “wine marketing, and knowledge.” The staffers, over 1100 of them, sued Batali with allegations that his company was pocketing the money. Pony-tail agreed to a $5.6M settlement.
If some lawyers got serious, they could get that all day long for years. I got two things to say to all of you lumpish, onion-eyed clotpoles who steal your employees wages.
- You’re dirt.
- If you can’t afford glassware and advertising, you can’t open a restaurant. Duh!
Readers, Let’s play a little game, shall we?
Here’s how it goes:
Open notepad, or get something to write on. I’ll wait…………………….
Now, without thinking about it, list the first five restaurants that come to mind. Quickly.
Hopefully, you’re following along. If you made a mental list, that’s cool too.
Check the list of restaurants that were stored in your noggin’ against this list on my Facebook Page.
The list is from a study by Restaurant Opportunities Center United.
Odds are, you have at least three matches if you played along and live in a town with a decent-sized population. If you made a list of little bistros and crepe trucks in your neighborhood, you’re a foodie jack-ass.
What were your results? Two? Three? Five? Please share the outcome with us.
Was that fun, or what? Every wildly successful restaurant in the nation, on a list of places unfit for humans to work in, and I may or may have not called you a jack-ass. Hilarious!
It’s June, a huge month for restaurants because of weddings and graduations. Chances are, many of you have plans to eat at one of these establishments in the near future, or have recently done so. There’s an Outback walking distance from me. That curbside take-away action is convenient when I’m not into cooking or whatever. Will I stop going there? Probably not.
Denial is a survival mechanism. Plus, eating out is good times. Good times trump some poor schmuck waiter who gets fed boiled chicken and robbed by his boss. The most easily accessible, popular, and typically, largest restaurants, which have become a household name, won’t be banned to any degree worthy of note. It ain’t gonna happen.
The next time you go out to eat, just remember that the person serving you is just you in a different monkey suit. Feel me? Show these people some love when you eat out next. Most servers will gush over you if you show them some dignity and respect. I’m not suggesting throwing money at them, but if they do a good job, come with that 20%. If that’s not doable for you, then just make an effort to be sweet. How hard is that? These servers are getting reamed from all directions, over here. Ladies, if you just flirt with your waiter a lot, it will make his week, trust me.
All this crazy news just got me thinking about the many restaurant owners I’ve known and worked for over the years, and I’m convinced that you have to be a raving lunatic, or a complete dolt, to open a restaurant. If somebody wants to open a restaurant and does their homework, they’ll find that their profit margin is about 3%. If they proceed they’re either stupid, insane, or know they’re going to steal.
A restaurant owner I once worked for whose background was operating huge strip clubs in NYC put it like this to me one day: “For a cup of coffee, I gotta buy a coffee maker, filters, coffee, cups, saucers, 5 types of sweetener, coffee pots, spoons, and all the milks, plus half and half.”
“When I ran “Scores,” I would charge a guy $50 to get in the door, serve him watered down drinks all night, and when he’s tapped we’d make a girl say he was getting fresh, and kick him out.” “Then he’s back the next night, with his wallet open, begging me to let him in.”
Nice, right? I’ve met some characters in my time. The guy was a total nut-job. He falls into the raving lunatic category of restaurant owner. The stupid type restaurant owners are the one’s like my most recent ex-employer, Lola, of “Lola’s A Louisiana Kitchen.” Her decision to open a restaurant at 50, with no prior experience, probably went something like this: “I can cook, I even catered some.” “I’m ‘a open me up a res-tee-rawnt.”
On her good days she is a mediocre cook, but she loved to be in her white jacket. Lola couldn’t get her food out of her rinky-dink kitchen fast enough, but if someone complained about a po’ boy taking thirty minutes, they better be ready to make a case for themselves, and 99.9% of the time, Lola wasn’t convinced, and took nothing off of an unsatisfied guests check. I’ve seen this woman, on numerous occasions, throw green and smelly steaks on her grill.
Her policy is to tell her guests “Oh, well,” if they do not like a dish they ordered. She would make the case that it’s not her fault if a dish is not to some one’s liking, and if they can’t prove to her that it’s prepared improperly, they’re buying the food. That was her “out” because she knows she can’t cook. I was stunned when she rattled off that policy to me like she was making a stand on her convictions. She’s just greedy, bottom line. This person is bad mojo.
How is it OK that people like this have such large influence over others? I don’t want someone who belongs in Bellevue cooking for, or paying me. I think it would be wise to put people who want to open a restaurant through rigorous mental and coping tests, as well as a patriot-act type background check. That will weed out all of the Lola’s and Batali’s. lvfrankg