#10 CHEWING GUM
Perhaps you’ve noticed as I have, >as I get older, life gets a little harder, you move a little slower, and you forget…….everything. It’s just harder to www.watchma.com
keep your stuff together. I have a soft spot for middle age. Largely because I’ve arrived, but I have to admit, we can be a pretty funny group. One night a middle aged woman is sitting having dinner when we notice a commotion. She’s panicking and looking all around the
table. Then she proceeds to start yelling, really yelling, “THEY TOOK MY BREAD PLATE, THEY TOOK MY BREAD PLATE, THEY TOOK MY BREAD PLATE, THEY TOOK MY BREAD PLATE!” This is like
listening to “Rainman” without the math skills. We run in, “What’s the problem?” She, “THEY TOOK MY BREAD PLATE!” Us, “We got that part, what’s the problem?”I’ve always heard that the gunshot victim never hears the gun. The bullet is too fast. It hits you before you hear the sound. This was kind of like that. She looked up at us and we realized what was wrong before the sound of her voice saying, “My teeth were on it.” Us, incredulous,” (OMG).I would have thought you would have needed those.” She, “Go find my teeth.” I have to tell you, my friends, that’s absolutely the first time I ever heard that in a restaurant. This is part of the course I want to teach at The Culinary Institute of America when I retire. The one they never tell you about. I now have two people in the garbage can with plastic gloves looking for a set of “uppers.” We’re looking and laughing, laughing and looking, and then we spotted a fish head that had a smile like Tiger Woods. Bingo. We took them out, sprayed them down and ran them through the dishwasher. Now comes the real problem. How to bring them back out, on what plate, with what garnish? We chose a plain white bread plate but decided not to use parsley. It always gets stuck in your teeth. We went with mint.
#9 SNAPPER RETRIBUTION
Someone out there has to write me to please tell me if this happens in any other business but mine. I’ll set this scene for you all. A party of five arrives for the Price-Fix Menu on a Sunday evening at about 5:30. So far all’s well. The Price-Fix is from 5:00-6:30, Sunday thru Thursday and costs, for three courses, $25.95. I think this is a pretty good deal. Some of my customers think I can do a little better. On the deal, that is. We don’t skimp on the Price-Fix. We give the same portions as dinner, and some of the same items. Admittedly we use some of the cheaper items, but that’s OK. It’s supposed to be a good deal, and it is, but at the same time I’m not obligated to go broke in the process. There are usually three fish, three meats, one vegetarian, and a pasta choice on the menu, along with five or six appetizers and three or four desserts. With these thoughts in mind, we go on. Table of five, “Price-Fix please.” They are looking over the menus for about five minutes and they are ready to order. Four out of the first five order Chilean Sea Bass as their entrees. To this point things are going remarkable well. But, there’s always one, right. The last gentleman can’t find anything he likes and wants to know if he could substitute the Truffle Crusted Snapper instead. The waitress, “That’s not on the Price-fix, and it’s an expensive dish. I’m sure the kitchen will make it for you, but there will probably be a surcharge. The man, “If I wanted to pay a surcharge, I wouldn’t have come for the Price-Fix.”
I have got to try this technique out sometime. The florist has a sale on Gladiolas. No thanks, I’ll have the Rose…at the Gladiola price. Winter clothing sale two sweaters for the price of one: uh uh, give me two Cavali shirts, and you know what, throw in a pair of sunglasses...for the same price. Hey here’s a lulu, Ford Smart Lease on a Taurus $199.00 – 36 months, no money down. Love the price, love the terms, love the Expedition…for the same price. Who else does this stuff?
Anyway, at some point you have to make a stand. The waitress, “The kitchen won’t make it with out the surcharge.” (We’re talking $3.00 here, but it’s the principle). The man, “I’ve eaten Price-Fix dinners all over the world (here we go again) and they always let me order what I want. Yeah, the French are so accommodating, aren’t they? The man, “You know what, forget it I’ll have the Chilean Sea Bass.” I know, through years of pain and suffering, that when someone who wants a menu rewrite, gives up that easily, it’s not over. And it wasn’t. All was well with the appetizers. Then the entrees came out. Five Chilean Sea Bass dishes. Four of them were perfect. Guess who? Yup, he’s got a problem. He calls the waitress over and says the one thing I never heard a man say in public, “Mine is smaller than everyone else’s.” (Pardon me sir, but that’s how rumors start.) He continues, “You purposely gave me the small one because I wanted the snapper.” The waitress, “I didn’t even bring them out the runner did.” He says, “You told him to give me the small one.” The waitress said, “Let me get you another piece.” The man, “No forget it I’m not hungry now, I’m too upset.” The waitress, “Come on sir, let’s fix this. What can I do to make you happy?” He looks up at her, with a gleam in his eye and says, “I’ll have the snapper.”
#8 ARE WE THERE YET?
Okay: Long Island for the most part is an affluent, educated, and a socially comfortable place to live. I’m fully aware that that is not the case for every Long Islander but let’s, for a moment, pretend that it is the case for the people who eat out at expensive restaurants on a regular basis. I think that should be enough of a caveat to satisfy even the most sensitive P.C. patrolman, oops patrolperson, so as not to offend anyone at any time, for any reason. For those faithful readers of this article let me assure both of you that you can comfort yourselves with the guarantee that I would never do that again thereby insuring that I can continue to contribute to this magazine without causing it’s owners to be dragged into court by any number of grievance mongers looking to cash in on someone else’s efforts. Now that that‘s out of the way I’ll tiptoe on.
I once stated in a previous article that we’ve never had a great explorer hail from Long Island. We never had the person with the one name like Magel- lan, or a truly unfortunate, albeit memorable, name like Cabeza de Vaca, to set the standard for getting from here to there: a talent that seems to elude some of our fellow Long Islanders. We can never seem to find where we’re going, the likes of TomTom notwithstanding. Speaking of Cabeza de Vaca for a moment; who would follow a guy whose name, literally translated, means “Head of a cow?” Ever follow a cow? Cows don’t really go anywhere; they just stand there and chew. If I’m going to go exploring I want to follow a guy with a name like Cabeza de Homing Pigeon. At least I know at some point I’ll be returning. (“Hey Enrique’, you want to come and circumnavigate the globe with Magellan?” “Nah, thanks for asking but I’m headin’ down to Miami with Head of a Cow.”)
As much as I like South Beach I’m fairly certain that I’d have passed on the offer. Maybe I’m just more aware of the points on a compass but I’ve been all over the world and have never had a problem finding the country that I was traveling to. I’ve eaten in almost every restaurant in the United States or at least it feels like I have and have never had a problem getting there. Have I been lost occasionally? Absolutely, but with a quick call for directions or an on the fly consultation with a navigation system it’s a fairly easy process to find your way, providing that you actually want to be there and assuming that arguing about the directions isn’t more important than listening to them.
I realize that the well adjusted among us must be scratching their collective heads but hear me well; there are some folks out there who are so mad about whatever they’re mad about that even a succinct recitation of directions is cause for a confrontation. Why, you ask? I don’t know. I’d have to consult a professional but I’ve devised some fun responses to the hopelessly lost because I sometimes relish sinking to that level of discourse. It’s the diabolical twelve year old that resides in my psyche. Plus as your mother always told you, “It’s better to give than to receive,” and baby I’m a giver. Here’s what happened. I try to never answer the phone at the restaurants for fear that I’ll be asked a question that I know nothing about and being the owner it’s a rather embarrassing position to be in. In my defense I have a lot of stuff going on in the various restaurants with menus, special dinners, and promotions and I don’t always have the information at the ready. That’s why God made receptionists.
They are way better at it than I am so I let them handle those things. Besides, answering the phone is His way of telling me that I should have been in the kitchen doing something constructive instead of hanging out in the office with my three thousand dollar Solitaire machine. The phone rings: Me, “Hello.” A woman, with absolutely no greeting says, “Where are you located?” I said, “Where are you coming from and I‘ll tell you how to get here.” This is where I apparently ticked her off because she seemed, at that moment, to go off the rails. She gets really nasty and in a very sarcastic tone says, “Why can’t you just tell me where you’re located?” Okay I’ll admit she rubbed me the wrong way and that my patience level for rude people is shrinking as I get older but sometimes giving them exactly what they ask for is the best revenge you can extract if that’s in fact what you’re looking to do: which I was. I have heard about the high road but just like the woman on the phone I was having trouble finding it.
The only thing that actually makes me fighting mad at a stage in my life where fighting is no longer a credible option is when someone mistakes kindness for weakness and starts bullying….at any level. I felt compelled to accommodate her and I never said I was mature. Digesting for a moment her, “Why can’t you just tell me where you’re located,” comment and the attitude that went along with it and trying desperately not to say something off color about her mother, I said, “Okay, we are located in Syosset.” She asked, “Where in Syosset.” “6800 Jericho Turnpike.” She asked, “Where’s that?” “Next to the Chase Bank” She said, “I’m not really sure where that is.” “It’s just passed the bowling alley.” She said, “I don’t bowl.” “Do you eat Chinese food?” She asked, “Why would you ask me that?” I said, “Because the bowling alley is just down the block from the Szechuan restaurant.” She finally loses it and says, “You’re being a jerk!” I bow to her laser beam sense of perception. I said, “Ma’am, I’m just giving you what you asked for and I could do this all night by the way. I could take you right into Queens, building by building. Let me ask you a question though, do you really want to come here tonight?” She said, “Yes.” I said, “Then why don’t you just tell me where you are… and I’ll be happy to tell you how to get here.” She starts screaming, “FINE! I’M ONJERICHO TURNPIKE GOING WEST PAST JACKSON AVENUE! ARE YOU HAPPY?!’ “Third light, make a left. And I am thrilled.” ???
#7 BURNING MAD
Now that you know I have an aversion to answering telephones I must tell you that every once in a while when I do someone makes my year with a comment or request. And that comment or request usually winds up in this article as you are about to see. I find myself being annoyed at the lengths people will go to eat in your restaurant. They lie about making reservations, they say they know you, (“I’m a close personal friend of Tom Schmawdeley”), and one lady even called claiming to be my mother, but upon further reflection it’s really flattering that they will debase themselves to eat at your place. So I’m trying took look at this from a healthier perspective these days since I’ve promised to be the new and improved, fair and balanced Tommy. This was maybe the best phone call I’ve ever taken in my forty two years of doing this but first a word about gift certificates. I love them; love, love, love them. Why, you may be wondering? Two reasons: number one, they are paid for in advance by someone who is trying to be nice to someone else thereby upping the ante and increasing the take. Some may think me greedy but we do have bills to pay and this ain’t the Peace Corps.
The second reason I love them is that we only get about fifty percent of them back. That profit margin is either obscene or just right depending on which side of the aisle you reside on. If all my sales were gift certificate sales my salary would begin to approach that of a low level federal bureaucrat. It’s really the only profitable part that’s left in our business. I’d love to talk to the fellow that dreamed that gift certificate idea up to find out if he saw this coming or if it was just a happy accident. Either way he has my eternal gratitude. I’d also like to have a word with the person who decided that gift cards were to be the modern extension of the gift certificate. We were doing just fine without you.
The problem with the gift card as opposed to the gift certificate is that it’s made of plastic and any environmentalist worth his windmill will tell you that plastic will not deteriorate for thousands of years, necessitating a slight change in setting expiration dates. And being made of plastic and being the size of a credit card, where do they end up? In your wallet of course, sitting there as a reminder again and again that you haven’t been to the restaurant in a while. Being made of paper, gift certificates find all kinds of ways to meet an untimely but welcomed end. They get mixed up in the wrapping paper around the holidays…and get thrown out.
They are left in the gift bags at the birthday party with those schmaltzy Hallmark cards… and get thrown out. They find their way under the junk mail on the kitchen table…and get thrown out. Some people actually respect the expiration date…and they get thrown out. What’s worse, losing a few trees or annexing North Dakota to use as a graveyard for all those discarded gift cards? Oh, and while we’re on the subject of losing… I was sitting in the office working on my Solit…….uh…menus, when the phone rang… and rang…and rang.
I picked it up and said, “Hi, can I help you?” A gentleman on the other end said, “I’d like to speak to whoever is in charge of gift certificates.” I said, “I can help you with that.” He said, “Great. How strict are you on your expiration date policy?” I was kidding him and asked, “Keep in mind we’ve only been here eleven years. How old is it?” “My son bought it for my wife and me last year so it’s probably close to two years old,” he told me. I said, “You know what, we’re just looking to make friends here. I’ll be happy to honor it. Bring it on down, it’s not a concern.” Then he paused a moment and said, “Thank you very much. I appreciate it and we’ve been looking forward to coming there but I have one other slight problem.” “What’s that?” I asked. He said, “I can’t bring the gift certificate with me.” I asked, “Why not?” He said, “About six months ago we months ago we had a fire in our house. I wasn’t huge but we had extensive damage and I think we lost the gift certificate in the fire.” Me, “You lost the gift certificate in the fire?” Him, “Yes and it was for two hundred dollars.
My son is very generous.” Me, “I’d say so. You must be big eaters. “ Him, “We like food and going to restaurants.” Me, “That’s nice.” He then says, “So it’s not a problem with the expiration date? You’ll still honor it?” Me, “Honor what?” He said, “Honor the gift certificate.” Me, “Uh sir… I’m not quite sure how to break this to you but you don’t have a gift certificate.” Him, “But my son bought it. It was for two hundred dollars.” Me, “You sure it wasn’t five?” He said, “No, no it was two hundred dollars.” Me, “Okay, bring it in and we’ll be happy to honor it. “ Frustrated, he shouts, “I CAN’T BRING IT IN. I TOLD YOU I LOST IT IN THE HOUSE FIRE!” I said, “Sir I can’t honor a gift certificate that you don’t have.” Him, “But I had it before the fire. My son bought it.” Me, “And I would have honored it before the fire even though it was expired.” Not yet willing to let it go he asks, “So you’re really not going to honor my gift certificate?” Me, “Sir, you don’t have a gift certificate.” He screams, “ARE YOU DENSE OR WHAT? I LOST IT IN THE FIRE! I HAD IT! IT WAS IN MY HOUSE! I HAD A GIFT CERTIFICATE!” I SAID, “Okay, tell you what. Gather the ashes together and bring ‘em to Mineola. Have their C.S.I. team piece it together, bring it in and I’ll honor it.” Bidding me a fond goodbye he said, “YOU ARE SUCH A JERK!” Click.
#6 AND THE WINNERS ARE...
There are some people who subscribe to the belief that there are such things as alien life forms and an alternate or a parallel universe. It has to do with a veritable Pupu Platter of space, time, matter, energy, cosmology, physics, religion, philosophy, fiction and fantasy: a strange brew indeed. My head would explode trying to sort all of that out and frankly I have all I can do to get a meal to a table in the allotted timeframe, hot and garnished so I’ll leave all the esoteric thinking to the likes of Stephen Hawking. Let’s first take a second and dispense with the life on other planets stuff. The conclusive proof that aliens do not exist is that no one in government has found a way to funnel them foreign aid: period, end of story. And furthermore, not one enlightened official has come forth to offer the occasional extraterrestrial visitor (nocturnally touring Tennessee) an amnesty with full citizenship and health care. Case closed, they don’t exist. But… I may be able to offer the ven- erable Mr. Hawking the hardcore proof he longs for that an alternate universe actually does exist.
I’m just sayin’… he should knock off all that fooling around with black holes and concentrate his studies on Long Island. All the evidence he needs is right here: up is down, left is right, six reservations, six different times, six different names, six different restaurants; dressing on the side, chop my salad, steam my salmon, slice my steak, paint my house, mow my lawn, wipe my chin, hold the chick peas, capers, onions, wine, garlic, cream, herbs, and flavor; all of which sums up the typical Saturday night shenanigans. But do you know what the kicker was for me, the absolute indisputable proof? Only in an alternate universe could no less than three people tell me they were insulted, insulted, that they’ve weren’t included in my book or haven’t been in one of these articles. Yes my friends there are those among us that consider Tom’s Top Ten to be an award ceremony, sort of like the Oscars without the egos. Yup, there are people longing to be recognized for their contributions to the destruction of the restaurant experience as we know it. A quick story: I was once in a restaurant in another state having dinner with a friend. I was looking around the dining room as I always do when I’m out for dinner, watching and observing, trying to pick up on what they were doing when something suddenly struck me. Bemused, I said to her, “Look around the dining room and tell me what you see.” She looked around and said, “I see people eating and drinking.” “That’s it?” I asked. She answered, “Yeah Tom, that’s it. Why, what do you see?” I started to laugh and said, “I see people enjoying themselves. They seem to be having a good time. No one’s giving the servers cooking instructions, nothing’s getting sent back, no allergy trauma, people are actually ordering what’s on the menu, nobody’s fighting, yelling, screaming, threatening or dying; I’ve found Heaven.” She said, “Sounds pretty normal to me.”I said, “You don’t live in New York where going out to dinner is a blood sport,…without wheat products of course.” And just like any other sport each contestant wants to be ultimately recognized as “The Champ.” That’s the purpose of competition, no? Well then, what I seem to have on my hands here are some folks who would like their efforts to be rewarded with the recognition that they feel they deserve for torturing their fellow man. They want to be considered the best: the best pain in the butt they can possibly be. If that ain’t an alternate universe, Stephen Hawking is a fool. I’ve often said that if you lived west of N.Y. City and east of L.A. and you read one of these articles, you would think I’m making stuff up because after all who really behaves like this anywhere else? The fact that the people I’m about to introduce you to actually asked to get into the article should tell you all you need to know about the state of dining out in N.Y. Well here you go, you’ve made into the Top Ten with all the pomp and circumstance that accompany such an honor so puff out that chest, straighten that spine, stick out that chin and be proud, you guys have earned this special day. Congratulations, I guess?
For Best Supporting Actor, The Nominee is: When someone says to me, “What do I have to do to get in your next article or book?” I immediately think, by the very nature of the question, ‘You probably just have to be yourself’. Because by asking that question you must not only subscribe to a somewhat deviant view ofrestaurant etiquette but you must also be confident that you can pull it off. And that alone in my eyes qualifies one as potential material.
So, was I surprised when this gentleman asked me, “What do I have to do to get in your next book?” No, I was not. What was rather amusing though was the lengths he was willing to go to in order to achieve that sort of infamy. Here’s how it went. He asks, “Hey Tom, if I send my next ten dinners back can I get in the book?” Me, “That’s nothing I haven’t seen a hundred times.” He then asks, “What if I order a bottle of expensive wine and then refuse it because I didn’t like it. Would that do it?” I said, “That would more than likely just get you tossed off the mailing list and buy you Persona NonGrata status around here. You’re going to have to work a lot harder than that. There’s some stiff competition out there.” Getting increasingly frustrated he said, “C'mon, I want to be in the next book. How do I get in?” This is usually where I tend to reassure the readers that this conversation really did take place, I’m not paraphrasing or garnishing, and that it’s word for bloody word. I promise. Thinking for a moment he says, “What if I start a fight in the dining room?” I said, “As resourceful as that idea is, and it’s a beauty, I’m way too old to be rolling around the floor with the clientele so it would only serve to get you banned and probably prosecuted. I’d say you should pass on that one.” He says, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Ten minutes later he says, “Hey T, I’ve got it! What if I got naked and danced on the bar? You’d have to put that in the book.” I asked him a simple question. “Dude, why would someone your age want to strip naked, dance on a bar and voluntarily displaying his shortcomings, (I meant the dancing) just to get a few sentences in a book? It seems rather desperate, although I am going to weigh the entertainment factor against the gag reflex before giving you an answer.” He said, “I just want to be iiiinnnn….. “ The epilogue to this is that we did eventually have go our separate ways and I won’t embarrass him by giving you the details of our parting but I will tell you that the ironic part of this is, just as I’d always suspected and with all his contrived scenarios notwithstanding, it was the direct result of him just being himself. But he did get his wish ultimately so how about a round of applause. The Nominee for Best Actor in an Action Film:Remember the movie title Like Water for Chocolate? Let’s call this one Like Clipboards for Grown Ups. What is it about a brushed metal menu clipboard with a fish on it that brings out the Clyde Barrow in otherwise law abiding citizens? I just can’t keep them in the house. I bring ‘em in, they take ‘em out. It’s come to the point where I’m considering a full range of options and since the government has endorsed the adolescent technique of “feeling up” as our best defense in the “War on Terror,” I’m assuming I can use enhanced pat downs to keep my continued purchasing of menu clip- boards from landing me in the proverbial poor house. A table of four sixty something’s were finishing their meals and I’m assuming there was some alcohol involved, make that I’m praying there was some alcohol involved, because it would go a long way in explaining things.
They paid their dinner check and were heading out. As they approached the hostess stand one of the gentleman, I did mention that he was in his sixties didn’t I, stops and yells, “Five…four… three…two…one…!” Then he scoops up ten menu clipboards in his arms and runs out the front door. Diane screams, “Hey, bring those back here,” and runs out after him. As she catches up to him near the parking lot she says, “What are you doing?” He says, “I’m just trying to get in the book, I’m just trying to get in the book! I wasn’t really taking them.” Sir that was funny. No really, you are one funny fellow.
There’s nothing I find funnier than a sixty year old man channeling a three year old child. It doesn’t quite rise to the level of those kneeslapping classics like the watersquirting lapel flower, the electric hand buzzer, or that crowd favorite, the Whoopee Cushion, but I will give you points for style. Your wish has come true, so I’m happy to do it.They do have an expiration date though and we do adhere to it for reasons that are too numerous to explain here. But one woman found that with a little thought, determination, and an inability to feel shame, she had a shot at rendering the expiration date meaningless. A woman walked into the restaurant to have dinner with a fistful of coupons that she had purchased from the radio station. They were $50.00 gift certificates that she had purchased for $25.00 each. We weren’t aware of it at that point but she had five of them so in her mind she had $250.00 worth of redeemable tender in her Coach bag. In perfectly legible letters, in the same size font as the rest of the coupon, right there on the front, in English, it stated: Only one coupon allowed per visit. And where it said expiration date it said June 30, 2011. As luck would have it, it was June 30, 2011. She came in with a party of four and I believe she was going to pick up the bill with the wad of coupons she had stashed in her pocketbook. You have to really go some to get to $250.00 with four people at Amano so they went nuts, soup to nuts. The bill was around $230.00 dollars and when presented with said bill she put the wad of coupons in the check folder and said, “I’ll take the rest in cash.” The server looked at the coupons and being an experienced coupon checker, checked them, only to find that, lo and behold, you can only use one. She tells the woman, “I’m sorry ma’am you can only use one coupon per visit. It says it right there on the front.” Stunned, the woman says, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” The server, “No, it’s right on the front of the coupon. One visit only.” Now panicked, she tells the server, “I was going to buy dinner for the table using these coupons because today is the last day. They expire today. What am I supposed to do now?” The server, “I don’t know but I can only accept one. I’ll come back in a few minutes.” It was an anguished filled few minutes along with some profanity that I won’t bore you with. She hangs a Visa card on the server and asks, “Will they extend the expiration date for me?” The server, “I don’t believe they will.” The lady asks, “Why not?” The server answers, “House policy. It expires when it expires.” The woman then asks, “What am I supposed to do with the other four coupons?” The server, “I don’t know.” Well the woman apparently did. She turned to the table next to her and asked, “Would you like to buy a coupon. It expires today and it’s for $50.00 but I’m willing to let it go for $45.00.” He looked at her like you would look at someone selling an about to be expired coupon for $5.00 off list price and said, “No, thank you.” She tried two or three more tables until the server came over and admonished her, “Ma’am you really can’t be bothering the other tables with this.” Annoyed, the woman said, “Fine I’m leaving,” and got as far as the bar before trying her luck on a party of four walking in the front door, a lady on her way to the rest room, and a gentleman at the bar three chardonnays into a five chardonnay night, all without any luck.
Finally Patty, the manager, came over and said that she would have to leave and stop pestering the patrons. Upon exiting the restaurant she proceeded down the steps to the sidewalk where customers were filing in and began a proper scalping of the coupons. “Coupons here get your coupons, $50.00 value for $45.00. Coupons, coupons, get a $50.00 coupon for $40.00… Anyone want a coupon?? I’m selling a $50.00 coupon for $35.00…Coupons, a $50.00 WHLI coupon signed by Tom Schaudel, $25.00, just $25.00… Excuse me sir, would you like to buy a coupon? It‘s a $50.00 coupon. I’ll give it to you
for $10.00. $10.00 for a $50.00 coupon…Are you people crazy? Alright, my last offer $5.00, a $50.00 coupon for $5.00 any akers?” I’m happy to report that due to nature of the sale and the dignity of my clientele there weren’t any.
#5 RESERVATION JIHAD
If someone could design a reservation system that would guarantee that everyone who made a reservation intended to show up for that reservation, that the number of people on the reservation would be at least partially accurate in relation to the number of people using the reservation, that the folks who made the reservation were compelled to show up on time, at the same time, for the reservation, and that the name on the reservation matched the name on the driver’s license of at least one of the diners who made the reservation, that person would not only become as wealthy as Ron Popeil, he would be the beloved hero of every restaurateur. “Simple,” say you? “Yeah right,” say I. It’s never been done, I don’t believe it ever will be and I blame it on the process of evolution. We are constantly tinkering with the reservation system trying to get it right but to be honest we don’t get a boatload of cooperation. Everyone wants to eat at the precise moment that they want to eat and I get that. But when you combine that desire with the need to invite guests, employ various means of transportation, enlist the services of MapQuest, numerous family issues, responsibility challenged babysitters, the art of makeup application, memory loss, poor cell phone reception, and the occasional marital dispute, it can throw things off. So that being said we have tried all sorts of potential solutions to the myriad problems of getting someone’s rear end in the seat at their designated time. And I might add we have been somewhat successful. But, just as in nature, the strong have to constantly adapt to survive which is what the reservation jihadists have done. They are constantly evolving and developing better and more creative techniques to beat the system with the willful intent of turning Saturday Night into Little Bighorn. This was a new one that I must admit was brilliant in its simplicity. On a typical Saturday night we have hundreds of reservations and it really is a high wire act dealing with them. Between misunderstood times, no shows, a.k.a. names that no one can remember, and a deteriorating patience level on the part of the public, it can get a little sketchy at the podium. Diane was working the door and a man walks up to her and says, “Hello.” She says “Hi, do you have a reservation?” The man says, “I do.” Diane asks, “What’s the name?” He says, “Jackson.” “Okay, I have you right here. A party of four,” she says. He tells her, “No, that’s not me…“ But before he could finish Diane spots a second reservation under the name Jackson and says, “Oh, I see.
We have two Jacksons. You’re the six top.” He then tells her, “No it’s just the two of us.” Still looking at the reservation sheet and now a little bewildered she sees a Jackson party of two, Diane says, “Oh, here you are, Jackson, party of two. It must be hard sometimes to have such a common name. I’m sure you get confused with people all the time. We have three different Jacksons coming here tonight alone.” He says, “Really?” Diane tells him, “Yeah, we have a Jackson four top and a Jackson six top coming in besides you and your wife.” He said, “Well, to tell you the truth, I made those other two reservations because I wasn’t sure who, in our original party, was or wasn’t coming so I was just covering myself. You can cancel those other two; my guests couldn’t make it. ” I’d like to ask why this is not considered theft of services. I’m sure if you reserved six airline seats and you showed up at the gate and said, “The other five couldn’t get the time off and decided not to come,” that the price of six seats would show up on your Amex statement. What’s the difference?
#4 DISCOUNT SCHMISCOUNT
In the continuing journey of my spiritual evolution and in keeping my promises to my new letter writing fan, I’ve decided that it’s high time that I started hating the “Rich.” Those people are the main reason that the restaurant business is in the state it’s in. Think about it. Everywhere you look restaurants are offering deals, right? You see Price Fix deals, Groupon Coupon deals, Half Price Wine nights, 2 for 1’s, Ladies’ Night, Half Priced Sushi on Monday Night, and all of these comeons are designed to entice people who have cut back on eating out. I put the blame for this squarely on the “Rich.” Why you ask? Well, why do you think people have cut back on eating out? It’s the “Rich.”
If the “Rich” weren’t so greedy then the rest of us would have more money to go out to eat and…if the “Rich” were to be made poor by taxing away all their money, then they would be forced to look for discounts like the rest of us thereby swelling the reservation sheets and causing an economic boom in the dining rooms of restaurants all across the country.
And let’s not forget that if the “Rich” didn’t spend all their time working and scheming to take the money away from the poor, (who don’t have any, by the very definition of the word,) they could attend a rally or two, yelling and protesting, and building up an appetite, leading to additional contributions to the food industry. Let me tell you what those dirty bastards have done to me. I recently installed a new carpet. Do you know why? It’s the “Rich.” They have had the audacity to have been walking on my carpet for eleven years and wore it out. Oh, and that’s not all. I had to replace part of my ceiling that was destroyed by a leak in the roof caused by… yup, the “Rich.” Those people bought so many SUV’s and produced so much greenhouse gas that it caused a thunderstorm to rain on the flat roof of my building, cascading water into the dining room and messing up the ceiling tiles. You know what else they do? They destroy the forests. Do you know how? They use toilet paper. Do you know how I know that? I have to constantly replace it in my bathrooms, effectively wiping out my bottom line. And, I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, the “Rich” go to restaurants and eat cows, chicken and fish thereby keeping those poor creatures from enjoying a happy childhood, a good education, and the right to vote. I hate the “Rich,” hate ‘em, hate ‘em. A more sneaky and calculating bunch you’ll never meet. And get this, they pretend that they hate being rich. Some of them will even go as far as to say that they aren’t paying enough taxes and long to pay more; they just can’t because no one’s passed a law requiring them to. A few of these heathens even stoop so low and hate being rich so much that I’ve actually witnessed them voluntarily giving away their money at charity events. Can you imagine?
Nothing irks me more than seeing successful people. It just isn’t fair. I hate ‘em. What we need is more suffering on a national basis, darn it. I’d like to see the rich taxed into abject poverty because once everyone is poor and can’t afford to go out to restaurants, not only is that fair, it has the added benefit of allowing us to create a government program that makes going out to restaurants an entitlement for those who can’t afford it. Then each and every one of us will finally be on an equal level of un affordability. And once everyone is entitled to go to a restaurant I assume they will exercise that right, funded by a government program and paid for by a loan from Beijing, and then my dining rooms will be full every night of the week. And that is fairness pure and simple and, I might add, economic brilliance. I think I’ve turned the corner. But… what is not fair is that coupons have expiration dates and some people’s coupons expire on different dates than other people’s do. We can’t have that, it’s not fair. Where the heck is that shining knight of the Nanny State, Chuck Schumer, when we need him?
He needs to have a look at this. Just because you bought your coupon four years ago shouldn’t mean that you’re not entitled to your discount today. For those of you who have listened to my radio show you have probably heard that we give some coupons as prizes or for various deals that we have going on at the station. For those of you who haven’t listened to my radio show, you should. It’s usually a buy one get one deal and it can set off quite a purchasing frenzy when they are offered. For me it’s goodwill and public relations so I’m happy to do it. They do have an expiration date though and we do adhere to it for reasons that are too numerous to explain here. But one woman found that with a little thought, determination, and an inability to feel shame, she had a shot at rendering the expiration date meaningless. A woman walked into the restaurant to have dinner with a fistful of coupons that she had purchased from the radio station. They were $50.00 gift certificates that she had purchased for $25.00 each. We weren’t aware of it at that point but she had five of them so in her mind she had $250.00 worth of redeemable tender in her Coach bag. In perfectly legible letters, in the same size font as the rest of the coupon, right there on the front, in English, it stated: Only one coupon allowed per visit. And where it said expiration date it said June 30, 2011. As luck would have it, it was June 30, 2011. She came in with a party of four and I believe she was going to pick up the bill with the wad of coupons she had stashed in her pocketbook. You have to really go some to get to $250.00 with four people at Amano so they went nuts, soup to nuts. The bill was around $230.00 dollars and when presented with said bill she put the wad of coupons in the check folder and said, “I’ll take the rest in cash.” The server looked at the coupons and being an experienced coupon checker, checked them, only to find that, lo and behold, you can only use one. She tells the woman, “I’m sorry ma’am you can only use one coupon per visit. It says it right there on the front.” Stunned, the woman says, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” The server, “No, it’s right on the front of the coupon. One visit only.” Now panicked, she tells the server, “I was going to buy dinner for the table using these coupons because today is the last day. They expire today. What am I supposed to do now?” The server, “I don’t know but I can only accept one. I’ll come back in a few minutes.” It was an anguished filled few minutes along with some profanity that I won’t bore you with. She hangs a Visa card on the server and asks, “Will they extend the expiration date for me?” The server, “I don’t believe they will.” The lady asks, “Why not?” The server answers, “House policy. It expires when it expires.” The woman then asks, “What am I supposed to do with the other four coupons?” The server, “I don’t know.” Well the woman apparently did. She turned to the table next to her and asked, “Would you like to buy a coupon. It expires today and it’s for $50.00 but I’m willing to let it go for $45.00.” He looked at her like you would look at someone selling an about to be expired coupon for $5.00 off list price and said, “No, thank you.” She tried two or three more tables until the server came over and admonished her, “Ma’am you really can’t be bothering the other tables with this.” Annoyed, the woman said, “Fine I’m leaving,” and got as far as the bar before trying her luck on a party of four walking in the front door, a lady on her way to the rest room, and a gentleman at the bar three chardonnays into a five chardonnay night, all without any luck. Finally Patty, the manager, came over and said that she would have to leave and stop pestering the patrons. Upon exiting the restaurant she proceeded down the steps to the sidewalk where customers were filing in and began a proper scalping of the coupons. “Coupons here get your coupons, $50.00 value for $45.00. Coupons, coupons, get a $50.00 coupon for $40.00… Anyone want a coupon?? I’m selling a $50.00 coupon for $35.00…Coupons, a $50.00 WHLI coupon signed by Tom Schaudel, $25.00, just $25.00… Excuse me sir, would you like to buy a coupon? It‘s a $50.00 coupon. I’ll give it to you for $10.00. $10.00 for a $50.00 coupon…Are you people crazy? Alright, my last offer $5.00, a $50.00 coupon for $5.00 any takers?” I’m happy to report that due to nature of the sale and the dignity of my clientele there weren’t any.
#3 QUIT YER WHINING
The wine thing has exploded. Everyone is into wine. That’s great for me for a couple reasons. First, I love wine. Sometimes too much, but I also love to share wine and the wine knowledge I’ve managed to retain (?) over the years. Wine changes the perception of a bad habit. It has, unlike beer, whiskey, or drugs, a birth year, a pedigree, a grape varietal, and it is the world’s only living beverage.
Wine is actually alive in the bottle. This makes for interesting conversation. Adjectives are thrown around wildly. There are discussions, to the point of pain, about legs, noses, and finishes, and it elevates drinking alcohol to snobbily noble endeavor. If you and I drink two bottles of Tequila, we’re two morons, but if we drink two bottles of Pinot Noir, we’re two aristocrats. Same buzz, different perception. Secondly, I get to sell it to a willing clientele,
and that means occasionally I make a profit.
Occasionally being the operative word. A quick
lesson; wine makers are moving away from corks
to seal the wine, for a couple of reasons. First
there is a serious shortage. They are running out
of cork. Second, and more importantly, about
10% of corks fail, allowing air to penetrate and
spoil or “oxydize” the wine. They have tried to
some degree of success, plastic & rubber corks,
but it is common knowledge that the only fool
proof method of preserving wine in the bottle is
with the dreaded “screw cap.” Not a real sexy
prospect but 100% effective. When a wine has
been spoiled by oxygen, due to cork failure, the
term to describe the spoiled wine is “corked.”
Once a wine is corked the wine is assumed to be
undrinkable, and for restaurant purposes,
unsellable. Many fine wine makers have gone
to screw caps already, many more will follow,
and I predict in twenty years all wine will be
screw cap. It removes the ceremony of a waiter
“romancing” a cork from the bottle tableside,
and screw caps have always been associated with
cheap wine, but I think eventually it will be
accepted universally. And, it will save all that
spoiled wine. For background information, we
have thirty wines by the glass at Coolfish, and
we will let you taste any of them before buying
one to make sure you are happy. Armed with
that information, we proceed. A woman orders
a bottle of Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay
(New Zealand). It has a screw cap. The waiter
brings the bottle to the table, presents the wine,
the woman says yes, he unscrews the cap to the
horror of the guest, and pours a taste.She says i
ts fine, but the look on her face suggests
otherwise. About five minutes later its apparent
there’s a wine problem. She’s suspicious of the
screw cap, doesn’t want the wine, but needs a
reason to send it back. We’ll take a wine back
no questions asked, but some people still feel
compelled to create the illusion that they are
wine savvy. (Wine savvy people never send
wine back unless it’s corked.) She says, “There’s
a problem with this wine, I can’t drink it.” Isay,
“What’s wrong with it?” She says, “It’s corked.”
(heh, heh, heh). Me (straight-faced), “I don’t
think it could be corked.” She says, “I know
wine and this wine is corked.” Me, “There’s
never been a cork in that bottle, it’s a screw cap,
so while your wine may be “screwed” it’s
certainly not “corked”. But, if you don’t like it, we’ll take it back. I’ll bring you a wine by the
glass list and you can taste them before you buy
them so you can be sure you like it.” She says, "
Fine.” She looks over the list and says, “I’d like
to try the Sauvignon Blanc.”We bring a taste.
“Nah, maybe the Chardonnay. We bring
another. Nah, the Gruner Vetliner. And
another. Nope, the Pinot Grigio. One more
time. Uh, uh. Again. The Reisling, negative.
And again. The Vernacchia, sorry.” To make a
long story short she tried eighteen tastes out of
thirty wines. The waiter finally went to the table
and said, “So have you landed on one you like
yet?” She said, “No, but I can’t drink anymore
because I have to drive.” Thanks for coming in.
#2 MORE WINING
We have a customer whose sole purpose in life is to ensure I don’t make a profit, and he’s very good at it. He’s a very successful guy, and usually pretty nice, except when it comes to me making a profit. He’ll come in, and he comes in frequently, and he’ll whine about the price of the wine by the glass. (We have thirty, priced between $6.00 and $25.00) They’re all too high. If I had a glass of wine for $2.