The Making of a Restaurant

Friday, May 18, 2001

Two stupid waiter tricks:

  • In his review of One Sixty Blue, the Tribune's Phil Vettel notes how impressed he was that the waitress addressed him by his name. She had cribbed it from the reservation book, and even though it wasn't his real name, it made a favorable first impression that carried the meal.
  • Once at Andie's, the waiter introduced himself and, with the flair of Zorro himself, scrawled his name on the paper table mat. Clearly it was a well-rehearsed trick, for he was able to deftly sign upside down (rightside up from the diner's perspective).

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Other ideas worth stealing from those silly neo-futurists:

• The cost of a meal is determined by the price in the menu plus the roll of a six-sided die. (See: step 2.) If we priced all dishes $3.50 below normal, over time the friendly law of averages would help us recoup that discount.

• Waiters take orders while wearing headphones. (See: step 3.) The customer would ask for one thing, the waiter would write down another (it wouldn't even have to be food that he wrote down), and when the "meal" is delivered to the table, hilarity would ensue.

• Meals begin when the waiter places everyone's plate in front of them, sets a timer in the middle of the table to 60 minutes, and with an ethusiastic "GO!", lifts all the plate covers at the same time. (See: step 8.) The timer buzzes, the waiter yells "CURTAIN!", and he magestically swipes the tablecloth off of the table, settings and all.

Do I smell a partnership? "Before going to the Neo-Futurarium, have a quick bite next door at our sister restaurant, the Neo-Cafetorium."
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Thursday, May 17, 2001

As you reach the top of the stairs at the Neo-Futurarium, a poster greets you with the latest statistics on the history of Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind. How many plays performed. For how many nights. For how many total attendees. Stuff like that.

Granted, I'm a nut for trivia, but I think there'd be a global appeal for installing something like this at our place. It'd track such things as: number of patrons through the door, number of meals served, latest Zagat rating, and so on. In the beginning, when the numbers were low, our customers would be able gloat that they ate, for example, only the twelfth dinner ever served at our place. Later on, when the numbers got fairly high, the statistics would enhance our stature and, hopefully, our respect.

Obviously, we're not the first people to come up such an idea, but the difference is that instead of placing the sign outside and using it as advertising, we'll keep the sign inside, where it'll hang as a piece of informative art.
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Wednesday, May 16, 2001

We will never, ever charge for water.
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Tuesday, May 15, 2001

Blogger has selected us as a Blog of Note! Thanks, Ev!
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YANI: Forty-two

"The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases.

"For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question, How can we eat? The second by the question, Why do we eat? And the third by the question, Where shall we do lunch?"

-Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, p. 215

(Because The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is too long, because TRATEOTU is hardly pronounceable, and because either would be highly illegal.)
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Monday, May 14, 2001

Keeping our staff happy will be our biggest challenge, so Sandy's right: If possible, we should engineer bigger tips for our waiters and waitresses.

Consider the commerce of holy communion at church. If I were a beer vendor there, I'd much rather sell for $4.25 a cup than for $3.75. At $4.25, a vendor gets a 75-cent tip on almost every pour, as opposed to 25 cents at the cheaper price. Everyone knows, for example, that I'm tighter than Britney Spears' trousers, but not even I will ask my beer man to fish around for 75 cents in change, no matter how close it is to laundry day.
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Luke was reminded of this story when we received the check at lunch last Sunday. At the bottom of the receipt, in standard cash register typeset, was a line titled "Gratuity Guidelines." It listed two things: the cost of a 15% tip and the cost of a 20% tip. Using these two numbers as reference points, logic dictates, one can figure the appropriate tip for services just rendered.

I suppose you could find the tactic presumptuous, but short of coupling the bill with a calculator, this is probably the handiest way to help the customer determine her tip. And as I imgine undertipping is a more common problem than overtipping, a gratuity guideline will help the waiter make sure he gets what he deserves.

A more indirect way to guide the customers' gratuity is through careful manipulation of the total price of the check. Say, for example, the total came out to $16.95. Laying down a twenty dollar bill would cover the check and an even 18% tip. Even if the customer thought the service was only at, say, a 15.5% level, don't you think she'd rather give up those extra 42 cents instead of waiting for change? I think she would.

Obviously, forcing prices like this is very hard. The only conceivable way I can think of to do this is through fixed price lunch specials. (Or fixed price dinner menus, for that matter.) For only $8.50 you can get a sandwich, a basket of sweet potato fries and a bottomless soda -- and by paying with a ten, it gets your waiter a 17.5% tip. Hassle-free dining.




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