THE RESTAURANT — The food is overcooked, the waiter is overwhelmed and the menu is overpriced. The bad news is, that’s the good news. This restaurant is so loud I can’t hear myself gag, and it took so long to get served that I had my food carbon dated.
A wise man (me) once noted that there are three things everybody thinks they can do: write a book, publish a newspaper and run a restaurant. The first two challenges are duck soup (which is cold and too salty) compared to properly running an eatery. Still, most people feel they are capable, which is why the Small Business Administration regularly cites restaurants as the Number 1 operation to go bankrupt.
A clue to the dangers of running a diner: have you ever read a restaurant critic’s review which reads, “Ciro’s Italian Ristaurante which was once Billy Boy’s Barbeque before it was Pierre’s French Café &Surrender School, and we remember that spot as Carlos’ Tex-Mex Cantina” and on and on, as the death list of former failures at that spot is ticked off.
But when I win the lottery and own a restaurant, here are a few items you will find when you visit. First, of course, we must obey the cardinal rule of business: location, location, location. For example, my Planned Parenthood franchise in the Vatican was a bummer, as was my topless bar in Salt Lake City. Bad locations, both. On the other hand, a good spot for an all-you-can-eat café would be next to a workout gym or perhaps near a liposuction clinic or an anorexic treatment center.
What inviting name should I use? The chi-chi cafes now have stupid and meaningless titles like “345” or “Jbt.” Does anyone have a clue as to what those names indicate, and does it make you want to eat there? As with bad locations, I have made mistakes in naming my previous diners. There was my Gene Autry steak house, Happy Entrails to You, which didn’t go over too well. Neither did my Dublin club for CPAs, when IRS Eyes Are Smiling. I opened a pub for rural hicks returning from Iraq, the Shucks &Aw, but it died. The George W. Bush Presidential Library was underway, so I tried to open a café for bond jumpers called Missin’ Accomplice. Laura turned me down and Cheney turned me in. And I should not have named my low calorie diner in the D/F Airport, “Crash Diet for a Terminal Experience.”
But this time I’ve got everything right. My new place is in Austin in the former Governor’s Mansion. The structure is currently empty and the next occupant is undetermined, so the state was glad to get the rent. As for the name, I’ll be catering to the Capitol press corps, so I’m calling my restaurant the Crow Eatery. (motto: “Newspapers are a rare medium, well done.”)
Here you will find waiters and waitresses who don’t mind being called just that, and not the PC titles, waitpersons or waitstaff. Do you call actors and actresses, “stagepersons” or seek redress for womental anguish? My staff will be efficient and quick, and, after receiving your payment, they will not say, “Do you want your change?” Hey, wait-staff-person, as a customer I will decide the tip. If I don’t want the change, I’ll say, “Keep the change.”
Speaking of tips, customers are expected to be generous. Your servers are on their feet all night hustling orders, oftentimes dealing with jerks, which may be you. They also wait, who only stand and serve. But remember that in most Texas towns there is an 8.25 percent sales tax. Don’t tip on the tax.
Have you noticed at restaurants, cafes and truck stops the bus/girl boy will go from table to table wiping off all the spilled beer, leftover chili and cigarette ashes, then come to your table and do the same thing? How long has that rag been wiping, and what varmints are being spread throughout the place? After the tabletop transfer of unknown diseases, you put your (hopefully) clean knife, fork and spoon down on that same table, then, when the food arrives, you stick the utensil in your mouth. Yuk!
You don’t have to be Howard Hughes wandering around in Kleenex boxes to worry. So you can either bring along your own utensils or eat with your fingers. At my restaurant, bus boys/girls will have disposable socks on their hands. Also, straws will be offered, especially for glasses that still bear lipstick.
Parents of disruptive children will be warned. If no action is taken (I recommend duct tape) the parents will be sent home and the children kept for ransom. Another point: The menu will be only one page, so the food in the kitchen moves faster. Always be wary of restaurants that have pages of offerings. It means those pork chops have been in the freezer since Easter. (TGI Friday’s used to have a book for a menu, but has gotten better.) Some restaurants are too loud. When I go out to dinner, I go to eat, drink, and visit. I won’t pay in order to shout. My place will be so quiet you can hear your mind change or a name drop. Along these lines, customers using cell phones will be pureed and fricasseed.
I have to take a sweater to any dinner, no matter the time of year. Restaurants are freezing because the chef and the waiters control the thermostat. They are sweating like David Letterman on Secretary’s Day, while the sedentary customers are shivering. At the Crow Eatery, customers will control the thermostat. If there is a difference of opinion about the temperature, the table that orders the most expensive items wins.
Finally, in the Marines there was a sign in the mess hall, “Take all you want. Eat all you take.” It is immoral to waste food, so I’ll charge for leftovers. Think of the starving ex-restaurateurs.
Ashby waits at email@example.com