Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pessimism Breeds Pessimism

You know, I'm just flabbergasted sometimes. I try to be a glass-half-full type of person most of the time. When I get a smidgen of good news, I run with it. I want to see the best of a situation. And I'm encouraged with the way things are going. Yet, there are many out there who want, and are rewarded for bad news on the economy.

I try to stay away from the political here. But, come on. Things are looking better now than they were when Bush left office, but for the whole deficit thing. Getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan will show tangible benefits to the bottom line.

If only the political nay-sayers would cut back on the rhetoric. All that negativity has an effect on what people think, and say, and spend.

Two to three years ago, with the economy in rapid free-fall, there were quite a few restaurants that went out of business here. I chalked it up to weeding-out of the ones who were hanging on by a thread when things were good. People who shouldn't be running a restaurant anyway. And I think I'm still right. Then, there was a respite since then where things quieted down and restaurants clung on.

Within the last couple of months, there's been a new rash of closings. And I blame it on the pessimists who continually tell their constituents how bad their country is doing. I see our country slowly, but certainly climbing out of our malaise. Yes, the deficit is alarming. But, I've also had an alarming credit deficit and reversed it. Our country can do it too. And people will start eating out more and spending money again like we have before.

This last group of restaurants that went out of business were anachronisms. One was a local bar-b-que place where the owner died and the family just didn't have the heart to continue. Another was a fine dining start-up that had inter-family warfare to blame. Another was so mis-run that they had 4 General Managers in a 2 year period. Again, businesses with no business being in the restaurant business.

As it was before, those restaurants that have right management, the right menu, and the right price-point are doing fabulously. Those lacking one of those items are hanging in there. The rest will be flotsam.

But, don't blame the economy. People will always eat out. Just give them a reason to.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Frickin' Dum Basses

Why is it that a restaurant can order 1 case of glasses every 3 months for 3 years, and then all of a sudden want 5 cases by the week-end? What's that saying again, "Piss poor planning on your part....". But, it's all my fault for not anticipating your needs.

Or a restaurant that hasn't ordered a particular plate in 18 months gets pissed when you don't have 2 cases in stock?

Sorry, let me pull that out of my a__ for you so that I won't get in trouble for your lack of planning.

I'm also sorry that I don't have that 12 quart stock pot in stock since 3 restaurants decided to open at the same time. I'm also sorry that I don't have it because my boss (the owner's son) won't let me order more than once a month. It's not his money, it's his daddy's. And Daddy gets mad when I run out of things.

So, I think from now on, I will not ask for approval when ordering. I'll just ask for forgiveness when spending daddy's money.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Frozen Yogurt and Cupcake Overload

We seem to be having an extraordinary run on a couple of concepts lately. Frozen yogurt and bakeries seem to be the next big thing. And why, I have no idea. Bakeries, I can understand a little bit. You can expand on that by selling to restaurants things like rolls and artisanal breads. But frozen yogurt? It's like someone thinks, "Hey, I can't cook, but I want to open a restaurant!". "How can I do that?". "I know, frozen yogurt!". And to make it even worse, most are of the variety where the customer serves themselves and the result is weighed for the final price. So, the owners don't even have to be creative. It's like a restaurant where you choose the ingredients for your dinner and hope it comes out well. I don't think it will work. I see failures.

I see old ladies shrieking, "Take off 3 pieces of pineapple to get me under $2.00!"

Bakeries are also on the rise. A couple years ago, one of the last bakeries in town closed down. It was located downtown on a pricey street, so that probably had something to do with it. Rents down there can be prohibitive for the limited hours a bakery is open. Now, within the last 1-1/2 years, three have opened, with more on the way. Is there a national cupcake shortage or what? Once again, I blame Food Network. These damn shows make semi-talented home bakers think that they can make a fortune turning out red velvet cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies. Store-front bakeries like that will not survive in my opinion. Too much cost, not enough pay-out. Most should stick to catering and special orders. Store-front places have too much up-front cost to support cookies and cupcake sales. Unless you have something REALLY special.

And REALLY special has been outlawed in 49 states so far.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dinner at "Buddy's"

It was a dark, blustery night (All apologies to Snoopy). Anyways, Tropical Wave Lee was moving ashore as we chose to spend my aunt's birthday at 'Buddy's'. As befalls the Good Nephew, I picked up my aunt and then went to pick up the parents. As we pulled up outfront, I observed that this place doesn't really show all that well from the road, doesn't grab the attention. Non-descript building with small lit-up letters over the door. In an area not known for restaurants, you have to make your presence known. Being ever gentlemanly, I dropped off everyone at the front door, and made my way to a parking space. It wasn't difficult, there were only about five cars in the lot. At 6 o'clock on a Saturday. Mmmmm. Good thing I made a reservation. Oh, wait, they don't take reservations, only call- aheads. At least that's what the person answering the phone thinks. She's not sure, even thought they've been open two weeks.

Once inside from the storm, I'm impressed by the decor. It looks surprisingly professional and well done. Tall booths rim the walls with a nice muted color scheme that is far from the schlocky Jersey-Italiano scheme I was envisioning, given the proprietors. We were shown to a nice booth and given menus...thick paper menus because they were too cheap to buy menu covers. One menu was skewed sideways so we could tell they were just copied on a copier. These people spent thousands on nice booth seats and nice tables, and gave us copier menus. I'm sorry, but when you charge what they charge for pizza, pinching those pennys makes one pause. I guess I probably obsessed over this because we had a good 10 minutes to peruse this menu before our waitress came to get a drink order. Drink, meaning soda pop or tea. No beer (pizza's proper partner), wine, or liquor.

So, sweet tea it is! And we get it in about, oh, five minutes or so. Now, I'm all about giving new places a break when it comes to service, because I've been there. But, when there's four tables and two servers, my patience wears thin. Which means that we had PLENTY of time to peruse the menu. Pizza, calzones, and strombolis. Maybe we should have asked for more time to look over the menu. (That's sarcasm, don't you know)

The advertisement online says to mention the ad to get a free order of their famous garlic knots. So I did. Mmmmm, garlic knots! I had a small lunch, because I knew we would be eating big Italian food for dinner. Those garlic knots would certainly hit the spot! They also listed Caesar salads for $5.95. Mmmmm, Caesar salad and garlic knots! That should slake the hunger I was feeling. That was a large sum for Caesar salad, but surely for $5.95, I should have some left over to take home along with left over pizza.

So, my plan was thus. Expensive Caesar salad with free garlic knots for appetizer. Then, they had White Pizza on the menu. I haven't had White Pizza since I spent a year on Long Island. I freakin' love White Pizza, at least the White Pizza I had on Long Island. My hopes were high since the "chef" told me at my store that he makes the best pizza around. And since he 'tawks like dis', I thought he was for real.

And, my salad comes out pretty quick. Not bad, I think. Finally, their timing is starting to come around. And then I investigate further. For $5.95, I expect more than this meager little mound of romaine. And then I fork a mouthful. Never had I experienced a more worked-over salad...ever. A small handful of romaine with 1/2 teaspoon of dressing worked until every square millimeter was covered. Good job covering the lettuce, but it was worked so much, it was actually dry. A couple of dry croutons on top only added to the dryness. No parm on top and none offered. Or fresh-ground pepper offered. Bobby Flay pricing with McDonalds execution. And where were those damn garlic knots? We were hungry, I'd passed up lunch expecting a big Italian meal and all. I set aside the salad until I could wave down the waitress for some dressing on the side. *crickets* Five minutes later she ventured near enough where I could wave her down. She brought the dressing quick enough, but where were the garlic knots? Soon, she said, the kitchen was a little behind. With four tables, the kitchen was behind?

Luckily, my aunt has the gift of gab to keep us pre-occupied. But, not enough for us to realize that our pizzas were taking a long, long time. As in, an hour's time. My parent's pizza and my aunt's stromboli arrived exactly an hour after we gave our order. Still waiting on our garlic knots and my White Pizza. Five minutes later my White Pizza arrived via the "Chef", aka JS. "So sorry to take so long, we accidentally made a large instead of a small for you". Yeah, that's what must have taken an hour. Five minutes later, the garlic knots arrived, our "appetizer".

Worst. White. Pizza. Ever. Oily crust, a few dabs of "white". Chewy, obviously not fresh dough. My aunt's stromboli had little stuffing. My parents pizza was actually all right, it was their "house special" with everything. I had to have a piece since I was hungrily waiting for mine.

Why, oh why I didn't say anything, I don't know. Maybe, it's because they were so rude on their visits to our store. Maybe because they didn't recognize me even though I helped them many times to get their smallwares just right at the right price. Hours by my side asking "How much is that?", "Is that your best price?", "Where's my china?", and they didn't recognize me standing in front of them?

I made a point to go up to the owners after the dinner and wish them well, and got that far-away look of no recognition. JS, the "chef", thought I was their Sysco rep and wanted to give me their order. SP (She-Pants) asked our server who I was, that I looked familiar. I'm only the person that makes sure your orders and deliveries make it to you on time. In other words, one of the little people that you depend upon to make you a success. And I'll do my best, but I will not go out of my way to do that. Since going beyond is not in your vocabulary.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Buddy's, Part 2

Okay, here comes She-Pants (SP, and why she's named that, you'll just have to take a wild-assed guess).

So, in she waltzes with Whipped-Down Husband (WDH), who we've dealt with before, and he's a really nice guy. He's 5 steps in and she's already half-way across the floor, zipping in and out of the rows. I head in his direction and give the usual greeting. WDH says that I should help his wife, SP, so I go zipping after her. Well, she's going 50 MPH looking for things, and I tell her, "Let me find what you need, that will help us go faster." She seems to agree to that and tells me they want to open in two days, and goes dashing off in the direction of the ramekins, me following behind.

WTF! They've been working on the building for a year and come in here two days before opening for last minute stuff they can't get from the internet. Well, they can get it from the internet, but then they'd have to pay shipping. And she can't brow-beat a web-site into lower prices. My dear, you ain't in New York right now. You'se in Pensacola, Florida, otherwise known as LA (Lower Alabama). You can't get it faster by by being rude, just the opposite.

Years of waiting tables and Managing have given me patience beyond measure. However, going down the aisles and picking up items and going, "How much is this, Babe?" every 30 seconds is not the way to a better deal. I told her when she came in that she would get the best deal I could give. Generally, a new restaurant that opens puts together a smallwares package that is a large purchase, so we give extra discounts than normal. That will put us in good standing with a start-up, with the understanding that from there on, they will get the standard percentage-off discount off of the retail price. Start-up packages generally get "net-plus" pricing, meaning a percentage added to our cost, which is a great deal as opposed to the standard 25% off of retail. So, when SP is asking me for pricing on every other item in the store, it's difficult. Different suppliers give different discounts to us. So, I'm giving her vague pricing, like "Around $1.80", or "Close to $12.00". Three out of four quotes is met by "I can get that online for lots less" or "We'll just get that at Wal-Mart". After quoting her some 2 ounce fluted ramekins at a great price, she came back by saying she could get them at Wal-Mart for half the price. I finally had enough and said back, loudly, "Wal-Mart doesn't have plastic fluted ramekins!" Things went better after that. After asking for pricing on vinyl menu covers, she loudly derides the pricing. WDH pipes up that they need them so go ahead and order them (a 7-day order). SP remarks to anyone listening "Do that and I'll cancel your credit card." She-Pants indeed!

They ended up buying around $1000 of smallwares and taking a year off of my life. It's so frustrating sometimes when people come in at the last moment and are flabbergasted when you don't have a specific, odd item in stock. All we can say is, "If I had a weeks notice, I could have had that for you, no problem". We have four stores. If one is out, another should have it. Your last minute procrastination does not give you justification for implying that WE are inept.

They also waited until one week before opening to give us their china order after they were told it takes 7-10 days to receive a shipment. If we rush our suppliers, 7 days is the minimum. This cheap china comes from New Jersey and takes 2-3 days by truck. It takes a day or two for our supplier to enter the item, send us an acknowledgement, and us to fax back an O.K. that they got the order right. Figure a day or two for them to gather the stuff in their ginormous warehouse and put it on pallets, shrink rap it, and call the shipper.This is not gonna happen overnight. So after they finally give us their final order, they start calling after 3 days wondering where their damn plates are. Can you tell that they've never done this before?

So, they got their plates the day after they opened. We were nice enough to offer them some plates and bowls to use for their opening that we had plenty of. Why we go out of our way to help these shmucks, I don't know. Well, I do know. Even though we are one of the few suppliers for this area, we pride ourselves on service, and coming through for our clients. It's a running joke amongst us. When we go above and beyond, we tell each other "You make dreams come true!" Sounds better if you're there, I guess.

And, they opened and were happy. As happy as any cheap-ass customer can be, I suppose. I'd been dying for some good Italian cooking, and since they said they were the best, I decided that a good place to celebrate my dad's sister's birthday would be there. So, I called to make a reservation. "Uh, I'm not sure that we take reservations, let me ask." After being open almost two weeks, the person answering the phones wasn't sure if they take reservations? Uh, so when will you know?

So, I made a "call-ahead" for 4 at 6 o'clock on a Saturday. The Saturday when Tropical Storm Lee was blowing in. Should be interesting.

To be continued.......(I'm sorry!)

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Now, that's not the name of the restaurant that I'm going to talk about (As a matter of fact, it's the name of one of my favorite pizza places in Michigan.) But, I can't exactly call it by it's real name. It's a synonym, along with 'comrade' or 'pal', only in Italian. Nuff said. I don't wanna be sued. This is a small city, and I don't want anyone Googling and bringing up this blog and detective-ing. But, this is one "Don't do it this way!" post that needs writing. It's textbook. It's common sense. It's obvious. Everything the owners don't understand.

This first started about a year ago. There was a building not far from where I work and live that started getting renovated. In a city this small, everyone notices and starts to ruminate on what it could be. A few months later, a neon sign is put on the front saying "Buddy's Restaurant and Pizzeria". Well, that's new! One of the obvious things we've been missing on this side of town is an Italian restaurant and everyone is excited. (Oh, how I miss the great Italian places in Michigan and Massachusetts!) We send out one of our salespersons, as we always do when a new place is announced, and the word comes back. "These guys don't know what they're doing". They don't know when they will open. No date. Nothing. Hello! If you're going to open a restaurant, shouldn't you have a goal in mind? Some plan or something?

Our salesman says that they're ordering their own furniture online and getting used equipment online also. So, not so much business for us. But, you never know. We've picked up the pieces before when other restaurants try to go it alone. Many chains and not-chains have come to us at the last moment when their original supplier can't come through. When their "Ed Don" or "Wasserstrom" or whoever back-orders items that you need to open, they come to us.

Well, after a year, these folks are finally ready to get serious. There's a couple we'll call "She-pants" (SP) and "Whipped-down husband" (WDH). They are joined by SP's brother "Jersey Shore" (JS), the "Head Chef" (I just love it when newbies call their pizza guy 'Head Chef''). JS is the first to come struttin into the store about 3 weeks ago. "Yo, yo, yo, we need a buncha stuff!" "How much is dis?" "Youse godda be kiddin' me". "Youse killin' me!". Did I say he was from Jersey? He basically leaves with nothing, since, so sorry, we're not Wal-Mart. We don't carry Wal-Mart crap and we don't sell for their Wal-Mart crap prices. We have commercial restaurant quality things that you can't find at Wal-Mart, dude! If you want tissue-paper thick pizza pans for a buck, go elsewhere. Our customers expect things that will survive the abuse a $7/HR dishwasher will dish out.. If you want 50 cent plates, may I suggest the pottery place at the outlet mall that sells seconds? Or shop in Jersey where things "fall off the back of trucks accidentally".

Two weeks later, we are treated to JS's sister, "She-pants". Oh, my god! She's the type who will call a John "Johnny", a Sam "Sammy", and everyone else "Babe". Puerto-Rican/Italian/Jersey woman, (Think Theresa from Housewives of New Jersey) who somehow got the money together to start a restaurant. And took her husband, Whipped-down Husband" (WDH) along for the ride, whether he wants to or not. The first words out of her mouth were "We've got money to spend, so I want attention!' The other two at the desk looked at me and retreated. I was to be the sacrificial lamb, since I have the most patience amongst them.

*Gird loins and approach. * To Be Continued.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sous Gal

I just want to give a shout-out to my friend Sous Gal. I've followed her for a few years and we've had a mutual admiration thing going on. Even though she's in another country (kinda, Canada), I've felt her writing like few others. And now I feel pain. She's just been diagnosed with Cervical cancer, and I want to fly up and give her a big hug. Alas, I can't, so maybe if we all send her some love, she can feel a metaphorical hug. She's on my blogroll as Everything is the Way it is..., although she now calls her blog something else, Here, Taste This. Share the love.

And read her blog. She'll teach you how to write for real. And from the heart.

Summer Doldrums, aka Rambling

I want to write. I need to write. My fingers aren't co-operating. Summer tends to be when I'm least productive. This time of year down here in the South, we tend to disappear into the cool environs of our air-conditioned homes whenever feasible. I do read others' blogs and read the news sites, but I just don't feel motivated to write because I'm not as social this time of year. Therefore, I don't write about my exciting night watching the season premiere of Project Runway, or my spine-tingling evening sorting Perma-Press from Whites. Nor do I talk about my ever-procrastination concerning the bathtub scrubbing.

I mow my lawn......sometimes. Just had to buy another mower after the last one would not retract the stupid pull cord. Nothing exciting there, except I found a Home Depot employee who actually wanted to help me load my purchase. I wavered about wanting to tip him, but he turned and left after putting my box in my truck-bed so fast, I feel he wasn't actually looking for a tip. Bald eagle followers should be camped outside his house, for he is more rare.

I stop at Wallyworld a few times each week for basics. Sometimes there's blogging material there, but you can see that at assorted websites making fun of Wallyworld shoppers. Writing about over-stressed sweatpants and carbunckles just doesn't float my boat. Well, sometimes it does, but I don't feel good about myself after.

I wash dishes......sometimes. I really miss having a dishwasher. I sometimes feel like I'm living in the Stone-age. Especially when I have to crank out the ice cubes from those stupid plastic trays. Can't someone invent some really "inventive" ice cube trays? Or am I the only one who still makes my own ice?

But, believe me, when something really interesting happens, I will start pounding these keys. Hopefully, it will happen soon.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Crazy Busy Season

I've been a busy bee at work lately. The first part of the year, we were concerned about how the year would go. Last year was just so-so after all the crazy happenings like the Oil Spill From Hell and the recession.

January and February started a bit slow. A small church job here, a school there, but not a lot of restaurant work. Of course, our busy season starts around March when people start to escape the ravages of winter up north. Cabin fever drives the people down here in droves, and the restaurants love it. And if the restaurants are doing good, we do good.

Then in March, we got a large job for a hotel restaurant and a huge smallwares order for me to order. Just after that, a new IHOP. Next came a regular customer of ours who announced he's opening number 10 and 11 in his chain of restaurants (one of those are open and the next is just around the bend).

Meanwhile, our area had a great spring, with gorgeous weather and clean beaches. We had a super Mardi Gras and Spring Break, which are the launch for our "Season".

Which means I've had my hands full with all these smallwares packages and trying to keep stock in our store. I'm doing glassware orders every week, china orders every two weeks, kitchen tool orders every two weeks. There's also orders to get knives, thermometers, squeeze bottles, butane bottles, pizza trays and peels, etc., etc.

All it takes is a visit from one of our bigger customers to set in motion more orders. "You're taking all 48 of my 6 inch deep 1/3 pans? Time for an order !" "You need how many forks? 144 dozen? Time for an order!" "800 burger baskets? No problem! Time for an order!" "Hey, Ex-RM, how many cases of bouillon cups do we have?" During the height of the season, this happens on a daily, if not hourly, basis. And customers get pissed if you don't have 10 cases of their water glasses, even if they've never ordered more than 6 at any one time.

But, if there's one thing that has always helped me here, not to mention when I was a Restaurant Manager, is that I can multi-task with the best of them. Prioritizing is also a prized quality in this business. Some people are bad at it (my immediate boss), but if I need to order something that takes a week or more to get in, that pallet of Cambro can just wait awhile to be put on the shelves. And now, I'm finally getting more than a pat on the back for a job well done.

After 4 long years, I finally got a raise! And for how well I delivered the smallwares package ($13,000 worth) to our customer earlier this month, a nice little bonus to boot, which is how I got this laptop I'm finally writing on again. Things are looking good now, we've got many jobs on the books, including a 12th outlet for that one customer I mentioned. I'm gonna be plenty busy, and I think there's still a pallet of Cambro to put away.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Eight Months of Computer Exile

Thanks to my computer illiteracy, my desktop went AWOL eight months ago. Despite myriad commercials for computer "saviors", I justified my sabbatical by using my bank account as an excuse. Surely, these professionals with many degrees and white-taped glasses would charge me as much to fix my computer as to buy a new one. And I couldn't afford a new one. Besides, I wanted a laptop to replace the desktop, because all the cool people had laptops. I dreamed of a new IMac, because all the pros said you must have an IMac, no viruses to worry about anymore. Of course, even though computers have dropped in price dramatically in the last five years, IMacs have not. Damn those Apple guys!

Anyway, eight months later, mucho work at work. Pats on the back and warm fuzzies have finally manifested in a raise and a bonus. At least five trips to Best Buy to drool over those super cool white and glowing apple laptops. Wisdom prevails and I buy an affordable laptop at Office Depot. I feel good about that as Best Buy is up there with Wally-World in places that you feel bad about buying things while buying things.

And now I'm back with eight months of stuff to write about. Should take at least 3 posts to do that. LOL