A version of this column first appeared in Stephinitely, a weekly newsletter from columnist Stephanie Hayes featuring a bonus column and behind-the-scenes chatter. To get it in your inbox every Monday, subscribe here.
We are all unimpeachable business owners in our fantasies, right? We are business geniuses! For instance, my imaginary restaurant has three Michelin stars and sandwiches under $10. The workers are paid ethical wages and tipping is not a confusing moral gymnastics act. The chips and salsa are unlimited, and no, it is not a taco spot.
I leave every meal with a host of can’t-fail business plans. To wit: Recently, on a long weekend in Wilmington, North Carolina, I labored over the menu with my lip tucked above my teeth. We were brunching at a fine seafood restaurant, and I wanted to choose a highly involved “triggerfish benedict” on a potato cake topped with various aiolis (aiolii?) and accoutrements laid gently with tweezers.
But the place also had peach pancakes. Wholly unfair. I didn’t want to eat an entire stack of peach pancakes, a dish that comes with diminishing returns. Pancakes get out of control quickly. Before you know it, you’ve eaten a face-sized plate of CAKE, and since there is no protein for miles, you’re hungry in two hours and saying things like, “You know what you said. No, I’m fine. I’m just tired.”
What I wanted was... a taste.
“I have a free idea for a restaurant!” I proclaimed to no one except my husband, who does not own a restaurant nor have designs to do so. I waved my finger authoritatively so he knew I meant, ahem, business.
Actually, I have a couple free ideas.
Just A Taste Menu
Please understand: I am not attempting to reinvent tapas, nor raw-edge oak boards dotted with meat rosettes and cheese. I literally mean a taste. An amuse-bouche but pancakes. A bite you’d steal from the plate of a spouse who doesn’t have issues about that sort of thing. Cut me off a corner, make sure it has the dabble of butter and syrup. Put it on a saucer and BRING IT TO ME AS IF I AM THE HUNGRY TYRANT OF A LARGE NATION. Charge what is fair. This could be a cash machine. Had there been a taste of pancake at that restaurant for, say, $4, I would have said, “Here is my hard-earned $4.”
Help Us Help You Card
Back home in Tampa Bay, we did Taco Tuesday at a new place in Dunedin called Señor Ritas. We really enjoyed it, but as a young restaurant, they are naturally working out kinks. Folks there suggested customers head to Yelp to leave reviews, and I was thinking, no, it’s too soon!
When I open the Just A Taste Emporium, I will leave a QR code or comment card on each table as follows: “HEY! Thanks for trying us. We hope you cherished everything about your experience, but we’re new. Before you encourage everyone at your table to GET OUT THEIR PHONES like you’re in ‘Braveheart,’ write down what we could do better. As a thanks, here’s 10% off your next visit. If you loved everything, roll yourself on out to Yelp and lay it on real thick like the syrup on that pancake bite!”
Fun true story: We went to a St. Pete Beach restaurant years ago. Some young man was upset about... it doesn’t really matter. He held his phone in the air like a sword and screamed at his friends, “GET OUT YOUR PHONES.” It was a mass Yelping, a true terror. Now, each time something goes wrong in a restaurant, we say, “GET OUT YOUR PHONES” in his honor.
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Sweetheart/No Sweetheart Flip Placard
While floating the above ideas in our staff meeting, someone suggested restaurants bring back flirting. This is a less actionable suggestion, and possibly a really bad one. I’m not trying to create new Me Too situations all over the greater Tampa Bay region. But my colleague had a good point that in the wake of our nation’s necessary cultural correction, she longs for a waitress to call her “sweetheart” once in a while. I see a simple solution here in a laminated sign indicating your comfort with pet names from a doting older woman with a paper hat and impeccable coffee pot aim. This would be similar to the signs used at Brazilian steakhouses that say, like, MORE MEAT PLEASE or PLEASE STOP BRINGING MEAT.
Please use these ideas as you see fit, and let me know if you do. No cost. However, if you’d like to make me a lucrative partner in the Just A Taste Emporium, I will gladly direct you to my representatives (me, it’s me).
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