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What do you do when a favorite restaurant slaps you in the face?

voxbop Jun 18, 2007 01:22 PM

A few weeks back, after a particularly grueling, early morning of work, I stopped by Pearl Oyster Bar at about 2:30 for a quick lunch. The restaurant was half empty, there were many spots at the bar and 6 or 7 tables open, including a a number of deuces. The man behind the counter greeted me with, "One? Any place at the counter is fine." Needing a little down time and privacy, I forlornly asked, "Would it be possible to have a table?" He curtly replied, "No, no tables," and literally turned and walked away. No, I'm sorry our policy since we're so small is to only sit parties of two or more at tables. No . . . explanation whatsoever. Now, I worked in the restaurant business for ten years at a number of high-caliber restaurants throughout the country and I know all about the customers who are never happy with where they're sat and the difficulty of dealing with customers in general. But, this just seemed so gratuitously nasty and uncalled for. Pearl has been one of my favorite places in the city for it's high quality food and casual atmosphere since it was opened. I'm a semi-regular customer. I probably go in at least a couple of times a month. I've recommended it to dozens of people. Of course I could write a letter to Rebecca Charles and complain and be all indignant but where does that get me? Then I'm just another whiny New Yorker. To be honest, I actually feel sad. Like I found out a good friend had been talking about me behind my back. Alas, I have no desire to go into one of my favorite places for quick, delicious food again.

  1. a
    andymadrid Jun 18, 2007 01:40 PM

    I don't blame you. It just takes one experience like that to ruin a restaurant. I hate when the staff treat you like cattle and follow rules with indifference to the actual reasons there are rules in the first place which in this case is probably to better serve the customers.

    1. c
      corvin Jun 18, 2007 02:53 PM

      Its happened to me also and I am actually sure that at one time or another it has happened to everybody. My solution is to not go unless I absolutely cant avoid it. That is usually when my will breaks and I give into the demons. But hey, I geuss thats how things go. Its like a break up, if you like the person enough eventually you get over the hurt and can be friends afterward. all kiding aside, there are plenty of fish in the sea and maybe this is the oppurtunity to go have some seafood. I completely sympathise

      6 Replies
      1. re: corvin
        a
        aurora50 Jun 18, 2007 03:04 PM

        My family used to frequent a nice little restaurant in Newport Beach, Calif., for years (saw it grow from a tiny counter-type place to elegant bistro), until one night where we arrived and had to wait...and wait....and wait. Kept checking back with the owner/matre'd. After two hours, we left, didn't tell him we were leaving, and have never gone back. This was at least 15 years ago.

        1. re: aurora50
          r
          RCC Jun 18, 2007 03:10 PM

          You waited 2 HOURS for a table? This has to be one very good restaurant; or, there just weren't any other eatery within an hour's drive.

          1. re: RCC
            a
            aurora50 Jun 18, 2007 03:17 PM

            We loved their food, it was fantastic. And the owner kept saying, "Any minute now". : (

            1. re: aurora50
              brekkie_fan Jul 16, 2007 10:29 PM

              where was that?? so i can avoid it...

              no really, where was it?

              1. re: brekkie_fan
                a
                aurora50 Jul 17, 2007 09:32 AM

                Rothschild's.

          2. re: aurora50
            l
            Liquid Sky Jun 18, 2007 03:11 PM

            This is the type of thing that is common in Manhattan for a successful restaurant. Unless the owner/manager is there all the time (RARE) and gets to know you as a regular, you are subject to constant staff turnover, stress... so the regular customer's treatment is less than stellar. Sad, but true.

        2. n
          nyfoodjoe Jun 18, 2007 03:11 PM

          If this restaurant is like an old family friend, then you have to say something to someone...you just can't let one bad apple spoil the whole deal!!! Otherwise all that hard earned money you spent there developing the relationship is for naught!!!

          1. Melissavina Jun 18, 2007 03:11 PM

            IMO if you don't say something there's a good chance the manager doesn't know it is happening. Having worked in restaurants and tending bar during the day, I know that sometimes people do prefer tables over the bar... even if they're alone. Is it possible that the person you were talking to was the bartender, hoping to fill his/her counter? I know I was tempted to do that when I was working a slow shift.

            Just a thought.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Melissavina
              l
              LaurenTX2CA Jun 18, 2007 03:21 PM

              In a sense it is a shame to never go back because of one person. On a normal day you may have even ignored the attitude, but since you were feeling tired already, maybe it seemed worse than it was.

              I would have asked to talk to the manager and explained that you really wanted to sit at a table. If the management is awful, that's when I never go back - this is usually indicated by consistently crappy service, denial of a request for reseating or a temperature change or some issue with comping a meal gone bad (if there's something nonedible in my food the meal should be totally comped, period).

            2. v
              Vinous Jun 18, 2007 03:13 PM

              The owner would certainly be interested in knowing that a long-time supporter was slighted by the jackass at the front of the house. You'll be doing the owner a favor, since the jackass probably pissed off not just you, but many other loyal patrons. If you succeed in alerting the owner to the problem, you might just be contributing to the place staying around longer . . . which benefits you also.

              1. ajs228 Jun 18, 2007 03:13 PM

                I would say give it another try. Every restaurant, just like people, is going to have a bad day now and again. If it is one of your favorites you should be willing to forgive this fairly minor indescretion. Maybe you go back and everything is great and you can't believe you were ever going to give up on them.

                1. r
                  RGR Jun 18, 2007 03:13 PM

                  I have to disagree strongly that writing a letter of complaint makes you a "whiny New Yorker." If you don't do anything about this, what you do become is one of the legions of restaurant "silent complainers." Talk to any restaurant owner -- I have talked to many -- and you will find they are fully aware there are customers who have a beef, don't say anything to anyone, leave the restaurant and never come back. The owners who care -- and that is most of them -- say they want to know if something bothers a customer. How else can they make things right?

                  I suggest you write a polite letter to Rebecca Charles briefly detailing what transpired and explaining how hurt you are by being treated in so nasty a manner by one of her employees. If you don't get a response, then I would agree she doesn't care about her customers, even loyal ones like you, at which point, as much as you love her restaurant, I would advise you to never again darken that doorstep.

                  1. l
                    lconnor Jun 18, 2007 03:19 PM

                    I think you SHOULD write a letter . . . just don't be whiny. Explain your disappointment in her employee's behavior, explain that you've loved the restaurant and recommended it to others and nicely ask if that's actually the restaurant's policy when its not packed. If she's any kind of businessperson, she'll want to keep your custom . . . and be happy to learn that her employee behaved boorishly. If you don't get a reply--or get one that's unsatisfactory--quit going there. Nothing will ever taste good to you there again, will it?

                    1. l
                      LES Snob Jun 18, 2007 03:19 PM

                      Honestly, the only thing that you can do is not go and tell other people not to go. Complaining to the owner will not change a single employee's bad mood or day.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: LES Snob
                        Melissavina Jun 18, 2007 03:29 PM

                        I disagree. In my experience working in restaurants, when the owner knew something was happening he made certain it stopped. He would even have people come in like secret shoppers, only they were his friends so they'd look for details he knew needed tightening up.

                        Managers and owners know the difference between someone who respects them and wants the restaurant to do well, and those who are just going through the motions. Those who do not appear to care get the crappy shifts and repeated wrist slaps until they are fired or decide to get a job at T.G.I. Fridays.

                      2. MMRuth Jun 18, 2007 03:27 PM

                        Well, I thought they closed for lunch at 2:30, which is why I make sure to be there at 2pm at the latest. Could that have affected the situation?

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: MMRuth
                          s
                          soupkitten Jun 19, 2007 08:35 AM

                          i think that MMRuth might be hitting on the real reason they may not have wanted to sit you at a table (but not the employee's rude abruptness)-- the empty tables were all ready set up for dinner service, and it would have thrown a wrench into their system for a single diner to dirty up a table all by him/herself, and between shifts at that.

                          i agree that you probably were more sensitive to the employee's rudeness because you'd already had a tough day and wanted to be comforted by your favorite lunch place. he SHOULD have been polite to you, first of all, and if you requested a table he should have figured out if it was possible for you to have one, and if nothing doing, then he should have given you a reasonable, reassuring explanation for why the place offered counter service only at that time. this didn't happen on your visit and that sucks--but--

                          if it were me, i'd go back again, during the restaurant's stated regular hours, and see if the same fellow isn't working again. if this episode bugged me so bad, i'd sit in the area where he was serving, and behave pleasantly, as if we'd never met before, and he was serving me for the first time.

                          i suspect you caught him at a bad moment, or at the end of his shift before-- his service might be just fine or great under regular circumstances. if so, then you can with good conscience just forget that the earlier episode ever happened-- it was just a human friction that happened for no real reason-- let it go.

                          if he is, for the second time, a boorish, rude, abrupt type of person, and gives bad service as a result, then you can deduce that he is this way all of the time, to all of his customers, and he is ruining the dining experience for others as well. you can now go to the management and complain about this person, because on two different occasions his service was lacking, and you will not be perceived as whiny, because you've already come back to the restaurant that you love after the first episode, and had the same experience twice. your case will have more weight as a result.

                          the third scenario is that the fellow won't be working at the restaurant on your return, or ever again, because the management has picked up on his rudeness to valued customers like you and canned him. it's up to their own observations and the reports from customers to pick up on workers who are ill-suited for friendly service. going back to the restaurant gives the management a second chance--maybe they just made a bad hire and have since rectified the situation.

                          i would hesitate to write a letter about an employee's "attitude" as perceived by me after only one encounter-- i'd give them a second chance; and i certainly wouldn't give up on a favorite restaurant because of one employee-- i'd let the mgr know, if necessary avoid the person's section, go on as usual.

                          1. re: soupkitten
                            ccbweb Jun 19, 2007 12:34 PM

                            To follow on soupkitten's line of thought...they may also not have had the staff to wait on tables and, thus, the only real way to get service at that time was at the counter.

                            Regardless, the host was too abrupt, but personally, I'd go back if I liked the place. One great encounter with an employee might not make me a regular some place, but one bad encounter certainly wouldn't make me stop being one.

                            1. re: ccbweb
                              MMRuth Jun 19, 2007 01:18 PM

                              And, the employees at Pearl have a bit of a rep of being curt. We go maybe every six weeks, almost always sit at the bar, are always welcomed by the hostess and the woman behind the bar (they often trade off roles), but the wait staff don't know us from adam.

                              That said, when we show up for lunch at 2pm, they are always v. gracious and don't rush us when 2:30 rolls around - whether at a table or at the bar.

                            2. re: soupkitten
                              a
                              amyvc Jul 3, 2007 12:24 PM

                              I am in the "give it another chance" camp. However, I disagree with soupkitten about the customer's perception of an employee's attitude after only one meal. As diners, it is our perceptions that keep us coming back to restaurants. It was up to the employee, as a person in the service profession, to ensure that the diner never had that perception of rudeness or "attitude". Thus, rudeness to this degree one time is just cause to say something and/or write a letter. I don't think it matters whether you write it or say it to the manager/owner. However, I think going to the resto to give them the chance to make it right is the better course of action. If they do not resolve it, then you can write to whomever in a publication.

                          2. sing me a bar Jun 18, 2007 03:36 PM

                            You HAVE TO write a letter or have a tete-a-tete with whomever you know best at the venue. That is your recourse and if you don't take it, you've only yourself to blame for not creating a possibility of the gaffe being righted. It was the manner in which you were rebuffed, not that you couldn't have the deuce. Everyone is answerable and the ill-mannered counter guy needs to taste the sting of being upbraided for his conduct.

                            1. t
                              travelnfood Jun 18, 2007 03:39 PM

                              I'd write a letter AND make a phone call. I would be mortified if an employee of mine did that. Regardless of their policy for seating single diners, the host needs to be given some guidance on how to do his job. The guy would probably argue that he didn't act rudely, and that you read the situation wrong. That doesn't matter though, the customer's perception is the only thing that matters.

                              1. m
                                mardy Jun 18, 2007 03:43 PM

                                Let me get this straight: You've "worked at high-caliber restaurants throughout the country". And you know all about "the difficulty of dealing with customers".

                                This episode occurred "a few weeks" ago. You've apparently done nothing about the situation since then. But a couple hours ago, you post on Chowhound.

                                Frankly, I don't get it...

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: voxbop
                                  b
                                  bubbles4me Jun 18, 2007 04:54 PM

                                  I would write a letter but if you are worried about sounding whinny or looking like you are trying to get something out of it leave your name and contact info out. Tell them exactly what you told us in the same gentle manner, as a manager myself I would see this letter as a truly concerned customer trying to help. you never know it may not be the first time the guy was rude but it could be the last. (I can't spell either so please forgive me any errors. :) )

                                2. m
                                  ML8000 Jun 18, 2007 09:05 PM

                                  I'd write a "nice" (don't make it personal) short (don't put too much work into it) letter explaining your disappointment and shock and that you wouldn't be recommending the place any longer even though you loved it in the past..or I'd get over it.

                                  1. c
                                    cheesemonger Jun 18, 2007 09:31 PM

                                    I think there's a lot of hyperbole being tossed around here. The restaurant didn't "slap you in the face"- one employee was dismissive of you, apparently for the first time in your semi-regular visits of years. That's a damned good track record for any restaurant, especially in NY.

                                    If you have enjoyed the place for all this time, then you shouldn't let one employee scare you away for good. In any case, he probably won't last, and you've missed out on patronizing the place that fired him, because you got so worked up and then did nothing positive about it.

                                    Was his attitude snotty and unwelcome? Obviously.
                                    Are you blowing this out of proportion? That too seems obvious.

                                    By "breaking up" with POB over this, with no explanation, it seems that the person that you are hurting most is yourself.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: cheesemonger
                                      bryan Jun 19, 2007 01:38 AM

                                      Wait a second here. The OP shouldn't be surprised by being treated badly? If this is the norm in NYC, I'm glad I'm in Chicago.

                                      I truly don't think the OP was blowing it out or proportion - the host was! While I also think the OP could've spoken up right there and then... well, that didn't happen. But it's a rare thing for me to instantly ask for a manager. I have to be truly pissed off by someone to do that.

                                      Restaurants rely on word-of-mouth. For every good word, several bad ones may be uttered. And that can make or break you. If you, the owner, have an a-whole upfront, and you are unaware of it... well, then... too bad. But if the OP feels strongly enough to write a letter, or to make a phone call - you can get your business back on track.

                                      I wouldn't want to return to a place that treated me that way either. Nor would I expect a comp or a drink. I would want to hear that the problem had been rectified. Then I would be happy to return and reccomend the place once again.

                                      1. re: bryan
                                        l
                                        Lizard Jun 19, 2007 03:00 AM

                                        I'm not clear on how the host was blowing anything out of proportion. It seems the host was curt and the walking away could be interpreted in different ways--rude, sure, but maybe the thoughtless kind. It may have been a bad day for him. Why do I make excuses? Because it seems pretty extreme to break up with a restaurant based on one bad experience out of an otherwise excellent record that had you returning and recommending. If it made you happy on all those other occasions, does this one mistep mean the end? Maybe, but I wouldn't call it quits just then.

                                        Possibly I extrapolate too much from my work: if a solid student failed one quiz, would I fail that person for the course? No, I would take that person aside and ask what was up. Or, barring that, I would just wait and see what happened the next time before deciding this person was in trouble.

                                        I'm not saying the host's behaviour was acceptable, but again, to break up with a restaurant based on one incident that seems relatively minor seems pretty extreme and doesn't really help (a meal-length comedy of errors/train wreck is another thing). Bad word-of-mouth is not good for a restaurant, yes, but this story wouldn't scare me from POB in the least.

                                        This is my long-winded way of saying that this seems a rush to judgment, and while the rudeness stung, I don't know that I saw a slap in the face here.

                                    2. jfood Jun 19, 2007 01:15 PM

                                      On a scale of 1-10 Jfood would give this a 2 at most for bad service at a resto. Barely moves the meter and definitely does not qualify for scorched earth retaliation. BTW - you lost jfood with "forlornly" versus "curtly". Jfood feels you were probably as forlorned as the host was curt.

                                      Let's look at the facts as you repesent them:

                                      - the resto serves lunch until 230 and you "stopped by Pearl Oyster Bar at about 2:30". You basically showed up at closing time and wanted a quick lunch (how you expected the host to know the latter tid-bit is unclear). It was fortunate that the host did not say, "I am sorry but we are no longer open for lunch." But, in fairness, the host offers you a seat at the counter, at closing, which jfood thinks was an OK solution. But you wanted a table. Hey you got half a loaf at a resto you really like to get you de-forlorned.
                                      - you assumed that the reason you did not receive a table was policy or some other reason. could be that they were trying to accomodate you at closing and thereby offered the counter. not exactly the service you wanted but since they never told you why the "counter only" there could be a variety of reason, one being the servers were closing up.
                                      - his reply was curt, in your opinion, and not seeing the body language or hearing the syntax, no one knows but you, but in this discussion let's assume he was curt for argument's sake. There is no reason for anyone to be curt, either way.

                                      Whether you have 10 years or none in the resto business, your feelings were hurt by this one employee. But jfood thinks that it's not the resto that slapped you in the face but an employee who told you three words that you took offense to. Wrong on his part but surely not a major catastrophe and certainly no cause for major meltdown and scorched earth as you suggest.

                                      Since your feeling were hurt, a simple phone call to the manager is probably in the cards to explain that you've been a regular for a year, love the place and were hurt by what you perceived as a curt employee. They may offer a dessert or something but jfood can not agree that this places a regular resto on the "do not return" list nor trash the place.

                                      Let's be honest, you showed up at closing time, wanted a table, the host offered the counter and you felt he was curt in not agreeing to your request. Jfood would chalk this up to "Gee, glad they served me after closing time" versus creating armegeddon.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: jfood
                                        John Manzo Jun 28, 2007 11:31 PM

                                        Note also that OP wanted "down time." S/he intended to stay for a while. And maybe communicated that in asking for a table- at closing time.

                                        1. re: John Manzo
                                          m
                                          Minnow Jul 3, 2007 12:45 PM

                                          Well, OP also said they stopped by for a "quick lunch" so I wouldn't assume they were going to take up all that much time.

                                      2. ChefJune Jun 19, 2007 01:23 PM

                                        <Of course I could write a letter to Rebecca Charles and complain and be all indignant but where does that get me? Then I'm just another whiny New Yorker. > That's not at all true, and if you've worked in the business, then you KNOW that owners WANT and NEED to know when something like this happens. They cannot afford to lose a customer! That kind of incident, repeated, is what causes restaurants to close.

                                        You don't need to be "all indignant" to record your disappointment at such offhand and shabby treatment. It's not too late to make it right.

                                        1. q
                                          qnseats Jun 19, 2007 01:26 PM

                                          If you consider Pearl Oyster Bar an 'old friend' do your friend a favor and get over yourself. You both caught each other on a bad day and leave it at that. Someone was a bit brusque with you. It happens. What exactly has been bothering you all these weeks? From what you wrote your exchange with the waiter/bartender/counterperson consisted of three words -- "No, no tables' -- how 'nasty' could his tone have been? Or was it perhaps that as a self-described semi-regular you weren't given your due? I'm sorry for being blunt but if something like this sets you off how do you survive in this city?

                                          And to everyone else...was this such an outrage? I'm all for marching on city hall when need be but really, write letters for a minor incident that happened weeks ago? Maybe we should start a picket as well.

                                          1. Withnail42 Jun 19, 2007 07:22 PM

                                            If you are/were a regular did you know the person who greeted you? Perhaps it was a new employee following the rules but the aware of the subtle realities of the place. At two thirty the place isn't going to fill up until dinner. If dinning room or kitchen is shut down for the afte noon they should have said so.

                                            I've been in a similar situation at a favorite spot. It was down to one particular staff member who was quite simply not very good. They are no longer working there(nothing to do with me). I did go back and am still a regular. In fact I had lunch there today.

                                            I say give it another shot. If problems keep happening then either write a letter or ,regrettably, start looking for a new spot.

                                            http://meandmyfork.blogspot.com

                                            1. m
                                              mojoeater Jun 19, 2007 07:26 PM

                                              OK. Let's use the friend analogy. If a good friend does something to upset you, you have three options:

                                              1) Confront them, get it out in the open, and maybe cause some personal drama
                                              2) Blow it off in favor of the friendship
                                              3) Never see them again, and never get closure.

                                              What would you do if it were indeed a good friend? I'm guessing 1 would be the immediate response. 2 would be once you calm down a little. Go back. You'll be glad you did.

                                              1. jillita Jun 19, 2007 07:34 PM

                                                The big problem is the man behind the counter didn't recognize you as a devotee or regular. That's bad business if you're truly a regular. A couple times a month is definitely enough to be a regular. I'd go back and see what happens as an experiment, because good food is worth fighting for.

                                                I used to frequent (once or twice a month) an Indian rest that I absolutely adored for murgh vindaloo. I am a big tipping and happy eater/guest and was shocked to be treated there very badly and I did something I NEVER do, and it's not acceptable except in the most extreme of examples, which is to place an over turned glass over a penny on the table serving as the tip. This is an ancient message for "service sucks". I appreciate waitstaff, was one myself, know how hard it is, and yes, it's good to give people a chance, because we're all human, but if you're a good customer, regular, then good management should recognize this and treats you accordingly, because you're the bread and butter (word of mouth, consistent patronage, etc.) of the rest. Go back and see how they treat you and if it's positive chalk your neg. experience up to a bad day, if negative again, talk to management or leave the penny under the glass. That'll send the message loud and clear.

                                                1. pinstripeprincess Jun 20, 2007 02:05 PM

                                                  i felt snubbed and treated rudely by a restaurant that i frequented and would send people to with glowing recommendation.

                                                  after burning through my frustrations with a bit of chatter on chowhound, i wrote them an email and was promptly responded to and graciously dealt with. i'm happy to go there again and recommend it again.

                                                  you're not whiny unless all you do is complain complain complain without trying to right the situation yourself. everyone is allowed a little rant, you're only a nuisance if you hold onto it forever and do nothing to improve it. bad service should be reported, it's the best way to find out if management cares and then you'll really know if you should ever go back.

                                                  1. maria lorraine Jun 26, 2007 11:30 PM

                                                    Voxbop, you will love this:
                                                    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/27/nyr...

                                                    13 Replies
                                                    1. re: maria lorraine
                                                      r
                                                      ronla Jun 27, 2007 01:16 PM

                                                      you beat me to it, maria lorraine. I was going to say you could try Ed's Lobster Bar!

                                                      1. re: maria lorraine
                                                        psb Jun 27, 2007 06:52 PM

                                                        I am not a lawyer .. but I discussed this with some law prof associates of mine
                                                        and we agreed it seem pretty tenuous to claim somebody copied something you
                                                        didnt create in the first place:

                                                        > She learned it from her mother, who extracted it decades ago from the
                                                        > chef at a long-gone Los Angeles restaurant ... According to lawyers
                                                        > for Ms. Charles, the Caesar salad recipe is a trade secret and
                                                        > Mr. McFarland had no more business taking it with him ...

                                                        As to the design of the restaurant, one of my interlocutors suggested
                                                        per Abercrombie & Fitch's losing lawsuit against American Eagle,
                                                        the broad claims of "restaurant look and feel" probably wouldnt
                                                        hold water.

                                                        Somewhat interesting paper on "informal intellectual property regimes" ...
                                                        the case of French Chefs:
                                                        http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cf...

                                                        ok tnx.

                                                        1. re: psb
                                                          maria lorraine Jun 27, 2007 07:43 PM

                                                          Yes, this reminds me of the Apple suit against Microsoft for stealing Apple's distinctive look (its graphical user interface -- GUI). Microsoft said (and won the case) but you stole it from Xerox so no case, no claim.

                                                          The merits of the case seem pretty flimsy: Caesar salad is classically made with a coddled egg; croutons can be made out of any bread...to say that this is intellectual property is really a stretch. She is suing the other resto saying it looks like hers, when she got the idea for hers from Swan Oyster Bar in SF. Another litigious strrreeeeetcccchhhh.

                                                          1. re: maria lorraine
                                                            psb Jun 27, 2007 08:31 PM

                                                            Per my other conversation, it's what the Pearl Oyster Bar people really
                                                            "own" is the marketing resarch ... i.e. the viability of restaurant with a certain
                                                            menu at a certain price and location.

                                                            We then drifted into some hypotheticals like "can a licensed hot dog
                                                            stand set up right next to your hot dog stand". Obviously the the "copying"
                                                            claim would be bogus but are there other controlling regulations and
                                                            considerations. Ostenisbly the existing hot dot seller has built up a client base,
                                                            and has "revealed" something about the "demand curve" for hot dogs ...
                                                            price, demand through the day, aggregate demand etc. Or you can call
                                                            in Tony Soprano.

                                                            See also "IP and Food" discussion at:
                                                            http://madisonian.net/archives/2007/0...

                                                            1. re: psb
                                                              maria lorraine Jun 27, 2007 11:41 PM

                                                              Very interesting link. Thank you. I really like Bruce Boyden's comment that Rachel Charles had a "deeply felt but not exactly legal grievance" and another's comment that Ms. Charles possibly over-identified herself with her restaurant. Having been in the food biz for a long long time, many restos are imitators of others and capitalize on a trendy menu item and hot location. Starbucks has long had a history of building where McDonalds did, knowing that McD's had done their market research on the most viable locations. Recipes, especially classic ones, are adapted and re-adapted.

                                                              Beyond that, is a recipe intellectual property, especially one from Charles' mother that was itself adapted from another resto? Likewise, is the "look" of a resto intellectual property, esp. one borrowed from a SF resto and other Maine seafood restos? Charles claims hers is. Seems unsupportable. More interesting is that Charles claims that 31 of McFarland's 34 menu items are lifted from her resto. Does a preponderence of "lifting" constitute a violation of intellectual property? What if a hamburger stand did the same? Is that a fair comparison?

                                                              It will be interesing to see what happens with Charles' case and with Thomas Keller's desire to copyright Per Se's recipes. If he is successful (disclaimer: I know Keller and like him) does one simply change one ingredient or one minor technique and get around the copyright? What is actionable? Finally, do you write for this website, the Madisonian, psb?

                                                              1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                k
                                                                kenito799 Jun 28, 2007 06:16 AM

                                                                I think Charles has no chance to win (What is she asking for? that he change the paint color?). As Ed said, the suit just gives him publicity. Frankly, I had heard a few bad reviews about Ed's and had no intention of trying it.

                                                                I love POB and haven't even bothered with Mary's Fish Camp or any of the other lobster spots popping up around town because I couldn't imagine anything better or even equal to the execution at POB. But now that Charles is so threatened or whatever, it makes me consider stopping by Ed's if I don't feel like dealing with the wait at POB.

                                                                1. re: kenito799
                                                                  k
                                                                  kenito799 Jun 30, 2007 09:36 PM

                                                                  We just went to POB last night. No service or attitude problems, everything executed perfectly...no, I won't be bothering with Ed's.

                                                                2. re: maria lorraine
                                                                  psb Jun 28, 2007 02:59 PM

                                                                  >Finally, do you write for this website, the Madisonian, psb?
                                                                  >
                                                                  it's a couple of hops removed from me.
                                                                  on a different "legal" topic, i'm almost suprised some of this wasnt
                                                                  deleted by the chowhound watchers in the night. have they let off
                                                                  a little bit?

                                                                  i didnt know about the starbucks tailing mcd. that's interesting.
                                                                  i wonder if mcd ever evaluated serving fancy coffee or felt that
                                                                  wasnt viable/couldnt complete. "would you like a frappucino with that?"

                                                                  1. re: psb
                                                                    maria lorraine Jun 28, 2007 03:06 PM

                                                                    Believe it's all germane to Charles' Pearl Oyster Bar creations and those of McFarland's, and if the OP might find a suitable alternative there. Also, the issue of IP vis a vis recipes is quite interesting.

                                                                3. re: psb
                                                                  DanaB Jun 28, 2007 03:06 PM

                                                                  I think the proper legal approach would be to make the assistant chef sign a non-compete agreement and a non-disclosure agreement, so that when said chef left the restaurant, the restauranteur would have enforceable remedies to keep that person from competing based on the same concept.

                                                                  1. re: DanaB
                                                                    maria lorraine Jun 28, 2007 03:21 PM

                                                                    Not looking for an argument here, but when the "original concept" is derived from other restaurants, is that enforceable? The Apple vs. Microsoft GUI case again.

                                                                    1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                      DanaB Jun 28, 2007 03:52 PM

                                                                      If you are enforcing a contract with an individual vs. trying to enforce a copyright/patent or protect a trade secret, I would think so. The non-compete agreement in particular -- if I have a business and I train you to run my business, and then you leave and try to start a competing business next-door based upon what you learned from me, then yes, I should be able to enforce a non-compete agreement -- so long as it's not too onerous (i.e. if it was limited geographically and time-wise, so it's not so broad as to preclude the other person from earning a living -- i.e. that he couldn't open a similar restaurant in lower Manhattan for a period of 5 years vs. he can't ever cook in another restaurant anywhere at any time). A non-disclosure agreement might be harder, if what they have promised to keep confidential is not protectable in its own right as a trade-secret, but such agreements are common in most businesses that involved methods of production, formulas and the like, and would make the average person at least think twice before trying to start a copy-cat restaurant based on the same recipes.

                                                                      1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                        psb Jun 28, 2007 04:09 PM

                                                                        >when the "original concept" is derived from other
                                                                        >restaurants, is that enforceable?
                                                                        >The Apple vs. Microsoft GUI case again.

                                                                        see also this case:
                                                                        http://tinyurl.com/2mqrxt

                                                                        so the issue isnt just the-idea-originated-in-my-brain, but the nature of
                                                                        what one claims ownership to. e.g. "i want to claim ownership of the
                                                                        12 items or less express line", or having the checkstands at the front of
                                                                        the store.

                                                                        clearly there may be contractual issues, but IP against one and all comers?
                                                                        claims in the non-complete area seem reasonable based on what info
                                                                        POD can reasonably claim ... business model, marketing info, customer base
                                                                        etc.

                                                            2. f
                                                              fara Jun 30, 2007 07:01 AM

                                                              you say you worked in the restaurant business? It seems obvious given the time of day that the waitstaff serving the tables was closing out their shift, and only the bartender was on.

                                                              1. a
                                                                Alice123 Jun 30, 2007 10:10 AM

                                                                It sounds like you were less annoyed with the policy- two to a table- than the delivery. If I'm right, I'd chalk it up to one employee having a bad day. Who knows? Maybe he just received some bad news and wasn't up to being personable. It happens to all of us!

                                                                If I'm wrong, and it's the policy you find offensive, then I'd at least write a letter as you disappeared into the sunset. It might make you feel better.

                                                                1. h
                                                                  Hapafish Jul 2, 2007 06:14 AM

                                                                  Because it sounds like the rude man behind the counter was not a manager (meaning it's very likely he doesn't make the calls in the establishment) I would say give Pearl a second chance or write a polite letter of concern expressing your disappointment. And as an aside, at least it wasn't the owner herself who came up to you and questioned your "common sense" in requesting a table in the dining room at closing--check out this "slap in the face" http://www.chowhound.com/topics/413926

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