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dinerminer

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Posts posted by dinerminer

  1. You're exactly right , Judy. And the developers want the commitment way up front.

    There is a TIF going on in our area and guess what, the first five "commitments" from restaurants were all chains. Wah! None of the independent operators I know were ever contacted about potential site opportunities by the city or developer. In many ways it is a closed system driven by dollars.

  2. Work is time, time is money. Been in the business for 30 years. Many of the franchise operators I know are, in fact, in the franchise business. Not just restaurant franchises either, everything from windshield replacement to copy shops to retail clothing. It's about return on investment, the product is secondary.

    Secondly, chains predominate in many suburban areas because of commercial real estate developers. They are marketing traffic counts and visibility, chains love those numbers. Chains can also move quicker in securing and developing coveted sites due to their vast resources, both financial and human.

    Third, increasing regulation (alcohol, food safety, employment practices, etc.) of the food/restaurant industry has made it difficult for many independents, particularly "old school" operators to stay competitive with chains.

  3. A franchise with a nationally advertised name over the door may be considered a much less risky investment than a start-up with no brand equity.  Might local bankers be more likely to extend the loan to a prospective franchisee than to a ground-up new enterprise?

    Bingo! It's all about the money, big surprise huh? People who invest (in)/open franchise restaurants are primarily motivated by profit, plain and simple. Franchise restaurants generally operate at significantly higher profit levels than independents. The economy of scale thing. Independents usually have more esoteric motivations, love of food, love of people, satisfaction of the id. Unfortunately these are not "bankable" assets.

  4. If it came down to Zin or Circe, Zin wins hands down. Have been there (Zin) 4 times though not in the last 9 months. Been to Circe twice, the last time about four months ago. The food is much more refined at Zin than what you will find at Circe. Circe seems to have some kind of identity crisis, not really sure where their cuisine

    is going, some of the combinations are ill-conceived. Zin is much more focused, balanced and refined.

  5. Doc, I don't think the Council passed the fg ban to protect humans from caloric excesses. The "victims" in this case are the fowl. Somehow, the Council determined that the life/value/sprituality of a bird was of such an importance that it needed to protected from the "inhumane" menuing by chefs/restauranteurs and subsequent consumption by diners.

  6. Excellent point LAZ. While the industry is remarkably effective in lobbying at the federal level they have proven to be poorly organized and unprepared in addressing local and state issues. As a former chairman of my state restaurant association, I can say with absolute certainty that a majority of operators and industry representatives are (were) reluctant to oppose smoking bans for fear of negative public image associated with "supporting" the "evil tobacco cartel". In retrospect, this was a huge mistake as it has opened up the doors to all types of legislation regulating behavior, personal liberties and business owners rights.

    As I mentioned in my previous post, nutritional standards (disclosure) and further tightening of alcoholic beverage laws are next on the agenda. There are already a number states that are considering to propose further lowering the BAC (blood alcohol content) intoxication level from .08 to .04. In almost every state, there are presently laws on the book (largely unenforced, though with significant penalties for operators including loss of licensure) that prohibit an establishment from serving alcohol to those who exceed the level of legal intoxication. Depending on body mass, .04 BAC is roughly equivalent to less than two drinks (glass of wine/beer) in a two hour period. In todays climate of dram shop laws and frivolous litigation, it will all but require establishments to administer breathalyzer tests for the service of alcoholic beverages.

  7. I know that many of you may disagree with what I am about to say, but I have followed this and other related issues very intently over the years and have come to the conclusion that the foie gras ban is merely an extension of the dangerous trend (which largely seems to be focused on the restaurant industry) of encroaching government regulation on personal liberties and business owners rights.

    While it may seem like a quantum leap in associating these two issues, I feel the foie gras ban is more closely related to smoking bans than animal rights. The quitessential similarity being that both movements seek to protect "the innocent" from the (perfectly legal) actions of the "perpetrators". Or, more succinctly, replacing societies abdication of personal responsibility with that of corporate (business owners) responsibilty.

    Extrapolating on this premise, there are two other movements in gestation which seek to limit personal freedoms, business owners rights and, ultimately, threaten the livelihood of many establishments (especially independent operators). These are 1.) nutritional disclosure, and 2.) further restrictions on alcohol consumption. Presently, there are a number of constituencies across the country that seek to mandate increased regulation of both of these issues. Nutritional disclosure has long been sought as a reaction to the pervasive excesses of the fast food industry.

    Likewise, the recent Orwellian crackdown on "public drunkeness" in Texas is a frightening scenario of a fledgling prohibitionist movement.

    I would urge all readers/posters to not be mistaken; while you may have differing opinions on these issues they are, in my estimation mutually inclusive. When personal liberties are at stake it is imprudent and, in fact dangerous, to pick and choose on this slippery slope.

  8. My first visit to Le Francais was in 1979, at the pinnacle of Chef Banchets mastery. It is still an experience unmatched by any and I can vividly recall every dish and detail of that incredible evening. I have returned many times over the years through it's various incarnations hoping to relive that experience, often leaving underwhelmed. It is reassuring that Chef Liccione has raised the bar again. In the words of Mario Batali, "wretched excess is barely enough".

  9. For a real taste of Kansas history and "cuisine" I think the Hays House in Council Grove is too often overlooked. The Hays House has been in operation since 1857 and has staked a claim as the longest continuously operating restaurant west of the Mississippi. It is one of the last small town full-service (breakfast, lunch dinner) restaurants that still prepares virtually everything from scratch, including fresh baked pies, home-made ice creams, salad dressings and, of course, they serve exceptional fried chicken. The Brookville Hotel, IMHO, since it's migration to Abilene has turned into a tourist trap - underwhelming and overpriced. As far as Kansas cuisine goes, much like other Midwestern states it is an amalgam of immigrant influences (mainly Germanic and northern European) adapted to local products. Really undefineable. If anything, I think moosnsqrl hit the nail on the head, Beef and Bread (wheat). In my experience, visitors to Kansas are most often in search of a great steak.

  10. It is easy to blame independent restaurant closings on the influx of chains. Though, more often than not, it is the business owners fault that he/she has failed to keep the business vital and/or relevant. Unfortunately, most indies who succumb to the chain dilemna fail to recognize the advantages they have over chains and only focus on their disadvantages.

  11. Big, I wasn't intending to diminish anyones accomplishments, just simpy stating that the American reputation was firmly in place before M & D got there. They and others continued to carry the torch that was handed off from Ogden. Anyways, as I also stated "There has been further evolution since then", without naming all the names. I like M & D, in fact I'll be there tonight.

  12. Calvin Trillin and Arthur Bryants put KC on the map. The next most significant event in our culinary evolution was Bradley Ogden at the American. That was back in the early 80's. I'm not sure how many of you were "foodwise" back then, but the industry buzz at the opening of the American was very big. I would venture to say it was a groundbreaking event. IMHO, everyone who followed Ogden was merely coat-tailing off the American name. After that, Cafe Allegro was the first "new cuisine" restaurant to forge the road of innovation. I know that because I cheffed there (no bragging intended). Before that, everthing was old-school, corporate or Mom & Pop. There has been further evolution since then, but back to the subject..

    Since everyone is beating around the bush, I'll say it - Lauren Chapin is lame. Considering her position, there is a lot more she could be doing

  13. Judy, please do go. The night I was there, a Thursday, there were only 16 covers in the house. I don't know if this typical business for him, but my feeling is that he needs all the support he can get. The space is a bit spartan by some standards but nonetheless cozy and comfortable. Service was attentive and informative but could be a little friendlier. Not sure how often the menu changes but I'll be heading there again soon and will report in more detail.

  14. Speaking of Lawrence, I had the opportunity to visit Robert Krause Dining (811 New Hampshire) a couple weeks ago and it was fantastic, easily on a par with the best of KC restaurants. We did the six course menu ($65) with wine ($45). An amuse of Osso Bucco, Butternut Squash Soup, then apps of Seared Foie Gras, Smoked Salmon Roulade and Lobster Pot Pie, first course of Sea Bass with Couscous and Tomato Confit, entrees of Rack of Lamb with Polenta and Beef Tenderloin with Potato Puree and excellent dessrts and wines pairings. The menu is very limited (14 total items) and there are really no choices. I imagine as this restaurant matures and broadens it's menu it will compete favorably with Bluestem and other upper drawer KC establishments. Absolutely worth the 20 min. drive from KC.

    BTW, I've been to Coco Bolos many times and have had good and bad experiences. Their Tex-Mex cuisine certainly isn't groundbreaking.

  15. The proliferation of chain restaurants has been killing the independent restaurant industry in this part of the country for many years. The big reason - lack of skilled labor. Independents, for the most part, simply cannot compete with the chains for qualified help. It's the Wal-Mart syndrome. Big, national (or regional) chain comes into town, hires up all the best help at premium wages (with benefits) and the independents are left to deal with the leftover, often shallow labor pool. There are exceptions, independents who manage to maintain quality food and service despite chain encroachment, but it is difficult. In larger metropolitan areas like KC the independent scene is more vibrant than ever, but just down the road in Topeka or Wichita, jeez it's like a chain restaurant nightmare.

  16. Cox Brothers BBQ was recently sold and will be operated under a new name and management (not a BBQ joint). Business had not been good since the opening of Famous Daves (yech!) about a year ago. Personally, I thought Cox BBQ was OK but the portions were puny by KC standards and the prices were high. I can remember watching the "cook" weigh out miserly portions of brisket for sandwiches, a sin at Bryants or any respectable BBQ joint. At present I am not aware of any KC restaurant but have heard plans of going to KC or Topeka with the Bolos restaurant concept.

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