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Fat Guy

Reservations and Regulars at Momos and

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Nepotism, which widely translates as "patronage bestowed or favoritism shown due to relationship"

No, nepotism is favoritism based on kinship. In addition, it implies that the favoritism is unearned. Treating someone better on account of that person being a good, well-behaved, enthusiastic, supportive customer is the opposite of nepotism. It's far more akin to meritocracy. And the only democracy in place now at Ko is that whomever is more willing to hit refresh, whomever gets luckier with the open sockets on the server, gets the reservations. It makes a lot more sense to prioritize the customers who got you where you are today. Not that the Wednesday reservations are up on the server anyway.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Are you objecting to the fact that they held friends and family and then implemented a reservations system afterwards?

Or are you just being angry for not getting invited to f&f given your "regular and co-founder with Nathan of the New Paradigm labeling movement" status?

Oh, but Nathan was invited.

As annoyed as I am with the reservation hiccups, I cannot say that it deters me from giving them a chance to smooth things out. Now, if this kind of hooplah persists a couple of months down the road, I would be less inclined to make the effort... maybe, not inclined at all.


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The customers of Ko are the people who are eating there with reservations that they got on the website.  Treating them well would mean giving them great service while they're there and perhaps comping a dish or sending something extra out sometimes.  Nepotism, which widely translates as "patronage bestowed or favoritism shown due to relationship" is what would happen if all of the regulars at Ssam Bar and Noodle Bar were able to make reservations at Ko more easily/frequently than other people in the general public.

I agree with Steven that you're adopting an unusual definition of "nepotism". There are many businesses (not just restaurants) that provide a higher level of service for their best customers. That's not what nepotism is.

It remains to be seen how Ko will handle this. It's hard to comp a dish when there are only 10 seats, and it's going to be rather apparent that the person next to you got something you didn't get.

Right now, the people who are poised to hit the refresh button at exactly 10:00 are those who've already boarded the Momofuku train. The issue (if there is one) will come much later, after the early lustre has worn off. But if Frank Bruni awards four stars, that could take a long time to happen.

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I don't see how you think that their online reservation system is an example of a fake, hypocritcal, patronizing version of egalitarianism.  Can you please explain how an online reservation system that is providing seats based on a faceless request would be biased?

Can you please explain where I said what you claim I said?

The grand claims of "democracy" are only credible if the system is truly egalitarian. So far, it of course has not been because so many regulars and media have been invited in for previews. So they can defend the reservations system without having to sacrifice actually eating at the restaurant. Down the road, however, we'll start seeing whether the system truly remains egalitarian or not. That will be the point where, I believe, the restaurant will need to choose between alienating its supporters and behaving hypocritically.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I agree with Steven that you're adopting an unusual definition of "nepotism". There are many businesses (not just restaurants) that provide a higher level of service for their best customers. That's not what nepotism is.

It remains to be seen how Ko will handle this. It's hard to comp a dish when there are only 10 seats, and it's going to be rather apparent that the person next to you got something you didn't get.

I think that there are plenty of contexts where family relationship is too narrow for nepotism. If my boss hires his daughter's best friend instead of me, is that nepotism? What if he hires his accountant's kid? I'm not suggesting that a higher level of service is nepotism. I didn't suggest that sending out an extra dish is nepotism, nor did I suggest that getting good customers seated quicker is nepotism. I wouldn't even suggest that comping all or part of the bill is nepotism. But to suggest that a restaurant with very few seats should give priority to certain individuals who have been good customers in the context of another business fits my definition of nepotism. I guess I would say that I don't think that sort of treatment is deserved or earned. I'm sure those customers will continue to be treated well.

There were plenty of people being comped additional dishes at F&F.


Edited by Jesikka (log)

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fwiw, I'm pretty sure I don't count as a Momofuku "regular"...the Momofuku regulars all seem to eat there several times a week. I don't live in the EV...that's not gonna happen (I eat at Ssam or Noodle Bar closer to once a month).

and I doubt that FG has been there more than me.

edit: and there were at least several people who do eat there more than once a week who were not invited to previews.


Edited by Nathan (log)

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to suggest that a restaurant with very few seats should give priority to certain individuals who have been good customers in the context of another business fits my definition of nepotism.

Not doing so fits my definition of crazy. But even if I used the wrong word -- like I said it was Zoroastrian -- it wouldn't change anything. Anyway, Ko's "very few seats" thus far have indeed been given to "individuals who have been good customers in the context of another business." As they should be.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Are you objecting to the fact that they held friends and family and then implemented a reservations system afterwards?

Or are you just being angry for not getting invited to f&f given your "regular and co-founder with Nathan of the New Paradigm labeling movement" status?

I'm a low-level regular. There would be no excuse for inviting me to friends and family. If anything I might have been invited as media. I'm in favor of not inviting me to previews. However, I want Jesikka to be able to take me. And she can't take me. She can't even take her best friends from out of town when they come in and want her to show them this restaurant she says is so great. I'm waiting for each regular, in turn, to come up against the absurdity of the egalitarian system and to eat crow here.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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However, I want Jesikka to be able to take me. And she can't take me. She can't even take her best friends from out of town when they come in and want her to show them this restaurant she says is so great. I'm waiting for each regular, in turn, to come up against the absurdity of the egalitarian system and to eat crow here.

Given that I already have a second reservation (gotten through the miracle of tenacity and basic typing skills) I COULD in fact take you, but Dave H is in line before you. I don't have any best friends from out of town who would have interest in Ko, so no worries there. I do not think it will be particularly difficult to continue getting reservations here shortly.

I have never eaten crow, but I imagine it should be perfectly delicious if prepared correctly.

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However, I want Jesikka to be able to take me. And she can't take me. She can't even take her best friends from out of town when they come in and want her to show them this restaurant she says is so great.

She can do that, as long as she has a week's notice when they're coming in. And if that doesn't work (my guess is it won't be terribly difficult to get reservations on any particular night much less any of the several nights her friends are in town for), she can just take them to Ssam Bar and get substantially similar food.

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It has nothing to do with democracy. Throwing around terms like "nepotism" to refer to treating your good customers well and "democracy" to refer to not doing so simply doesn't reconcile with the definitions of those words. And while I do think it's a little ironic that the defenders of the egalitarian system are the ones who've been invited to previews, my point is simply that the restaurant eventually will need to choose between true egalitarianism and some fake, hypocritical, patronizing version of it.

What's amusing to me is that the scenario you discuss is the exact opposite of your typical NYC nightclub business model wherein the velvet rope is initially made of fire-hardened steel, yet over time as the club loses its luster it is must accommodate the sort of customer who previously could not have made it to the coat check.


�As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy, and to make plans.� - Ernest Hemingway, in �A Moveable Feast�

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However, I want Jesikka to be able to take me. And she can't take me. She can't even take her best friends from out of town when they come in and want her to show them this restaurant she says is so great.

She can do that, as long as she has a week's notice when they're coming in. And if that doesn't work (my guess is it won't be terribly difficult to get reservations on any particular night much less any of the several nights her friends are in town for), she can just take them to Ssam Bar and get substantially similar food.

I also think it's somewhat relevant to point out that I'm highly unlikely to WANT to do a 7 course tasting menu with wine pairings with my friends from out of town. You're somewhat constrained in your conversation while sitting at a bar and it's a very long meal to have with people you don't see very often. You can't have a large group of people. As Dave H points out, we'll continue to bring our friends to Ssam Bar, which is a better fit for many reasons.

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I don't see how you think that their online reservation system is an example of a fake, hypocritcal, patronizing version of egalitarianism.  Can you please explain how an online reservation system that is providing seats based on a faceless request would be biased?

That will be the point where, I believe, the restaurant will need to choose between alienating its supporters and behaving hypocritically.

I don't understand what activity would be alienating to the restaurant's supporters? I think that the online reservation system makes sense in terms of allowing everyone a fair shot at getting a reservation, even if I'm not awake early enough to make a reservation and benefit from this. I also don't understand what kind of hypocritical activity you are envisioning. Clearly an online reservation system is unbiased. What do you think will change about that which will somehow become hypocritical?


Edited by spaetzle_maker (log)

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It's not unbiased. It simply has different biases from what we're accustomed to seeing. That's the fallacy of egalitarianism. It's biased towards people who can click refresh a lot at 10am, as opposed to being biased towards the people who have supported the business economically.

In terms of potential hypocritical behavior that flies in the face of proclamations of "democracy" (leaving aside the issue of what has already occurred with previews), the most interesting thing to see is going to be whether the principals of the restaurant at some point decide to make "just a few" reservations on the administrative end. Beyond that, there's the question of whether every customer at the restaurant will be served the same meal. Because it's kind of silly to say you have this egalitarian institution on account of its reservations system and then go ahead and reward VIPs with better meals. Pretty much, once you go down the road of claiming egalitarianism, anything you do anywhere -- even if it's special treatment at Ssam Bar -- is hypocritical.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I don't know about anyone else, but when it comes to reservations for a restaurant, I don't want to have to deal with it like I have to deal with Ticketmaster for hot concert tix... jmo.

Jesikka, apparently you don't speak for all regulars. Sure, some will follow Chang to the gates of Hell in his grand egalitarian experiment (unless of course it's just a facade), but some are already fed up and it's only day two.

I would never presume to speak for all regulars. But I don't think there is a need for regulars to panic and presume they'll never be able to try the food at Ko (nor do I really understand the need to rush there immediately- but as you've said I was lucky enough to try the food on preview). In the meantime I'll continue to eat at Ssam Bar and look forward to my next visit to Ko.

Trust me, I'm in no panic...and I have tried some of the food - at Ssam Bar (and maybe even at Noodle Bar, who knows?)

Dealing with ticketmaster for a hot concert is one thing- the concert ends, the band moves on.  This show is playing for the long term, not everyone gets to see the first show.

But for that concert, there may be 19,000 seats - and I want one of the good ones.

First shows (opening nights, whatever) usually suck.

IMHO if you're fed up by day two then you might as well let the people who really want it get in line ahead of you.

Not so much fed up, but getting a little laugh from it all. I was fed up last night when I walked by Noodle Bar and saw about an hour's wait. But I had some really great soba at Soba-Koh, perfectly fried tempura, along with a crab & seaweed salad and, get this, pickles (it's allegedly Chang's favorite restaurant).

Do your complaints apply to all tough reservations?

Imo, there aren't really any tough reservations - it's only food - available, somewhere everyday, at every hour. As an example, I'm on Open Table right now, and you can eat at lots of good places at prime time (Eleven Mad Park tonight), and there's an 8PM for tomorrow night at Gramercy Tavern. I'm sure if I called a number of places, I could be in tonight as well.

Whereas that concert has come and gone...btw, I had the best seats in the house.


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I would never presume to speak for all regulars.  But I don't think there is a need for regulars to panic and presume they'll never be able to try the food at Ko (nor do I really understand the need to rush there immediately- but as you've said I was lucky enough to try the food on preview).  In the meantime I'll continue to eat at Ssam Bar and look forward to my next visit to Ko.

Trust me, I'm in no panic...and I have tried some of the food - at Ssam Bar (and maybe even at Noodle Bar, who knows?)

Dealing with ticketmaster for a hot concert is one thing- the concert ends, the band moves on.  This show is playing for the long term, not everyone gets to see the first show.

But for that concert, there may be 19,000 seats - and I want one of the good ones.

First shows (opening nights, whatever) usually suck.

IMHO if you're fed up by day two then you might as well let the people who really want it get in line ahead of you.

Not so much fed up, but getting a little laugh from it all.  I was fed up last night when I walked by Noodle Bar and saw about an hour's wait.

Do your complaints apply to all tough reservations?

Imo, there aren't really any tough reservations - it's only food - available, somewhere everyday, at every hour. As an example, I'm on Open Table right now, and you can eat at lots of good places at prime time (Eleven Mad Park tonight), and there's an 8PM for tomorrow night at Gramercy Tavern.  I'm sure if I called a number of places, I could be in tonight as well.

Whereas that concert has come and gone...btw, I had the best seats in the house.

Which just means that we're in agreement. Hang back, wait it out.

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It's not unbiased. It simply has different biases from what we're accustomed to seeing. That's the fallacy of egalitarianism. It's biased towards people who can click refresh a lot at 10am, as opposed to being biased towards the people who have supported the business economically.

How does being up at 10am clicking a mouse any different than you getting on the phone at 10am and hitting redial for an hour to get through to Babbo? It's the same methodology, just a different technology.

The big different is there are back doors into Babbo. Calling someone you know, showing up at 10am to speak to the reservationist in person. Ko doesn't (or say they don't) have any back doors. Everyone treated equally. First come first serve (assuming you have a computer)


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It's not unbiased. It simply has different biases from what we're accustomed to seeing. That's the fallacy of egalitarianism. It's biased towards people who can click refresh a lot at 10am, as opposed to being biased towards the people who have supported the business economically.
Well, any set of rules is going to be biased in favor of those who are able to follow them. But there is a huge difference between announcing a set of rules that might be more convenient for some people than others, but that gives everyone the same chance; and having a murky hierarchy that is documented nowhere except in the proprietors' heads.

Now, just imagine if Babbo told you exactly how many tables it sets aside for "regulars", told you exactly how they define "regular", and what you need to do to become one of those people who can always get in at 8:00. That would be the equivalent of what Ko has done—or claim they have done. You might not like Babbo's rules, but you'd know what they were.

I'm not suggesting Babbo is doing anything wrong. But there's a difference between biases that are clearly documented, and those that are hidden. Even Frank Bruni has joked about this: a restaurant offers you 5:45 p.m. or 9:30 p.m. You don't know if you called too late, or if the 8:00 p.m. table wouldn't have been available no matter when you called.

In terms of potential hypocritical behavior that flies in the face of proclamations of "democracy" (leaving aside the issue of what has already occurred with previews), the most interesting thing to see is going to be whether the principals of the restaurant at some point decide to make "just a few" reservations on the administrative end. Beyond that, there's the question of whether every customer at the restaurant will be served the same meal. Because it's kind of silly to say you have this egalitarian institution on account of its reservations system and then go ahead and reward VIPs with better meals. Pretty much, once you go down the road of claiming egalitarianism, anything you do anywhere -- even if it's special treatment at Ssam Bar -- is hypocritical.

I think you have to "leave aside" previews. The restaurant wasn't technically open at that point, although it's undeniable that Chang indulged some skillful self-promotion — as he always does.

You can only hold Chang accountable for what he claims. He has never said, "Everyone at Ko will get the same meal," has he? The only thing he's said is that everyone has the same chance at a reservation. If he violates that (while still making the same claims), we should call him on it.

By the way, I don't necessarily trust David Chang to do what he says. I am merely assuming he will for the sake of discussion.

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It's not unbiased. It simply has different biases from what we're accustomed to seeing. That's the fallacy of egalitarianism. It's biased towards people who can click refresh a lot at 10am, as opposed to being biased towards the people who have supported the business economically.

How does being up at 10am clicking a mouse any different than you getting on the phone at 10am and hitting redial for an hour to get through to Babbo? It's the same methodology, just a different technology.

The big different is there are back doors into Babbo. Calling someone you know, showing up at 10am to speak to the reservationist in person. Ko doesn't (or say they don't) have any back doors. Everyone treated equally. First come first serve (assuming you have a computer)

Right! They have to find a way to limit to only 12 people per sitting and using an online system is the most impersonal (and therefore unbiased) way to do it.

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Because the regulars haven't participated in the system. They've been invited to previews. It will be interesting to see how those same regulars feel later on.

I don't get this.

Why will I ever feel badly about not being able to get into Ko, if I get treated well at Ssam Bar? Is my sense of entitlement as a New Yorker supposed to be so great that I'm supposed to abandon a place if it doesn't do me every single favor it conceivably could, but rather only a lot of them?

I think that people who EXPECT special treatment should go fuck themselves.

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Because the regulars haven't participated in the system. They've been invited to previews. It will be interesting to see how those same regulars feel later on.

I don't get this.

Why will I ever feel badly about not being able to get into Ko, if I get treated well at Ssam Bar? Is my sense of entitlement as a New Yorker supposed to be so great that I'm supposed to abandon a place if it doesn't do me every single favor it conceivably could, but rather only a lot of them?

I think that people who EXPECT special treatment should go fuck themselves.

word.

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Jesikka, apparently you don't speak for all regulars. Sure, some will follow Chang to the gates of Hell in his grand egalitarian experiment (unless of course it's just a facade), but some are already fed up and it's only day two.

So they're fed up.

I don't think that I'm willing to go through the Ko cybergauntlet either. So it'll be another place -- like Per Se -- that I don't go, even though I'd like to.

Happily, there's another Chang place, which in some ways I like even better than Ko (based on one Ko meal, to be sure), that I can still go to just as I always have.

I'm incredibly grateful to have been included in Ko's F&F. Why should I feel "alienated" that they won't do even more for me -- especially when it would be contrary to a business model that I have great respect for?


Edited by Sneakeater (log)

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Because the regulars haven't participated in the system. They've been invited to previews. It will be interesting to see how those same regulars feel later on.

I don't get this.

Why will I ever feel badly about not being able to get into Ko, if I get treated well at Ssam Bar? Is my sense of entitlement as a New Yorker supposed to be so great that I'm supposed to abandon a place if it doesn't do me every single favor it conceivably could, but rather only a lot of them?

I think that people who EXPECT special treatment should go fuck themselves.

Exactly!

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Jesikka, apparently you don't speak for all regulars. Sure, some will follow Chang to the gates of Hell in his grand egalitarian experiment (unless of course it's just a facade), but some are already fed up and it's only day two.

I'm incredibly grateful to have been included in Ko's F&F. Why should I feel "alienated" that they won't do even more for me -- especially when it would be contrary to a business model that I have great respect for?

Exactly again! I can't imagine ever feeling "alienated". The idea is ridiculous to me.

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