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Fat Guy

Reservations and Regulars at Momos and

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Shudder away, but when you pay a couple of hundred dollars for dinner gratitude may not be the appropriate sentiment. I have tremendous respect for the people who provide me with excellent dining experiences, just as I have tremendous respect for anyone who provides great services: my son's music teacher, my dentist, etc. They would probably tell you I'm a pretty nice client to deal with. But that doesn't mean I have to roll over and be a submissive consumer. I'm paying for these services, and I expect to be treated as a valued customer. If I'm not, I'll find other service providers who will do that. I can't believe how many people are uncomfortable with that notion.


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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Shudder away, but when you pay a couple of hundred dollars for dinner gratitude may not be the appropriate sentiment. I have tremendous respect for the people who provide me with excellent dining experiences, just as I have tremendous respect for anyone who provides great services: my son's music teacher, my dentist, etc. They would probably tell you I'm a pretty nice client to deal with. But that doesn't mean I have to roll over and be a submissive consumer. I'm paying for these services, and I expect to be treated as a valued customer. If I'm not, I'll find other service providers who will do that. I can't believe how many people are uncomfortable with that notion.

I'm grateful that I can afford to spend money on the luxury of eating out on a regular basis at places that I love. This really is a luxury and you can choose to be grateful for it or not. This does not define me as a "submissive consumer". I'm certainly not going to restaurants where the food isn't good or where the service is rude. I'm not being served shit on a paper plate and saying "Oh goodness, thank you!"

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I'm not being served shit on a paper plate and saying "Oh goodness, thank you!"

What if Chang served it?

Obviously, I'd be furious.

Edit: I'm talking about actual shit here. As far as food goes, if there was a total change in quality of food (and service) then the restaurant would be a different restaurant for me - not the same place that I've enjoyed so regularly. And I don't envision any of this ever happening anyway.

Editing again: If something happened to the quality of the food and service to a point where I wouldn't want to go anymore, I'd probably have to go into mourning. I'd really miss the momofukus. And I don't envision any of this ever happening anyway.


Edited by spaetzle_maker (log)

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It seems to me that you would like them to have such a system because you would benefit from it.

My objection in this instance is not selfish but theoretical.

The thing is, I don't believe you.

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Right.  It's like, they're publically adopting a "no entitlement" policy, and you're saying that people are so selfish that they won't allow it to work.

I think you're looking at it the wrong way.

Every restaurant that survives eventually attracts significant support from regulars. And restaurants generally offer perks to give regulars the incentive to stay that way. I think Steven is simply expressing skepticism that Ko can be successful without doing this.

On one level, he is right. Successful restaurants do the things he says they do. But Steven has often said that Momofuku Ssam Bar "shattered" the traditional restaurant paradigm. So it's a little inconsistent to praise them for shattering something, while at the same time complaining that they shattered too much.

I see and agree with your point.

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Shudder away, but when you pay a couple of hundred dollars for dinner gratitude may not be the appropriate sentiment. I have tremendous respect for the people who provide me with excellent dining experiences, just as I have tremendous respect for anyone who provides great services: my son's music teacher, my dentist, etc. They would probably tell you I'm a pretty nice client to deal with. But that doesn't mean I have to roll over and be a submissive consumer. I'm paying for these services, and I expect to be treated as a valued customer. If I'm not, I'll find other service providers who will do that. I can't believe how many people are uncomfortable with that notion.

Because in this case it's zero sum game.

When I get comped dishes at Ssam Bar, or moved up a bit on the wait list at [unnamed Brooklyn restaurant], I'm not depriving somebody else of an incredibly scarce commodity. Here, we're talking about seats at a 12-seat restaurant. As ue said, if it operated the way you're proposing, it would become a Momofan supper club. You'd halve the number of other people who could get in. I don't see how that's desirable in any way.


Edited by Sneakeater (log)

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I would be annoyed if a restaurant I thought was great, with which I'd spent years developing a relationship, couldn't squeeze me in. Ever.

It sounds like Ko isn't the restaurant for you. One less person pressing the refresh button when I'm trying to get a reservation is fine with me. I'm sure you'll still manage to find somewhere to take your friends.

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So it's a little inconsistent to praise them for shattering something, while at the same time complaining that they shattered too much.

It's never inconsistent to distinguish between good ideas and bad ideas. Chang has had some brilliant ideas. He has also had some really bad ones, like having a restaurant that only serves those ssam things. Luckily, the worst of his ideas have been corrected by his team. That's good leadership, when you're open enough to advice to change your mind on issues as fundamental as, say, the entire concept of your restaurant. We'll see what happens this time around.


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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It seems to me that you would like them to have such a system because you would benefit from it.

My objection in this instance is not selfish but theoretical.

The thing is, I don't believe you.

I believe you.


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'm grateful that I can afford to spend money on the luxury of eating out on a regular basis at places that I love.

So am I. But I fail to see how this is in any way related to the point we're discussing.


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 would be annoyed if a restaurant I thought was great, with which I'd spent years developing a relationship, couldn't squeeze me in. Ever.

It sounds like Ko isn't the restaurant for you. One less person pressing the refresh button when I'm trying to get a reservation is fine with me. I'm sure you'll still manage to find somewhere to take your friends.

Ko isn't a restaurant where I'll be a regular, that's for sure. But of course I'm going to go once or twice, and if it's really great I'll go occasionally. And then over time we'll see how the egalitarianism plan holds up. Will it be a brilliant stroke that's successful, institutionalized and imitated; or will it be the next "all ssam all the time" mistake that needs to be corrected by the team?


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'm grateful that I can afford to spend money on the luxury of eating out on a regular basis at places that I love.

So am I. But I fail to see how this is in any way related to the point we're discussing.

Fat guy, feel free to go into a restaurant and demand preferential treatment because you are a regular customer. I'm not trying to stop you.

If you only partially quote me and ignore the context of what I was responding to, you will most certainly fail to understand my point. This has gotten boring.

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Fat guy, feel free to go into a restaurant and demand preferential treatment because you are a regular customer.  I'm not trying to stop you. 

Thanks for your permission. Now let me try to do you and everybody else a kindness in return: I give you -- all of you -- permission to expect superior treatment from any business that you support over the long haul. I give you permission to expect that hotels where you've been a long-time customer will give you priority in booking rooms, and give you the best rooms available. I give you permission to demand that doctors you've supported for years squeeze you in for appointments even when they're busy. I give you permission to expect that restaurants where you've spent thousands of dollars will make every effort to accommodate any reasonable request you have, especially when it comes to getting in. I give you permission to feel entitled to those things, because you've paid for them with your hard-earned money that you're so blessed to have. And I give you permission to take your business elsewhere if you don't get those things. Plus, you'll never need to make any demands because a well-run business gives you these things before you need to ask for them.

Various claims of egalitarianism in reservations have been made in the past. Perhaps most famously, when Ducasse opened in New York he announced "There will be no special treatment for the press." After getting hammered long and hard by the press, he switched publicists, started hosting press luncheons and clawed his way to some semblance of equilibrium with the press. Chang was smarter: he had all the press people in before implementing the egalitarian system. So now he only has to worry about the consumers.


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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If I'm having a medical emergency, my doctor better squeeze me in. I think being in need of a doctor is quite different than expecting to be bumped up in line at a busy restaurant. Those hostesses are nice people. The last thing I'd want is to be moved up in line and have some guy start screaming at the hostess that he was there before me. The chefs in the kitchen are working their asses off. I don't want them to fall behind because they are making something extra for me when they are already incredibly busy. I also respect people with extraordinary talents in the kitchen and in service and I don't want them to have to compromise some aspect of their work so they can be generous with me in ways that I don't require. That just isn't necessary for me to enjoy my time at their restaurant.

I think the key distinction is that many people on this thread, myself included, "appreciate" the times when the kitchen or staff has gone out of their way for our benefit. You on the other hand "expect" them to go out of their way. We are different in this manner.

There is a saying about horses, death and beating. Good night.

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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)

Would it change the course of this discussion at all if it were discovered that back doors did exist at Momo Ko for regulars? I have heard there are, at least for their first week. But as I don't have any concrete information on this, may be best to leave it as a hypothetical.

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If I'm having a medical emergency, my doctor better squeeze me in.  I think being in need of a doctor is quite different than expecting to be bumped up in line at a busy restaurant.
Steven didn't say "a medical emergency". Not all doctor's visits are emergencies. He simply said that businesses with whom you have a long-term relationship are likely—if they're smart—to extend courtesies they wouldn't give just anyone.

I don't think Steven marches into restaurants and starts demanding things. He is just making an empirical observation. At places where you've become a regular, those courtesies do exist. On those occasions when he needs a favor—not that it happens every day—he does expect something in return for his long-term loyalty.

Would it change the course of this discussion at all if it were discovered that back doors did exist at Momo Ko for regulars?

Of course it would.

Up till now, we've all assumed that Chang is being truthful. The question is whether he's being wise. If it turns out that he's been fibbing, obviously that warps the discussion.

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I was interested to see that in the middle of the night the Wednesday 19 March reservations showed up seemingly all at once as all booked, and the graphical reservations grid has now gone behind a wall. Of course I draw no conclusions from that. It could just be that a lot of people noticed and jumped on the open reservations at 2am, and that the new "as of [TIME] there are currently no open seatings" message is to reduce load on the server.


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 expect *and* appreciate preferential treatment when I'm a regular client of a business. So should you.

Don't tell me what I should do.

See I think this is part of the issue. You don't see yourself as another diner. You see yourself as the guy who is here to tell us what to expect and what to do, as often as not dominating the discussions with your from-the-mount pronouncements of what is good and bad, right and wrong. Frankly, sir, it's not your place to tell me how to experience or what to expect from this or any restaurant. I stand by my earlier comment that you are motivated primarily by self-interest here. You suddenly see that your beloved "new paradigm" might involve a shift away from restauranteurs feeling that they need to coddle friends, insiders and influencers like yourself (only you prefer to use the label regular.)

I suspect that Chang has grown tired of kissing the butts of a loud-mouthed high-maintenance self-important minority and that's why this new reservation aspires to "pure" democracy. To save one seat or two for the FGs (or Ruth Reichels) of the world (not that they are in the same category) is to totally undermine what he is trying to do. And I applaud what he is trying to do.

And, FG, for whatever it's worth, I think your 9:04 pm post (#303 on this thread) is one of the most obnoxious things I've ever seen on EG and is a perfect example of why I come around these parts far less than I used to.


Edited by jimk (log)

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You don't see yourself as another diner.

You don't have to be just another diner either. Every restaurant above the level of a McDonald's offers one or another form of preferential treatment. I've written a book explaining how to take advantage of this situation, rather than being a victim of it.

I stand by my earlier comment that you are motivated primarily by self-interest here.

Every consumer should be motivated by self interest. What's your alternative hypothesis about what should motivate consumers? Of course your conspiracy theory about how I'm protecting the new paradigm or whatever is completely off base, and it's kind of ironic that you're taking umbrage at me telling you what to do when you started this conversation by calling me a liar. But again, it's a peculiar phenomenon that so many people have been guilted into attaching negative connotations to concepts like "demand," "expect," and "self interest" when, in reality, these are exactly the concepts consumers should be comfortable with.

I suspect that Chang has grown tired of kissing the butts of a loud-mouthed high-maintenance self-important minority and that's why this new reservation aspires to "pure" democracy. To save one seat or two for the FGs (or Ruth Reichels) of the world (not that they are in the same category) is to totally undermine what he is trying to do. And I applaud what he is trying to do.

Oh, so that's why he invited Ruth Reichl to a preview tasting!


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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1. I never used the word liar. I said I didn't believe you. If you want me to put a label on it I'll go with "disingenuous blowhard know-it-all" or something along those lines.

2. I don't think of dinner as a "situation" that I need to "take advantage of" and I hope I never do. The restaurants that I love the most don't treat me as a consumer - they treat me as a friend and a guest. I don't expect "special treatment" according to the frequency of my visits, and when I see a restaurant staff fawning over a high-maintenance diner who clearly believes they deserve to be fawned over, it makes me like the restaurant just a bit less. I've read enough of your reviews here to believe you are such a diner. I suspect your book is a treatise on how to create such expectations among diners - teaching them that a meal in a nice restaurant is a system to be gamed - and I think that's a shame.

3. As far as this goes:

Every consumer should be motivated by self interest. What's your alternative hypothesis about what should motivate consumers? Of course your conspiracy theory about how I'm protecting the new paradigm or whatever is completely off base, and it's kind of ironic that you're taking umbrage at me telling you what to do when you started this conversation by calling me a liar. But again, it's a peculiar phenomenon that so many people have been guilted into attaching negative connotations to concepts like "demand," "expect," and "self interest" when, in reality, these are exactly the concepts consumers should be comfortable with.

I honestly have no idea what you are trying to say.

4. I suspect you are the only person here who thinks that having a friends and family week is somehow the same as holding back x seats of a 12 seat restaurant for VIPs on an ongoing basis.

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If you think you're a friend and guest at a restaurant, try not paying. Let us know how that works out for you.

I suspect an unfortunate number of people may be buying into the fallacy that Ruth Reichl, Alan Richman, Ed Levine, et al., are "friends and family" of Momofuku. Regardless, I was simply pointing out the absurdity of your claim that Chang's idealism means no special treatment for Ruth Reichl. Because, as you know, she has already had special treatment. Which, by the way, I support. Do you?


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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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.

Yep.


"All humans are out of their f*cking minds -- every single one of them."

-- Albert Ellis

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If you think you're a friend and guest at a restaurant, try not paying. Let us know how that works out for you.

I didn't say that. I didn't say I think I'm a friend and a guest. I said the restaurants treat me like a friend and a guest. Don't pretend you don't see the difference - you've eaten at Danny Meyer restaurants. Maybe you're probably surprised to know that they treat mere mortals as well as they treat those who throw a sense of entitlement around.

I suspect an unfortunate number of people may be buying into the fallacy that Ruth Reichl, Alan Richman, Ed Levine, et al., are "friends and family" of Momofuku. Regardless, I was simply pointing out the absurdity of your claim that Chang's idealism means no special treatment for Ruth Reichl. Because, as you know, she has already had special treatment. Which, by the way, I support. Do you?

For the millionth time, having a f&f week (or a press week if you are a stickler for the terminology, since you seem to believe that when other new york restuarants have a friends and family period only friends and family are invited) prior to public opening is not the same thing as the two-tiered system you advocate. Three thousand people (ok maybe I'm rounding that up) have made that point here and you still don't get that it's not the same thing?

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