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Fat Guy

Reservations and Regulars at Momos and

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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.

If you think restaurants are treating you as a friend and a guest, try not paying. Conversely, try going to a friend's house as a guest and sending back an overcooked steak.

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.

Not the same thing, just the same idea: both are anti-egalitarian. Which is fine, except for people who go on about how "democratic" they are. Chang has succeeded in scoring PR points on two fronts: 1- by claiming no special treatment, 2- by giving special treatment to regulars and media. I've got to congratulate him for pulling it off so far. But I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.


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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The purpose of "friends and family" serves two purposes.

#1. Working out any kinks.

#2 Good business sense.


Robert R

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

word.

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.

I'm not sure I can say this any better than you all have - I agree with you entirely. When the bartenders at my favorite cocktail places buy back a round for me or spend time letting me taste new things I am always delighted and flattered, and my appreciation is sincere. I do not, EVER, think that they owe me this in any way. All I can really "expect" is to have a well-made cocktail, just like the guy sitting next to me.

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

word.

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.

I'm not sure I can say this any better than you all have - I agree with you entirely. When the bartenders at my favorite cocktail places buy back a round for me or spend time letting me taste new things I am always delighted and flattered, and my appreciation is sincere. I do not, EVER, think that they owe me this in any way. All I can really "expect" is to have a well-made cocktail, just like the guy sitting next to me.

I think part of FG's point is that when they stop doing that, you'll find a different place to drink. So in effect, you are expecting it.


Edited by sammy (log)

"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

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Shudder away, but when you pay a couple of hundred dollars for dinner gratitude may not be the appropriate sentiment.

well, that we agree on. but there's a flipside to it...when I'm spending a couple hundred dollars at a restaurant whether it's the first time or the fiftieth time, I expect good treatment. when a restaurant is concentrating primarily on taking care of its regulars, the treatment for the non-regulars (who are paying the same money) often suffers.

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I'm not sure I can say this any better than you all have - I agree with you entirely.  When the bartenders at my favorite cocktail places buy back a round for me or spend time letting me taste new things I am always delighted and flattered, and my appreciation is sincere.  I do not, EVER, think that they owe me this in any way.  All I can really "expect" is to have a well-made cocktail, just like the guy sitting next to me.

I think part of FG's point is that when they stop doing that, you'll find a different place to drink. So in effect, you are expecting it.

And I think Daisy17's point is that FG would be incorrect and that if they stop doing that it will still be one of her favorites ... that the occasional freeby is not what she expects of her favorite place and her continued patronage isn't dependant on it, but that it's appreciated all the same.

I think whoever first used the word "entitlement" hit the nail on the head. There are a few places in town where I go often enough that I've become friendly with the owners or chefs. One or two of them is a really tough reservation - the kind of place where you have to dial the phone number 30 days out to the day to get a prime weekend table. Not Babbo or anything, but close. Anyway, occasionally, I have called on someone I know at one of these places and asked for a favor. Maybe once or twice I've asked for a reservation when open table was showing booked. Occasionally, the chef at one will order some specialty meat from his premium wholesaler for me to cook at home as part of his restaurant order. Or they'll let me bring a special own bottle of wine when they don't normally allow corkage. There's a place really close to my building where they occasionally let me phone down and put my name on the wait list for a table rather than make me come in person and add my name - because they get that I live in a walkup. But I don't ask them to do it that often.

But the point is, when I ask for these things, I'm asking for a favor. I say please and thank you. And it's cool if they say no ... I even understand if they say no because it's a "sorry man, but we're just not doing that because it's a really slippery slope and we don't want everyone to start expecting it." If they told me "sorry if open table says we're booked solid then we're actually booked solid because we don't hold any tables back for VIPs" I would think that was totally great.

I don't think I'm entitled to the special treatment. I don't think it should be a perk for me or anyone else based on how much I spend there. And when if they say no I'm still going to be just as loyal. That's the kind of relationship that I believe not can not only sustain a business model but give us all a much better experience of real hospitality. And I think it's what Chang is trying to do.

Maybe it will work, maybe not. Maybe he'll get too much grief from his investors who assumed they'll be exempt. Maybe he'll get so many no-shows that he needs to rework the system. Maybe it will eventually only be 95% egalitarian and not 100%. But I'm really glad to see him trying.

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I think it is pretty ironic that everyone saying they don't expect special treatment is getting special treatment.

And how many places are you a "regular" where you don't get special treatment?

And Daisy17, how many bars are you a regular at where you don't receive buy-backs?


Edited by sammy (log)

"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

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I htink it is pretty ironic that everyone saying they don't expect special treatment is getting special treatment.
Why? Receiving special treatment is entirely a different issue than expecting (or feeling entitled to) special treatment.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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of course there are back doors if you work in the biz meaning in the kitchen we are given benefits that regular crowds and press are not shown, because many of us have worked long painful hours for limited pay,,,, that we feel the need to treat each other better than the civilian crowd....... ill go out of my way to make sure that a respected garde manger guy, referred by a friend gets better treatment than a big roller/ blogger/ know it all foodie will ever get,,, simply because we as chefs see these people as kin,,, where as the others are just "civilians" no matter how important you may think you are,,, your not as important as a guy who busts his ass for 300 bones a week,

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shudder, but I'm going to partially agree with FG here on his larger point.

if I've dropped thousands of dollars over a period of time at an establishment, and if there's a special favor I ask for that's in their power to give, or if I screw up in some way (like say screwing up the bill cause I was a little inebriated and not knowing about it til I come back in again, yes, the amount of money I've spent at that place figures into my expectations on whatever the given issue is. of course it does. that's human nature.

what I don't see is how that basic fact necessarily applies to the reservation system at Ko.

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I htink it is pretty ironic that everyone saying they don't expect special treatment is getting special treatment.
Why? Receiving special treatment is entirely a different issue than expecting (or feeling entitled to) special treatment.

But I'd bet that when the special treatment never comes or stops, the "regulars" opt to be regulars elsewhere.


"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

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of course there are back doors if you work in the biz meaning in the kitchen we are given benefits that regular crowds and press are not shown, because many of us have worked long painful hours for limited pay,,,, that we feel the need to treat each other better than the civilian crowd....... ill go out of my way to make sure that a respected garde manger guy, referred by a friend gets better treatment than a big roller/ blogger/ know it all foodie will ever get,,, simply because we as chefs see these people as kin,,, where as the others are just "civilians" no matter how important you may think you are,,, your not as important as a guy who busts his ass for 300 bones a week,

well yeah. I know one of the most prominent sommeliers/wine directors in NY...they all take care of each other....which makes sense, it's not like they're paid anything.

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I htink it is pretty ironic that everyone saying they don't expect special treatment is getting special treatment.
Why? Receiving special treatment is entirely a different issue than expecting (or feeling entitled to) special treatment.

But I'd bet that when the special treatment never comes or stops, the "regulars" opt to be regulars elsewhere.

hmmm...yes and no.

I'd say that for most people here, if the place is the best (or best located or whatever) at what it does, they'll be a regular no matter what. but if a place has equivalent competition, then of course perks matter in whether you're a regular.

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Not the same thing, just the same idea: both are anti-egalitarian. Which is fine, except for people who go on about how "democratic" they are. Chang has succeeded in scoring PR points on two fronts: 1- by claiming no special treatment, 2- by giving special treatment to regulars and media. I've got to congratulate him for pulling it off so far. But I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.

FG I think you're the only who is going on about how "democratic" they are or aren't. I'm not sure if Chang even ever said that word. (Eater mentions it but not as a direct quote.)

As far as I can tell they had a friends and family soft opening by invite just like every other new restaurant or bar. They reached out to regulars, media, internal staff, etc. They then said to the very same people they invited that going forward "No phone. No favorites. No exceptions”. And thus far (day 2) they have been true to their word.

You have stated your position that you don't think this is possible or even a good idea. Most have disagreed with you. It seems clear that we're not changing your mind nor you ours. How about we let this rest now until should the day come that they do get a phone, play favorites, or make exceptions. Then you can tell us all how you told us so way back before the restaurant even opened. Till then how about we stop obsessing over this and give them the benefit of the doubt? If you really want to discuss the merits of special treatment and what people should expect go start a new thread in the Restaurant Life forum.

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Not the same thing, just the same idea: both are anti-egalitarian. Which is fine, except for people who go on about how "democratic" they are. Chang has succeeded in scoring PR points on two fronts: 1- by claiming no special treatment, 2- by giving special treatment to regulars and media. I've got to congratulate him for pulling it off so far. But I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.

FG I think you're the only who is going on about how "democratic" they are or aren't. I'm not sure if Chang even ever said that word. (Eater mentions it but not as a direct quote.)

As far as I can tell they had a friends and family soft opening by invite just like every other new restaurant or bar. They reached out to regulars, media, internal staff, etc. They then said to the very same people they invited that going forward "No phone. No favorites. No exceptions”. And thus far (day 2) they have been true to their word.

You have stated your position that you don't think this is possible or even a good idea. Most have disagreed with you. It seems clear that we're not changing your mind nor you ours. How about we let this rest now until should the day come that they do get a phone, play favorites, or make exceptions. Then you can tell us all how you told us so way back before the restaurant even opened. Till then how about we stop obsessing over this and give them the benefit of the doubt? If you really want to discuss the merits of special treatment and what people should expect go start a new thread in the Restaurant Life forum.

Amen.

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I think it is pretty ironic that everyone saying they don't expect special treatment is getting special treatment.

And how many places are you a "regular" where you don't get special treatment?

And Daisy17, how many bars are you a regular at where you don't receive buy-backs?

I think it depends on what you consider "special treatment". I'm a regular at a number of places where I don't get comps or buybacks. But at these places, they do say hello and they know my name. I do consider this to be a very welcoming and special feature of being a regular. I don't require anything additional and I'm being completely sincere when I say this.

I'm with Daisy17 - If someone takes time to make a new drink or dish for me and they value my opinion, I'm completely flattered and appreciative. I'm human and I like that my opinion is valued. But this is not a requirement for my regular patronage at an establishment.

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When a restaurant is concentrating primarily on taking care of its regulars, the treatment for the non-regulars (who are paying the same money) often suffers.

Not at the better places. For instance, we know that Danny Meyer takes care of his regular, but I've never felt like a second-class citizen at any of his restaurants (and I'm not a regular at any of them).

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As far as I can tell they had a friends and family soft opening by invite just like every other new restaurant or bar. They reached out to regulars, media, internal staff, etc. They then said to the very same people they invited that going forward "No phone. No favorites. No exceptions”. And thus far (day 2) they have been true to their word.

Not to be contrarian, but... how do you know?

The only thing you know is that reservations are no longer available for next Thursday. We have only their word for it that those reservations were handed out in a strictly egalitarian fashion.

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When a restaurant is concentrating primarily on taking care of its regulars, the treatment for the non-regulars (who are paying the same money) often suffers.

Not at the better places. For instance, we know that Danny Meyer takes care of his regular, but I've never felt like a second-class citizen at any of his restaurants (and I'm not a regular at any of them).

I generally agree, but I seem to recall a review FG wrote of a dinner at Gramercy Tavern where there were a lot of extra courses and off menu stuff being sent out by the kitchen because they knew who he was. (I may be remembering this wrong - if so, mea culpa) ... if I'd been sitting at the next table there's a not-bad chance I'd have found it pretty annoying.

We had our wedding dinner at GT several years ago, and have celebrated many special occasions there. I knew Nick back when he was GM and I know Danny well enough to say hello. The folks at USHG know who we are and generally the only "special treatment" we get is a comped glass of champagne before dinner or something along those lines. That's the exception though - definitely not an every visit experience, and that's totally fine.

They did do us an extraordinary kindness a couple of years ago when we were celebrating our 5th anniversary, by recreating our entire wedding dinner menu, including wedding cake and wine pairings, for us for our anniversary dinner. It was a wonderful favor for them to do, but not something they owed me as a regular and I'd be just as loyal had they told me it wasn't possible.

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Not to be contrarian, but... how do you know?

The only thing you know is that reservations are no longer available for next Thursday. We have only their word for it that those reservations were handed out in a strictly egalitarian fashion.

I don't know. There, are you happy now?

The absence of evidence isn't the evidence of absence, blah blah blah... (maybe Chang is hiding WMDs?!?! :shock: )

Once again, but this time in bold. How about we stop obsessing over this and give them the benefit of the doubt?

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I, for one, would like to know how the wine list is set up.  I realize that they have a pairing for the set menu.  But, will there be other selections in addition to the pairing option, for those (like me) who can (barely) handle/want only a glass of wine?  Or would I be limited to choosing a wine from the pairing list?

Why would you object to being limited to choosing a wine from the pairing list? (The same limitation applied to those getting pairings.)

I think the more interesting question is whether they'll sell you individual glasses of wine. As of now, the stated choice is between pairings and nothing. There are no per-glass or per-bottle prices stated anywhere.

I guess you're not yet a regular. :cool:


"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

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I think it is pretty ironic that everyone saying they don't expect special treatment is getting special treatment.

And how many places are you a "regular" where you don't get special treatment?

And Daisy17, how many bars are you a regular at where you don't receive buy-backs?

I am a regular at a number of places where I receive no special treatment. I am also a regular at a couple of places that I went to for years before receiving special treatment. I have also been a regular, had certain people give me special treatment, seen those people move on and still remained a regular.

I'd also posit that there is no magic number of visits to achieve regular "status"- sometimes someone remembers you and sometimes they don't.

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I'd also posit that there is no magic number of visits to achieve regular "status"- sometimes someone remembers you and sometimes they don't.

It's more than that--most of the (rather few) places I get comps, special treatment, etc. I got comped the first time I ate there. It's all about being knowledgeable and interested and having a good rapport with your waiter or, more likely, bartender. And visibly loving the food.

I mean, I'm never going to be a big enough spender to be an "important customer" at any fine dining restaurant, from a financial point of view. The thing is, neither (I don't think) are any of the other people here who get comps all the time.


Edited by Dave H (log)

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If you assume it takes some number of visits to become a regular, then obviously you've established a habit of patronizing a place for at least a little while before you start getting special treatment as a regular. Presumably because you like the place.

FG seems to be saying that, once he's been to a place that magic number of times, he'll stop going if the special treatment doesn't commence. Even though he clearly likes the place, or else he wouldn't have established the habit of patronizing it.

This makes so little sense to me that I can't believe it's what he's really saying.

What I THINK he's really saying is, if he were a sufficiently longstanding patron of a place, he'd get pissed enough to stop going if he asked them for a reasonable favor and they refused. And I can sort of understand that (although I might disagree with him about what favors are reasonable).

What I can't understand is saying he wouldn't patronize a place if they had an announced policy, communicated to all from the start, of withholding ONE type of favor from EVERYBODY.

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I am a regular at a number of places where I receive no special treatment.  I am also a regular at a couple of places that I went to for years before receiving special treatment.  I have also been a regular, had certain people give me special treatment, seen those people move on and still remained a regular. 

I'd also posit that there is no magic number of visits to achieve regular "status"- sometimes someone remembers you and sometimes they don't.

I think you're over-simplifying. What it takes to become a regular varies tremendously according to the circumstances. And of course, even among regulars there's a hierarchy; there are regulars and regulars. It's not a fixed formula, either. It's not as if, after X visits and Y thousand dollars, some magical set of perks suddenly becomes available to you.

At a small neighborhood place, looking after a regular might just be second nature. At Gramercy Tavern, they have a database with all their best customers' names, birthdates, wives' names, favorite entrees, etc., etc. It just depends.

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