One of the most recent and robust bits of evidence for an afterlife is the apparent spirit possession of Joe Nickell by the ghost of Andy Rooney. Nickell, paramount investigator of all things paranormal, recently turned his skeptical attention to my bailiwick, the F&B business. Regrettably he forgot Feynman’s first principle: “you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”
It seems that Joe occasionally writes under the theme/name of Skepcook and this time in doing so he undertook to bitch, without apparent knowledge or authority, about pricing policy of a certain restaurant. He did so under the guise of “substitutions policy” but any such policy is in fact a pricing policy. This is made evident by his admission that he could get what he wanted, but he was required to pay for it. The nerve of those dirty capitalist
wallstreet bankers uhm restaurateurs.
The first of Joe’s mistakes is assuming he is substituting like for like. If he is restricting carbs he ought to know that they are the least expensive of our food goods – very inexpensive but satiating kcals. In his case he wanted to substitute fresh tomatoes for cooked potatoes. A cursory glance on the net of bulk produce prices will show tomatoes cost about ten times what potatoes do (and that is without getting into seasonal issues with tomatoes or the possible great price variety of a common hash brown to say an heirloom tomato). So a upcharge is not only very reasonable but highly justified. What is unreasonable is a customer expecting more and better but not expecting to pay. If we follow Joes logic why isn’t it equally reasonable to substitute the sausage links for a filet mignon?
However, the increase in cost to the business does not end with the cost of goods. Joe also took up precious extra time from all staff to serve him. The server needed to spend more time with him confirming his special order and explaining how it will work. They also then needed to spend time explaining the special request to the kitchen. That time (all things being finite) came at the cost of reduced time spent on other customers or other tasks of running the business. In short it came at a cost to the business.
His next mistake was claiming to have had the identical product and service at other non-identical shops, but without any extra charge. Given the incredible variety of operations in the industry, He most likely didn’t and could not know if he had, anyway. Two restaurants on the same street or mall could easily and quite likely have very different rents, staff costs, amenities costs (plates, silverware, uniforms, decoration), and even costs of goods depending on the grade, quality and sophistication of the products. For eggs alone I can procure at least a hundred different prices and grades. My own knowledge of the business makes me think it very probable that Denny’s pays much less for a tomato (or in rent, staff costs and amenities) than they do at Tom’s.
The restaurant business is an incredibly tough business. The margins, even in the best cases, are slim. It is very likely that many of the restaurants he noted are just getting by or may not be breaking even, especially in the current US economy. Even if they are making a profit (which they are meant to do), he is asking them to give up their income and time for him exclusively, and with complete disregard for the fairness of the equation. Why should they and why does he think it is reasonable of him to ask? Joe used only his own desire as the benchmark of what was fair and right.
Joe, you encourage readers to follow suit and let restaurateurs know you expect them to do their best to reasonably accommodate your dietary wishes. That is exactly what Tom’s did. Your expecting extras for free, was the unreasonable element in the equation. And it seems like your ego is the only thing that made you sure enough of a very tenuous position to blog under the guise of critical thinking.