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Issue #3 July 29, 1997
In This Issue
* Feature Article
It was an almost perfect event. Even the weather cooperated. They predicted hard rains, but what we really got was hard sun. President and Ms. Clinton; The Vice-President and Ms. Gore; George and Barbara Bush; the Carter's; the Mayor and his wife, etc, etc. It was just beautiful, and nothing was going to spoil this historic event.
Philadelphia was presented at its absolute best, and while there were a few protesters, the only thing missing was trouble. Ed Rendell was smiling. His future never looked better.
There was however, one small glitch. So small that the President left a day early, and so small that Philadelphia probably kissed the next Democratic Convention good-bye. It seemed so simple - the Clintons wanted to have dinner at the Striped Bass.
The Striped Bass happens to be a very popular restaurant, and it's next to impossible to secure an immediate reservation on a Saturday night. But the President of the United States could probably get the Beatles back together, and if he wants dinner, he gets dinner. All it takes is a simple phone call.
Unless the phone is answered by Neil Stein, the proprietor of the Striped Bass. The conversation probably went something like this Ö
"Mr. Stein, this is Bill Clinton calling. Hillary wants to have dinner in your fine restaurant. I would sure appreciate a table for 19, at let's say 8 o'clock."
"Mr. President, with all due respect, this is the Striped Bass. We're not talking about McDonalds. A party of 19 for a Saturday night? I do have something two weeks from Monday."
I first heard this story on WIP Radio, and predictably, they jumped all over Neil Stein. There had to be something very wrong with him to make such a decision. And it seemed most people, including restaurant owners were astounded that Neil chose this direction. I mean we're talking about the most important man in the entire world, and he can't get a table at the Striped Bass? How do you say no to the President?
I spoke with a restaurant owner in the D.C. area who was faced with a similar request. He said yes to the Clintons and the Gores together, and ended up in People Magazine. It's probably safe to assume that a Presidential visit to your establishment is a fairly dramatic public relations coup.
Yet Neil Stein said no. Place one-hundred restaurant owners in the same spot, and ninety-nine of them are showing the Secret Service around their kitchens - and posing for CNN.
And guess what, Neil Stein was absolutely right. What the media failed to tell us was that the party of 19 wanted the entire restaurant (for security reasons), which meant that the Striped Bass customers had to find someplace else to dine. And if you know Neil Stein, you know an owner who puts his customers first - even before the President of the United States!
According to Stein, "there was only one decision to make. We had 300 reservations for that Saturday night, and these reservations are made some eight weeks in advance. People come here for some very important occasions including graduations, anniversaries, important business deals, and things like engagements. You want me to tell someone that they can't get engaged in the Striped Bass because the President wants to have dinner in my restaurant?"
"I have 127 employees who know exactly where I stand with my customers. They know my priorities. If I make a decision that is good for the Restaurant only, and without regard to my loyal customers and my staff, the Striped Bass would never be the same."
It's easy to talk about concepts like customer loyalty. It's something very different when it involves the Commander and Chief. Neil Stein passed the ultimate test.
Ale Street News
Dictionary of Cheeses
Glossary of Cheese Definitions
Clicks of the Week
Nightclub & Bar Hospitality On-line
Interviews with Alice Waters of Chez Panisse
Wine Spectator Daily Report
Omaha Steaks - http://www.restaurantscene.com/conteststeak.html
Salvatore Gourmet Foods - http://www.restaurantscene.com/contestsals.html
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