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                 Restaurant Report E-mail Newsletter

         For Hospitality Professionals and Food Connoisseurs

                      Issue #58  April 19, 1999


   (This publication may be freely redistributed in its entirety)
           (All back issues are archived on the website)

In This Issue

*   Feature Article -- GUEST SATISFACTION
*   Feature Posts -- Re: Defining American Cuisine
*   Question of the Week?
*   Reader Feedback
*   Bulletin Board
*   Promotional Opportunity!


                          Feature Article

by Maren L. Hickton

I recently went to Eatín Park with a client, which is a casual
"family-style" restaurant appealing to just about every conceivable
patron profile. Celebrating its 50th year in operation, Eat'n Park is
a popular local restaurant which has an interesting history in the
Pittsburgh marketplace.  At one time it was a classic diner with
carhop service and has since moved forward to consecutively win "Best
Family Restaurant" in Pittsburgh and the  surrounding suburbs and has
since expanded operations throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio and West
Virginia.  The average check is around $5.00 and the restaurant, "The
place for smiles" is a sure bet for further expansion.

When my client and I arrived for a brief mid-day meeting, the waitress
approached us after our quick review of their menu and my client

"I would like two bananas, not too ripe, thinly-sliced like coins and
served in a cereal bowl with some of your real whipped cream and a
shot of chocolate sauce."

This was obviously not a menu item. But without even questioning the
order, the waitress took the order and asked my guest, "Would you like
our hot fudge sauce, Sir, or our regular chocolate syrup?"

Five minutes later the bowl arrived all dressed up exactly  as my
guest had asked, along with my cup of tea.

I would have expected an upscale fine dining establishment to offer
such an "off the menu" request.  But did not expect this of an
operation like Eatín Park.  For tea and bananas ala carte, I tipped
her $5.00.

Conversely, I called a new local upscale establishment where close
friends were celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary.  I had called
the local florist the day before and had made arrangements to deliver
a small but pricey arrangement of hand-selected flowers and called the
Maitreí d early in the day to let him know that the arrangement would
be arriving at 7 PM for their party scheduled an hour later.  This was
a small intimate gathering and I had contacted my friends in advance
to participate in this capacity, as I was unable to attend in person. 
Part of this included a discussion with the Chef asking him if it was
possible to prepare a special "signature" dessert for this party and
he seemed quite enthusiastic about doing this.  At  6:45 PM that
evening, I received a call from the owner, who I had never met:

"Donít ever send your own flower arrangements here.  We use our own
vendor for that.  And the dessert you asked for is out of the
question.  We are too damn busy."

I offered the owner a $50 side-tip and a few alternative suggestions
but was flat-out turned down.  I was jaw-dropped.  This had never been
a problem elsewhere, so perhaps the owner was just having a bad day or
received an unexpected rush of business that day.  My guests received
their flower arrangement "to-go" and were required to order their
desserts ala carte from the main menu for a party of ten.  I
apologized to them the next day, sent them a bottle of wine and was
quite embarrassed over the entire ordeal.  Needless to say, I wonít be
visiting or referring any clients to this particular restaurant
anytime in the near future.  

These recent real-life anecdotes hopefully demonstrate one thing to
all restaurants:  It is our job to find out what the customer wants,
how s/he wants it, and give it to them that way, period.  That is why
we are in business.  In my view, this is what separates the winners
from the losers and determines "survival of the fittest".  If it is
not possible, due to current inventory or other reasons to meet patron
requests, certainly alternatives should be offered, without asking. 
Most dining aficionados could play "can you top this" with regard to
their own "busy" schedules with any restaurant owner.  It should be
understood, in any food service establishment, that proper decorum and
guest satisfaction are paramount to long-term success.

Maren L. Hickton is the principal of Maren Incorporated, a 
Full-Service Hospitality Consulting and Marketing Firm based in 
Pittsburgh, PA. Maren writes about a variety of business challenges 
that independent restaurants encounter. Maren can be reached by 
e-mail at or

Eat'n Park's Web Site is located at


            Feature Posts -- Re: Defining American Cuisine

Being a culinary professional for the last 21 years, the question of
defining "American Cuisine" has crossed my mind often, to the point of
mild obsession. My fascination with this subject has led me to the
point in life where I'm ready to give my answer, not just in this
letter, but also by opening a restaurant this year that celebrates my
interpretation of American Cuisine, its regional accents, and
hopefully national fusion. The use of the term "my interpretation" is
not by accident, for in my opinion there is no true definition for the
term "American Cuisine."

America has often been referred to as the "melting pot," and that is
the basis of my interpretation regarding our diverse regional food
offerings. While many chefs and hospitality professionals are running
around fusing foods from all over the world, many fail to realize the
most awesome fusion's of cuisine have been happening here for hundreds
of years naturally.

It has been my privilege to live, work and learn all over this great
country, and the more I do, the easier it becomes to recognize the
influences of the many nations that came together to inhabit this
land. One only has to eat where the locals eat to "see" where the
influences of their culture where mainly derived from. The Western
European influence has been the greatest upon this land, but that
alone envelops a dozen or so excellent food cultures. When the
cultural influences of the Asian, Indian, Hispanic, Eastern European,
African, and all those in between are factored in, and recognized for
their peoples influence upon or national cuisine, the picture of
definition become broad to say the least.

We are afloat in a gastronomic sea of culinary cultural influence, and
I truly believe the only acceptable definition of "American Cuisine"
to be the foods eaten by the many tribes of the American Indian, who
inhabited this land first. Perhaps there will be a new definition
developed in my lifetime, perhaps not, but I salute all those who
strive to find the answer. I am truly looking forward to the other
responses to this question in this news letter, for open communication
of information and viewpoints will help to develop an acceptable
answer to "What is American Culinary Culture."

In closing, I would like to make a few suggestions to Don and his
partner from Belgium. The first would be to travel extensively within
this country, and to study the history of emigration and migration
throughout this countries history. The second would be to study
product availability in this country, whether it comes from within or
is imported (importation of foods from abroad and the influence of
government regulations and tariffs would be a good discussion at a
future point, like the current banana fiasco). The reasoning for
studying product availability pertains being to better able to
understand the mutation or adaptation of food cultures brought here by
our fore Fathers, or more appropriately our fore Mothers.

Once again, kudos to this newsletter, its a wonderful forum for
intelligent industry discussion and problem sharing.

Scott McKenzie
Chef-Owner  Java Spice sm
Coming Soon to Columbia SC

**Next Post

I guess we would have to start with American culture.  This great
country was formed not by one but by many cultures.  I would best
describe American cuisine as "stone soup".  It starts off with the
basic; water and then a dash of French a splash of Italian a hint of
the Far east all stirred by the hand of Ellis island.  Leaving us with
a rich dish of imagination.

Frank Schetroma
Sous Chef, Eagles Mere Country Club

**Next Post

<< How would you describe the American Culinary
 Culture?" >>

Robust.  Daring.  Witty.  Vast.  Varied.  Democratic, dare I say?



How would you define American Cuisine?
Reader Feedback:


   >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> S P O T L I G H T <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<


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Sun, Mon, Tues -- April 25, 26, 27.
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                       Question of the Week?

Topic: Server Motivation

I have recently been moved from the "Back of the House" to the "Front
of the House" and am in need of some help.

What kind of "games" or other things can I use to motivate my servers
to be sales people instead of just be order takers and to motivate
them to work as a team instead of individuals?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks -


This should be an interesting topic for discussion...
Write in -


                         Reader Feedback

**Next Post -

I have enjoyed the numerous responses to the kitchen management
situation.  In my 40 years experience I have found the "key"
ingredient to any sound management planning is Honesty.  Sometimes it
is difficult to deal with various situations because we are not
being honest with our feelings.  I have experienced times when a
total plan was being formulated on a false premise.  Today we are
fortunate to have the computerized ordering systems we have.  But too
often the information is useless because no one looks at it or worse
nobody knows how to access it.  If your paying for a modern system
why not use it.  Often knowing how popular an item is will determine
how much labor it justifies.

I have had owners tell me how popular a single item was, and yet when
I checked the actual sales, I realized the owner was wrong.  But
because a couple of customers took the time to tell the owner how
much they enjoyed the item.  He "felt" it was very popular.  Remember
what we say in computers "GIGO"  (garbage in, garbage out). If you
base your decisions on bad or inaccurate input you will in all
probability make bad decisions.  It's often surprising how when you
see the actual figures, how much they vary for what we believed.

"Just an old Sous Chef"

**Next Post - Give and Take

We enjoy reading the newsletter and related items.

In our work - we are often asked to assist owners and managers with
their problems. Our company's motto is "Why Reinvent The Wheel - When
Wheelwright Has The Answers?" - Well - here is our public confession -
we don't have the answers ourselves. We search constantly for things
that others have done and share them with those who may need
assistance. We believe there is little new to discover in this
business. Someone, somewhere, at some time has done it before. But -
when we do share an idea with a person we are working with - we aren't
afraid to give credit to our sources.

So - we will continue to read your items and use the information if it
makes sense to do so. And we pledge to 'give some back' whenever we
see a situation posed we may have some insights into.


Fred Smith and Eric Nusbaum - Partners
Wheelwright Consultants


Send newsletter feedback and comments to us at


                          Bulletin Board

**Next Post

Thought your readers might enjoy this article from the
Atlanta Journal & Constitution:

But We Have a Reservation

Troy Brackett

**Next Post

I am a recent addition to the restaurant industry. I have traded in my
boring office career in Sales Marketing and Management to pursue what
I think will be a rewarding opportunity. The only problem that I have
is where should I start, and what advice can a "new guy" like myself
be given if I am going to succeed? I like the everyday changes and the
pace of this new job. I am 5 weeks into a 12 week M.I.T. program with
my restaurant, and by the end of this training all I will have is a
full and complete working knowledge of the entire business. I feel
that all the guys and gals that have spent there entire life in this
industry may have an edge on me. I am going to give myself the credit
that I wouldn't have this position if I didn't show promise, but there
are a few fears.

Please give me some advice, and some questions that will help me find
the information that I should be focusing on, so that I can do this

Thank you in advance...

Chris -

**Next Post

I know it sounds crazy but I'm wondering about the origination of the
term "bus boy" or busser, as in those who collect dishes from tables
in restaurants. Any ideas?

Eileen Gianiodis -

**Next Post

I'm an American living In Milan Italy, and working at an
American/Mexican restaurant here.  We would like to revamp our menu,
probably adding more seafood items.  I'd love some suggestions for
hot, new items in the States that we can adapt here.  Most items we
can find or at least find a reasonable substitute, and our chef has
worked in the States, so that helps.  I'd appreciate any suggestions.

Thanks for your help!
Rosemary -

**Next Post

I am doing a marketing plan for a restaurant, and am having trouble
finding basic facts on the restaurant industry. For example,
approximately how many people eat out yearly, how often, how much
money is spent yearly on people eating out, etc. If you have any basic
information or know where I can find some, I would appreciate it. 

Thank you for your time,
Sarah Wilson -

**Next Post

Could anyone direct me or provide me with some information or
websites regarding the terms: Yield and revenue management

Bernard Micallef -

**Next Post

Can anyone out there recommend the best commercial-grade, high-volume
french fryer? Sources & contacts?

Roger -

**Next Post

I am doing a study on price increases in the Restaurant industry. The
factors that effect I realize are broad and complex, but any
information you have would be helpful. A case study of the fast food
industry and the factors involved???

Please send info to:
Gary Irons -
Thanks for taking the time

**Next Post

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**Next Post

I would really like to get actual ingredients and measuring to make
actual hot dogs -- is there someone who can help me -- at least to
start the ball rolling...

Jeff -

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