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                 Restaurant Report E-mail Newsletter

        For Hospitality Professionals and Food Connoisseurs

                     Issue #94  February 28, 2000


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

In This Issue

*   Feature Article - Awards & Stars
*   Talk About It
*   Reader Feedback
*   Bulletin Board


                         FEATURE ARTICLE

Awards and Stars -- or the lack thereof
By Bob Bradley

We were in Tucson recently for a CIRA conference (Council of
Independent Restaurants of America), and the big news on page one of
the Arizona Republic was that the Camelback Inn had lost its five-star
rating.  It's been an elite property for 30 years as a five-star
resort in the Mobil Travel Guide, and it seemed like the entire state
of Arizona was in mourning.  Upon our return, we learned about the
equally devastating news in Philadelphia regarding our only
perennial five-star restaurant.

It reminds me of the all-too-often absurdity of awards, and the part
awards play in the thinking of the American public.  A restaurant
receives an award (any award) so it has to be good.  A restaurant
without awards is probably one to avoid.  It's insane, but there are
people who insist on award-oriented restaurants and can only relax and
really enjoy a dining experience as long as some critic or some
corporation (such as Mobil) assures them via an award that it's OK to
have a good time.

Le Bec-Fin  (Philadelphia) lost a star, and owner Georges Perrier was
not exactly celebrating.  According to Mobil, there are now only
eighteen five-star restaurants in North America, so it's fair to say
that we're talking about an elite group, and being demoted after some
twenty years in the five-star category can be classified as very bad
news indeed. For the record, Mobil defines its star categories as
follows:Five-star - one of the best in the country; Four-star
outstanding - worth a special trip (there are now 215 of these );
Three-Star - Excellent; Two-Star - Very Good; One-Star - Good, better
than average.

Mobil claims to have an independent network of national culinary and
hospitality experts, and says the reviewers anonymously visited more
than 22,000 lodging and dining establishments to determine their
ratings.  I would really love to know who exactly made the decision
regarding Le Bec-Fin, and I would suspect that if we really knew, we
would die laughing.  The whole Mobil thing is somewhat of a joke, but
I will accept the fact that so many people take them so seriously.     

We had to react, and it became up to me to find someone or something
more reliable than Mobil. I immediately called my friend and local
businessman, Brian Smith.  I know he travels constantly and enjoys
dining in the very best of restaurants.  As luck would have it, Mr.
Smith just had dinner at Le Bec-Fin, and as even more luck would have
it, he recently returned from an extended visit to France.  I also
knew two important things going in -- he does not work Mobil, and he
would tell me honestly if the new rating was justified.

BB: Talk to me about your favorite restaurant in France.

Brian: I would say it was Lucas Carton in Paris.  Our dinner for four
was incredible with service like I have never experienced.  My
daughter excused herself to visit the ladies room and within seconds,
four members of the wait staff literally picked up the table and moved
it what seemed like across the room so she could get out.  The dinner
was expensive, but worth every penny.

BB: And your experience at Le Bec-Fin?

Brian: Quite simply, it's the best restaurant in the United States.

BB: You mean it's somewhere in the top eighteen.

Brian: No, I mean it's the best!

BB: How would you compare the two (Le Bec-Fin and Lucas Carton?)

Brian:  The service was slightly better in Paris, but the food was
better at Le Bec-Fin.  At Lucas Carton my bill for four was
approximately $800.00, and my bill at Le Bec-Fin (for two) was
$330.00.  The service was certainly outstanding at both, but with
everything considered, Le Bec-Fin was better.

BB: So it's safe to say that you take exception to the latest Mobil

Brian:  I repeat myself, Le Bec-Fin is the best restaurant in the
United States, so yes, it is safe to say that I take exception.

Keep your eyes on the New York Times for the first annual Brian Smith

Bob Bradley is an editorial columnist for the Restaurant Report.


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                         TALK ABOUT IT

I enjoy your newsletter very much. I have a topic that I think will
make for heated debate among your readers:

How do you feel about guests who come in at the last minute, at say
five or even two minutes 'til closing? Should they be given the full
treatment, should they be sat at all, should the fact that the
restaurant is closing even be mentioned to them?

I am very interested to hear what others in the industry feel about
this situation.

M. O'Toole

Let's talk about this in the next issue. Please send your thoughts and
comments to us at


                        READER FEEDBACK

**Next Post

In response to the question from the folks adding retail to their food
and beverage mix, let me just say...full speed ahead!  I discovered
many years ago that the food/beverage/retail mix can be extremely
profitable if handled properly.  In my opinion, the key element to
having successful retail is to treat it as a separate unit.

In hiring cashiers, I place my employment ad in the "Sales" or
"Retail" section of the newspaper, seeking individuals with
retail/sales experience firstly and food/beverage experience secondly.
I also have a different uniform for cashiers, again treating the
retail side as a separate unit. This is a great opportunity to show
off your logo'd tees, hats, sweatshirts, etc. Provide "uniforms" to
your cashiers by issuing imperfect or slightly damaged apparel (which
would normally sit in a box and collect dust).

It's also a must to have your retail area looking like a retail area.
I have seen many people either fail or have less than desired results
because their retail area is nothing more than 2 sets of homemade
bookshelves and a hand-written sign.  Presentation is everything in
retail, just as in food/beverage.  Hand-written signs are a big no-no,
unless it's part of your "theme" and looks consistent.

As far as the issue of theft, will have inventory shrinkage.
It's a must to have a very good inventory system, to set pars, and to
require inventory counts on each other words,
accountability.  I have found that by offering commissions and
bonuses, and planning sales contests, I have reduced my shrinkage by
about 25%.  I have found that "sharing the wealth" gives the employee
a vested interest in maintaining your inventory and offering excellent
customer service. My philosophy in this area is that although your
bottom line is a little smaller by paying commissions/bonuses, you win
overall because you're rewarding good work which will hopefully
reduce your potential shrinkage.

Good luck on your venture!  Feel free to email me if I can help you

Kimberly Ellington -

**Next Post - Re: No Shows

A constant problem that we encounter is call offs.  Fortunately for
our servers they make exceptional money in a friendly atmosphere that
takes care of their employees, however, moral creeps downward when
call in persons are used too often. Any suggestions to limit call
offs?  We find ourselves frustrated when there are multiple call offs.
Even more important the stress and time wasted on the telephone trying
to cover shifts annoys managers.  Any suggestions???

Wendy Murphy
Springfield Restaurant Group -- Harmony PA

**Next Post - Re: No Shows

When guests don't show it creates a problem for everyone. We alleviate
the problem by taking Name and address as well as a telephone number,
it is explained that we will call back to verify their booking, this
ensures we have a correct name & address, (you could also check in the
Directory), if they don't show we send them a bill, if that is not
paid we then proceed through the small claims court.  We have only had
to do this twice in twelve years and on both occasions won the case.

As to staff no shows, we are, unfortunately, governed by law as to how
we can deal with the situation, this means that we cannot dismiss in
the first instance, nor the second and a written warning has to be
issued, we can then dismiss.  We find however that the no shows work
mates make sure that they know the score and they police their own, so
for a serial offender they usually find the atmosphere in which they
are having to work becomes unbearable and they leave of their own
accord.  We are talking of the UK here and of course things may be
handled in different ways in different countries.

Paul N.

**Next Post - Re: No Shows

It is illegal to charge your customers for no shows unless you have a
written signed contract with the customer directly. If you wish to see
any money for the reservation it must be with a reserved contract for
the space rented aka charge them ahead of time like a good hotel

Stephanie Greenawalt
Chef, San Diego,CA

**Next Post

My husband and I bought a small bar & grill in a small town in 1998
and have had problems ever since.  Sometimes I feel that it is the
lack of restaurant experience on our part, other times our lack of
good business sense.  We wanted this place sooooo bad!  At any rate,
we've had a run of bad luck as far as incoming funds and we are trying
to think of ways to keep this place open.  One of our monetary
problems is insurance; it appears that you have to have a policy on
everything in the place.

The one thing that is concerning us is do we really need to have a
liquor liability?  I realize that the chance is always there for a
lawsuit, and we do have this insurance, but I was wondering what other
readers say about this?  We live in Indiana and the liquor laws are
pretty strict (no happy hours!!)

Thanks for any input!

Paula Perkins - or
Co-owner, The Common Grounds
Frankfort, IN


Send newsletter feedback and comments to us at


                         BULLETIN BOARD

**Next Post

Can anyone recommend a site that details good bonus plans for free
standing restaurants?  If not a site maybe a formula that
works for you?

Bob Blessinger -

**Next Post

My husband and I run 2 family Italian restaurants in suburban Chicago
and are looking for anyone who has experience with turning some key
managers into managing partners.  We have always liked the idea of
finding the right managers and making them partners in our business. 
If  anyone has any experience with this or is one and is willing to
share their benefits packages it would be greatly appreciated.

Dawn Melchiorre - mailto:DRM1209@AOL.COM

**Next Post

I am the city manager of Antioch, CA.  My City Council asked
at last nights council meeting that we revise our zoning ordinance to
define "upscale restaurant", differentiating from fast-food and
sit-down restaurants.  What help can you offer in this research we are
now doing?


**Next Post

I am a Food and Beverage Lecturer at a hotel school in Switzerland. 
The class I teach focuses on Food and Beverage cost control.  Instead
of teaching straight out of a book, I would like to have some cases to
illustrate my point.

What I wanted to know is if anyone out there has any idea where I
could find case studies dealing with the issue of cost control for the
food and beverage sector.  If you should happen to know a good source,
could you please email me at

Thank you,
Caroline Thoeni
F&B Lecturer

**Next Post

I love this newsletter.  Unlike many of you who work in public
establishments, I work in a benevolent lodge.  It's a private club
which you have to be a member to get in.  I work in the kitchen and
dining room.  In the last few years, our business has become so
successful in the kitchen, to the point that we are outgrowing not
only the kitchen but the dining rooms as well.  We need a new lodge
and have plans for one but are a million dollars away from that dream. 
Does anyone have any suggestions for some good fund raisers?  Any help
would be great. Please e-mail me directly at    

Thank You,
Crystal Hillstrom
Mountain Home, Arkansas

**Next Post

I am looking for information on the smoothie industry and potentials
in the future.  I am also looking for information on the specialty
coffee industry. The information I am looking for is the size of the
market ($), trends, future growth potential, etc.


Note @ the Bulletin Board: If you can lend advice/assistance/comments
etc. please respond to the individual directly and cc: us here at  We'll summarize and post
responses we receive that would benefit the group.


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