Monday Interview: David Machado, Part II

[This is part two of an interview with David Machado of Vindalho and Lauro restaurants. You can find part one by clicking here.]

So, a guy walks into a bar, and _________. While you can fill in the blank with any number of amnesiacs asking, “Do I come here often?” and baby seals ordering “anything but a Canadian Club,” perhaps only once has the punch-line been, “walks out with the bartender’s job.” Dave Machado gets to tell the joke. Beginning at the bottom more than twenty years and half as many restaurants ago, the chef and owner of Lauro and Vindalho has an East Coast patois, a devilish sense of humor, and a bricks-and-mortar manner that seems to say, a man gets up, does his job, does it well, end of story. Over a cup of decaf, Machado, 51, talked about why politics and food make bad (if inevitable) bedfellows, why he doesn’t take reservations, and why bloggers may soon rule the reviewing roost.

At Taste of the Nation, you and I talked about restaurant critics and food bloggers in Portland, and since you’re on the receiving end, I’d love to hear your side of things.

Let’s start with what now is known as the mainstream media, and going back to one of your earlier questions about the status of Portland as a food city and where is it today and what has it become and how does it compare. I mentioned the density of the population and the competitive nature of bigger cities, but also, the city lacks a single coherent voice of criticism, in restaurant criticism. The Oregonian, as the major daily newspaper, has lagged woefully behind the changes in the restaurant and food community over the years. Nothing has probably changed more dramatically, other than real estate, than the restaurant industry in Portland… and yet at the Oregonian, nothing has changed in all of these years. The same people are doing it; the same ideology that’s been there is still present today.

Which is?
The ideology has always been that, independent is better; small is better; ethnic is better; family is better; neighborhood is better—and they’re all attributes that Portlanders support and, in a way gravitate towards; they’re some of the reasons why people like the quality of life here. But still, it doesn’t guarantee that quality reviews are being done that will judge the merits of restaurants. For instance, the major daily doesn’t really have any criteria for service. One of the leading voices of that movement recently, in a letter to the editor and a response, said those issues are not all that important. Restaurants now are rated on one thing—food—and not in other areas which are very important to people, like ambience, and service, which is more important than food to the diner, I believe; pricing, whether it’s fair; whether the thing has some balance in it. But without a paid restaurant critic who’s specific job is to review restaurants, and without a published standard for that reviewing, we really haven’t made much progress.

But aren’t the restaurant critics at the Oregonian paid?
There’s no one that’s paid to be a specific critic. Everybody that reviews in Portland does it for, for lack of a better term, the per diem… What I mean is, if your position at a major daily is to write classical music reviews or to review movies, that’s what you do, and there’s never been that position at the Oregonian, because that voice changes; that voice can be one of four people; whoever decides to take that restaurant.

Would you like to see it more like the New York Times, where you have Frank Bruni doing the long, major reviews, and others doing the $25 and Under?
Yeah. To be a great food city, like New York, or like San Francisco, you need to have a singularity of voice and you have to have a criteria that’s known to everyone, and that isn’t the case here, and it hasn’t been the case.

I don’t really know the remedy for it here in Portland is, but if you have the same three people reviewing for twelve years, in a restaurant community that can essentially fit inside one restaurant; there is zero chance for anonymity and, to take it one step further, objectivity.
Everybody who’s reviewing restaurants in Portland is compromised in their relationships; it’s such a small community; the reviewers at the Willamette Week, especially the ones that have been doing it for twenty or twenty-five years, everybody knows them and they know everybody, because everybody goes to fundraisers and meets at the farmer’s market on Saturday.

Here’s an example, because we’re sitting here [at a café table at Ristretto Roasters, which was formerly the restaurant Winterbourne]. You can pretty much guarantee that every year, David Sarasohn would write a review of Winterbourne. Every year he’d write it, and every year he’d just say, it’s the best seafood, and you could be guaranteed he’d write every year about L’Auberge, and he’d write every year about Café Des Amis, you could just be guaranteed that a lot of these longstanding relationships, some of which go back to college, would always be kept intact in the press. Now, whether you are sending people to restaurants that had seen their better day; that had done their best work and perhaps were now in the winter of their years, was apparent to most people, but it didn’t stop that publication to continually putting that out.

The loyalty is to the establishment or owner, rather than the reader.
Yes, yes, toe the line.

To me, the diner enters a tacit bargain when he walks into a restaurant: he will give it money, and it will give him the best food and service it’s capable of. If he doesn’t like it, he needn’t go back. If you’re a reviewer, then you are bound to report what you find, damn the torpedoes.
It’s not responsible journalism to send people to a place where you think that they bought [produce] from just the grooviest farmer two hours ago, or the fisherman is in his hip-waders in the kitchen; that makes for nice romance and it makes everybody feel good. But if the service is really bad and the operation has been really chaotic, I don’t know what you’ve really accomplished by doing that.

The dining public doesn’t realize, there’s so much romance that’s intertwined with dining. We have dates in restaurants, we get drunk in restaurants, we get married in restaurants, we do a lot of things in restaurants that create memories, but restaurants are essentially real estate deals; they always have been and they always will be. Can I open in that location for that price and can I sustain myself? Is it a viable thing? Other than a trust fund restaurant or a hopelessly irresponsible restaurant that’s put together with no hope of succeeding, restaurants are flat-out the most ruthless and competitive business model that’s possible… a lot of the fundamentals have to be in balance or in harmony, so when critics put forth certain models, certain businesses as “the word” or “the new thing” or “what the future is” or what stands for creativity, I’m not sure they’re doing anyone, certainly not the readership and certainly not even perhaps the people who are operating these businesses, a favor. There’s not a lot of grounding in reality.

Taking it one step further, if you know the players, then how do you then be fair when you’re, for instance, designating Restaurant of the Year?
[Deep sigh.] Well, the Restaurant of the Year in recent memory has become a mix between Food of the Year or Chef of the Year and sometimes it’s been Lifetime Achievement Awards. Hence, will we see a real restaurant of the year, like a complete package? [Like] when you call on the phone or when you show up, like going into a Danny Meyer restaurant in New York, when you go to the door, there’s something about the people who work there that you feel good about yourself and confident and it moves through the whole meal until you leave and you go, I really like dining there. That is how I look at restaurants, but that is unfortunately not how the media looks at restaurants.

Okay, how has the blogosphere impacted the restaurant business?

Dare I say, the food blogs and restaurant blogs have a chance to catch up to very quickly and overtake mainstream print media; it’s really, really possible. That it didn’t exist two years ago, and it was in its infancy a year ago, it could be predominate in another year… Blogging has an immediacy that, when we opened Vindalho, the bloggers came in the first, second and third day. First, second and third day, and they were just pounding the keys, pounding the keys.

Did you know that they were there?

No… But we had two bloggers come and announce that they were bloggers and send food back and go up to the kitchen and criticize the chef and say how they would have changed the recipe and what we needed to do.

Did you 86 them?

No, but it’s rather presumptuous. I don’t know if you go to your dentist and tell him how to clean your teeth. Food’s a funny thing; everybody’s got an opinion.

I think the mainstream media has had a longer time to temper their voice and abide by rules of journalism, they’ve had editors and they have to work within a system. The nature of a blogger is, he is a rogue agent, he’s upriver without oars, and without a good editor and without a format to force you into; you’re going to sometimes go around hysterical-slash-conspiratorial.

Go back a year, I don’t think Portland had a dedicated food website, and certainly in the last six-to-nine months, certainly the website that you work with has reformatted itself and become slightly less hysterical and in a way, captured its voice and captured more legitimacy and respect by doing that.

So, how’s the gossip in this town?
[Laughs] You want to know the hottest topic in this town? You might think you know what it is, but the hottest topic in this town in the photograph of you on Food Dude’s website.

People like it?
Oh yeah. You’ve got some marriage proposals out there. Absolutely. It’s a classic come-hither shot… Guys like that shot… There’s a certain farmer that might want you to move to his farm.

[Author’s note: The above blatantly self-reverential exchange probably would have made it into the interview even if Machado hadn’t made me promise not to cut it.]

Are there any dishes you’d love to serve but suspect the locals will not order them?
No. I’ve had really, really good luck in Portland. When I first put skate on the menu, years and years ago, on the first day I put it on, I sold twenty pounds. When I put octopus, the big octopus, the one from Puget Sound, the twenty-five pounders, and when I put whole sardines; any time I’ve run these things at any of the places that I’ve owned or run. So I’ve found it to be a fairly receptive marketplace; more receptive than one would think.

If you could make one request of the average Portland diner, what would it be?

I don’t know another city where you can call restaurants on Fridays and Saturdays, late in the afternoon or early in the evening and ask for a seven or seven-thirty reservation. I just don’t know that it’s possible in other big cities, and when I opened Pazzo, our reservations for the first year, we were out three weeks on our reservations, and people flew into rages on the phone; they swore at us; they said, “You’ll be closed in a year!” Every time the phone rings in a restaurant in Portland, to my experience, for a reservation, it’s got one time attached to it, and it’s seven-thirty. It doesn’t have another time attached to it, and when people say, why don’t you take reservations? There’s only one time that’s ever asked! So, that means everybody wants a one-trick pony. I want everybody in at seven-thirty and then I want to be empty until seven-thirty and be empty after nine o’clock.

Is this why you don’t take reservations?
Reservations don’t work in a sixty-five-seat neighborhood restaurant because reservations presuppose that you will drive and come right in and go right to a table. Well, in a neighborhood setting, there are people who are leaving their homes, walking in to eat, too. We, as owners, don’t want to be in a position of saying, “You stand there and wait although I know you and you eat here every week and you live down the street,” and now you watch that table come right in and go to their reserved table. They don’t really dine with us; they show us no loyalty, we have no relationship.

What is your dream restaurant and are you running it now?
[Laughs heartily.] Lauro is a dream restaurant. It is a dream of dream restaurant. It is always busy; people who dine there are very happy; it’s always a party every night; the employees are wonderful. The staff turnover is very low; it’s true family in a capitalist setting, and it’s been going on for three years and if it goes on for thirty years I’ll die a happy man. It’s come together and it’s one bright shining light. I might never hit that again.

Our new restaurant Vindalho has the same potential; it’s fun, it’s busy, the staff is great, people are enjoying what we’re doing, but it’s damn hard to create enduring quality restaurants.

Why did you open another restaurant?
I’ve been working in Mediterranean food basket for twenty years, and really, in terms of those ingredients, I just wanted the whole new palette to be put on the table and say, “This is what we’re working with now.” That was really the number one thing. I wanted to challenge myself; I wanted to stretch, and I wanted to try to bring a new dining paradigm to Portland. You know, Vindalho has been a controversial restaurant for people.

Because they think it’s Indian and it’s not, or because you’re not Indian?
Yeah, all of the above. [The reasons are] political, they’re cultural; they’re religious. I think people, if they were to be honest, if you woke them up at three o’clock in the morning and shook them and said, “Vindalho,” they’d go, “He has no right to do that!” We’ve had people say it, “When we want Indian; we want it hot and gloppy and sloppy.” And it’s, yeah, you want a buffet; you want pre-made food; you want a steam table; you want kind of a heavy, leaden rendition of it… We’re trained chefs, with good experience and good background. It’s no different than Jean-Georges deciding that he’s going to take on a Southeast Asian bent… People say, “Is the chef Indian? How many Indians are in the kitchen?” I say, “Could you please find me a restaurant where the people from India are still cooking?” Because [Indians are] a professional class in America; these are engineers. I don’t know who’s making a living off of cooking from the subcontinent now, in America.

Who’s your dream customer?

The dream customer is the regular customer. I have a maxim: if you don’t come through the door of a restaurant happy, as a person, it’s going to be very difficult for the restaurant to make you happy. So when fundamentally unhappy people enter the front door, no amount of great food or great service is going to change that. So my dream customer is a local regular well-adjusted person who has a life, and enjoys himself and other people. People who come to restaurants to socialize with their spouses or their friends or their neighbors, they want to sit down and start ordering some food and start getting some wine delivered to the table and begin the fun, begin the celebration, that’s what I look for.

Any advice to people considering a job in the restaurant industry?
[Laughs.] First of all, don’t do it. Don’t do it! It’s really, really hard. Failure will be part of it, at some level. The restaurant that I had with my wife, at Bottom of the Hill, it failed; we closed; we drove away with the pots and pans and our heads down. Failure at some point is pretty much guaranteed. This industry is not what it seems from the outside; it is a rather down-and-dirty business, it is essentially a blue-collar business. You can trump it up with Food Network and celebrity chefs and gala fundraisers all you want, but it’s clogged drains, busted dish machines, people who didn’t come to work, it is a pile of problems… It’s just carrying your lunch-pail to work and doing the same thing at the same time each day: turning on the lights, turning on the music, sweeping the floor, arranging the menus, seeing if they’re dirty. It’s very mundane. So from the inside, there isn’t a helluva a lot of glamour.

If you’re going to go into this business, and you’re going to go all the way, I would get some grounding in the business aspect of it. I would learn about accounting and I would learn about a business plan and budgets. So many people go in, and within a few months, they’re already out of business; they have no idea they’re out of business, but then they limp along for another year or maybe two years and then it all goes away and they wonder why. Fundamentally, from the beginning, things were not property organized or properly conceptualized or properly capitalized or whatever. It’s a business where everyone says, “Oh, did you go to the new place? It’s sooo great!” And then you drive by a year later and it’s gone and you say, “Oh, what happened?”

We tolerate this in the restaurant business, we tolerate failure: we use the term, 85% go out in the first 36 months; that’s probably all true, but would you open a gas station and then close it in another year? Would you open a dental practice and close it? Most people don’t do that. The longer I’m in it; it doesn’t get any easier; it gets harder. It gets harder. Harder! Think of it as having children. When they’re two or one-year-old, oh, this beautiful baby! See me when they’re thirteen.

Do you have any humbling or humorous anecdotes from the kitchen?

[Laughs a long time.] I can remember two. I ran the world’s worst ravioli once. Get this one: I made beet pasta dough, and I stuffed it with salt cod and potatoes, and it seemed to me like a very reasonable thing, only, it was not well received. Waiters came back and said, “People don’t like this.”

Then, I did one of the first cooking demonstrations at the farmer’s market, many years ago, maybe thirteen years ago, and fifty people were sitting there, it was raining that day, there was a canopy and I had a pasta order going, and I said, “What we do is”—and it was a dry pasta—”What we do is, we open the pasta,” and I took the box and I missed the pot of water—I missed it! The pasta went off the side of the pot and shot out onto the concrete, and I went, “Oh, well. Thank you, that’s it for today.”

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. pollo elastico says

    I’ve been toeing the line in regards to dining at Vindahlo in the near future. I don’t think there’s any question now – I’ll be checking it out soon.

  2. says

    but restaurants are essentially real estate deals; they always have been and they always will be. Can I open in that location for that price and can I sustain myself? Is it a viable thing?

    I hope that this statement opens up some discussion. I know I brought this up somewhat back in the “b***h about reviewers” post and one person in particular got mad at me, so it’s interesting to see someone in the biz bring it up as well b/c I want to see the reaction.

    Even just out of respect for his understanding of markets I will make an attempt to get up there and try one of David’s places.

  3. Moll says

    Vindalho sustained a lot of criticism in its fledgling months- Not “Indian” enough, not “Genuine” enough, etc. I hope that Machado is able to drive away that silly criticism with the depth he demonstrates in this interview series- Truly eloquent. As a restaurant industry ‘insider,’ I have consistently been impressed by Machado’s drive and the finesse of its execution. On every occasion we’ve dined at Vindalho, weekdays included, he’s been holding court at the line, wiping plates and watching every course go out. This interview is nothing but deserved validation for a lot of hard work.

  4. says

    Nancy, What I really like about your interviews (other than your good lookin’ self) is that it allows the public to get a glimpse of the person behind the menu.

    I read so many posts on various sites where people claim to have knowledge of why a chef made a decision, and how a certain chef acts or thinks etc. I know these chefs and I read these bizarre posts and I know the poster has never even met the chef let alone ever had a converstion with the chef. Yet people read things on the internet and the believe it! So and so said it on his blog–it must be true!

    I think that your interviews give people a chance to see the real person and, therefore, be well armed with information the next time they see some bizarre post. They can say, “Wait a minute. I just read an interview of this chef and this post is totally opposite of what I just read.” Especially when the poster has no restaurant experience besides flipping pancakes in a diner in high school.

    Dave Machado knows this business inside, outside and sideways. He is the real deal.

    BTW, Nancy, if the marriage ever fizzles (I hope it is forever) I have plenty of room down here on the farm!

  5. says

    Ah, the truth comes out! Thanks, Singing Pig.
    And thanks for the compliments, though really, one would have to be a blockhead and/or have an agenda to get a bad interview out of Machado.

  6. Bigfoot says

    Excellent interview. After reading it I have much more respect for Mr Machado.

    However, I take exception to his defense of the “nor reservations” policy. I’ve heard his defense of this before and I just don’t buy it.

    I don’t think a reservation is too much to ask to help establish a long term relationship. Especially if you want a neighborhood place where people drop by weekly. I’m not going to add 30 minutes to an hour to my evening just to wait for a table.

    If you don’t agree with me fine. I’ve decided that I don’t spend my money at places which refuse to accept reservations. I’ve discussed this with friends and family and I think that I am not alone in this decision.

    Now for a snarky comment, you can bet that when these “no reservations” restaurants are in the “winter of thier lives” and not as full, they’ll be happy to take a reservation.

  7. cuisinebonnefemme says

    Wow. Came away with a huge respect for Machado, his overall philosophy, and his “big picture” take on Portland. Great job Nancy. You nailed it.

    Machado is so right, the demographic shift in the population and emergence of blogging in Portland has radically changed the food scene here (I say for the better) and it really is causing some “cultural institutions” like the Oregonian to appear really out of touch and even teetering on the obsolete. Is it just me or have others noticed how dinky and absent the WWeek restaurant reviews and food reporting have become since what’s her butt took over as arts editor and especially during the past few months?

    With regards to the no reservation policy, I understand and respect it from a business perspective (too many no shows and last minute cancellations, time consuming for staff, etc). However, and I hate to say this, on a personal level as a diner I think the no reservation thing is a huge pain and unaccommodating to the point that I don’t really feel that welcome dining there. (I’m not really into standing outside on Division Street or in the cramped little bar area for an hour waiting for a table, no matter how good the clams are). Besides that, it sometimes makes the logistics of scheduling impossible (such as having dinner before a show or for a group celebration). In fact, and unfortunately, we decided not to have a couple of birthday dinners at Lauro for this very reason so my interest in becoming a regular customer, and my dollars have gone elsewhere. Which blows becuase the food can be pretty darn good there.

  8. Bigfoot says

    Thanks CBF for seconding my frustration. I’d actually argue that it doesn’t make business sense to refuse reservations. Sure, it is easy to calculate the cost of empty tables, but calculate the value of lost business and good will before making a final decision.

    I’m in a business that deals with “no shows,” medicine. We build that cost of doing business into our bills, just liek malpractice and gauze. Restaurants that take reservations do the same.

  9. mczlaw says

    I like and respect Dave Machado. I agree with a lot of what he says about professional reviewing and blog commentators. I also agree with him that Nancy makes a fetching photo.

    Where we part company is on the no reservations policy. (Between the time I drafted and posted this, CBF and BF have similarly weighed in.) The policy is wrong because it denies Dave and others who promote it the very customer loyalty they want and deserve. Dave could have a whole cadre of deeply loyal out-of-neighborhood customers if they could be assured of a seat after driving to his place from across town or across the river. Not many potential patrons want to present themselves at a popular restaurant when they are really hungry only to learn that there is going to be an indeterminate wait for a table. This is especially true on weekdays. At the same time, Portland is small enough geographically that a great experience at a restaurant in one part of town is apt draw a patron from another part of town again and again.

    The better policy—to balance the interests of neighborhood loyalists and to build loyalty from among those outside the neighborhood—is to allow reservations for a portion of the house, a half or perhaps a third. Plus, there is nothing to stop a neighbor from actually picking up the phone and making a reservation if they don’t want to risk waiting for a table.

    Also, I wonder about the accuracy of the uniform 7:30 reservation request in this town. Personally, I prefer 6:30 or 6:45, at least on weekdays. This topic could be fodder for a FoodDude poll: “What is your preferred time for a restaurant reservation?” I wonder whether Dave will be surprised or validated.


  10. says

    A couple of thoughts on the reservations discussion:

    I note no one’s commented on the hybrid policy some places adopt of taking reservations only for larger parties (usually 6 or more, sometimes 5). That’s at least helpful to us on those occasions when the extended family is visiting, and — I should think — helpful to a restaurant that may need to rearrange tables to accommodate the larger group. I note here that my usual practice has also been to note that my group’s reservation includes X adults and Y young children, though this is becoming less crucial as the children grow older.

    On timing: I tend to make dinner reservations for 6 or 6:30 pm (sometimes even earlier on a holiday weekend, such as Easter or Mother’s Day).

    On practical matters: we also haven’t touched on high-traffic holiday dining (a significant subset of the reservations I make are for holiday meals). This past Mother’s Day, I changed our initial plans because the first place I chose didn’t take reservations; we often use special holiday meals as a chance to try places we’ve heard good things about but not yet visited. I’m willing to eat at places that don’t take reservations — but I’m not willing to take the chance that they’ll have a table when I want one on a major dining-out holiday when everyone else has had the same idea.

  11. Dave J. says

    My thinking is that the no-reservations policy does not take into account recent demographic changes, and the way our society works these days. Dave may think his policy helps out the working class folk in his neighborhood, but I’d argue it actually hurts them.

    I put myself in this group: my wife and I both work, and by the time we’re at home, decompressed from the day’s work and ready to go out, it’s 6 or 6.30. We have other obligations around the house (dog must be walked), and in four months we’ll have a kid, and so the last thing we want to do at a time like that is spend an hour waiting for a table.

    In contrast, who CAN afford to wait for a table? Well, people who don’t both work, or who live a few doors away, or who are much younger and don’t mind eating at 9, or whatever. I wish I had the disposable cash and/or time to live the casual food-centered life as they do in Europe–show up to the restaurant at 8, share a bottle of wine with my friends for 2 hours, eat a tranquil 2 hour meal, get home at midnight, but, c’mon, I don’t. My wife and I have a very short window of opportunity every evening when we can relax and enjoy our food, and I wish Dave and his like-minded restauranteurs would consider people like us.

    (And, as a footnote, his complaint that everyone (a) wants same-day reservations, and (b) wants reservations at 7.30 is a total cop-out. There’s this crazy thing that the person on the phone can say to customers who expect too much, or who are being realistic: “I’m sorry, we don’t have any reservations at that time.” Really, it’s hardly the mind-bending dilemma he makes it out to be.)

  12. Food Dude says

    FYI, Vindalho does take reservations for groups of six or more. He just announced it in the latest newsletter.

  13. says

    I agree that I don’t eat at Lauro or Nuestra Cocina as often as I would like to because I hate waiting. I’ll drive by, and when they are standing 3 deep in the bar and a line at the door I just keep driving.

    That said, I think y’all aren’t seeing things clearly. How could having reservations increase their business from what it is now? If people are 3 deep at the bar and the wait times are 1 hour, they are already running at capacity. Reservations could only REDUCE their revenues.

    You can disagree with the business model but it is working not only for Dave Machado but all over town and all over the country. It is a decision made by the owners not just for eliminating no shows, but more importantly it is a decision made to attract the clientele the owners wants and determines the atmosphere of the restaurant.

  14. says

    Just a few examples of “no res” places thqt are thriving:

    Nostrana, Lauro, Nuestra Cocina, 3 Doors Down, Justa Pasta, Caffe Mingo.

    Lauro has expanded to service 7 days from 5 days.

    3 Doors and Justa Pasta have expanded their dining areas.

    How can you say that they would have MORE business if they changed to take reservations? How can you say that they are losing business? There are only so many seats and they can only be turned over so many times a night. If they are already at capacity, any change other than adding more seats will reduce revenues. I am not thrilled with it because I would like to eat at some of these places more often, but that is the reality of the business.

  15. says

    Am I the only one who finds it humorous that Bigfoot is holding “medicine” up as a shining example of customer service?

    I always have reservation when I go to the doctor’s office. When I go to check in, I am greeted by someone who acts as if the worst thing in their life is me walking thorugh the door. I am then told to wait in the WAITING room. Even though I have a reservation, I have NEVER been shown to my exam table as soon as I arrive. The wait is always 15+ minutes and often takes more than 1 hour. I am SO happy I called ahead.

    Take the extreme example of my vasectomy. I had to go in ahead of time for a counseling session with the Dr. to see if it was ethical to perform the operation. He was booked a month in advance. I made my reservation for 30 days later and paid cash at the time the reservation was made. The day of the procedure arrives, my legs are up in stirrups and my testicles literally in a vise when the Dr’s beeper goes off! He stops working on me and uses the phone in the room. I hear him say I’ll be right there. He had an emergency surgery at a hospital across town. I was afraid he was going to hand me my boys in a paper bag and give me a glossy brochure on neuticals. He rushed me out of there and I was miserable for 2 weeks. Then he had the nerve to have his business office call and say the there had been a price increase between the time I had paid and the day of the procedure, please send us an extra 50 bucks! That check is still in the mail.

    Please, everyone start running your restaurants like a Dr’s office.

  16. KevinS says

    Thanks for the interview.

    Regarding reservations, let’s see:

    1. everyone wants a 7:30 reservation;

    2. people who walk to a restaurant can’t figure out how long it takes to get there;

    3. walk-ins are uniformly loyal;

    4. reservation makers are uniformly disloyal.

    Why doesn’t he just say “I prefer the less formal feel of a no reservation policy.” A little drifty for me but within the range of reasonable discussion.


    “It’s my joint and that’s the way it is. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else.” I’ll take him up on that.

    SP (Please, everyone start running your restaurants like a Dr’s office. – message 17)

    Some do.

  17. fathom says

    Reservations and walk-ins are not mutually exclusive. Where I work, we do take reservations–they represent the bulk of our business, especially on weekends. Oddly enough, we don’t turn away those folks who walk in the door without having made a reservation, either. Sometimes our business doubles thanks to passersby. Sometimes, we’re simply booked. It isn’t terribly complicated.

  18. cuisinebonnefemme says

    Kevin S, you are awesome. Amen.

    As for the obviously SARCASTIC remarks on running a restaurant more like Dr’s Office, I can at least bet that the kitchen will be a clean one.

  19. Food Dude says

    From sunny vancouver BC… I really didn’t need to read singingpig’s description of his medical procedure. I will have to heal myself with a couple of excellent meals.

  20. Bigfoot says

    The pig has sung and I shall ignore the squeal!

    It is true, the restaurants listed as “no reservations” are busy and have no need to develop a loyal customer base with such niceties as reservations. Two points;

    1. Most of the listed restaurants are “hot and trendy” that explains much of why people wait. Today’s “trendy” will be next year’s “been there done that.” Restaurants that have developed a loyal customer base may be able to continue running and making money (yes, I am aware that some of the places lsited above have been around foa while).

    2. If we want to take this to the ilogical extreme (and we have before) then lets look at other areas we can drop the pleasantries to customers. Maybe get rid of waitstaff and have you fill out a slip with your order? Oh wait, that was done at GBT and look how well that went.

  21. says

    I’m not sure if I’d want to eat at a restaurant that put my testicles in a vice. Maybe if the waitresses were REALLY good looking and they comped drinks and dessert.

  22. mczlaw says

    -s: I’m sure a guy with his testicles in a vice is a real turn in for the good looking ladies. And on the other side of the coin, well, never mind.

    To the point, or at least a point, the survey so far seems to bear out that 7:30 is hardly the magic moment when all diners would descend on a restaurant if given the choice. As I sort of suspected, about a quarter want to eat early (6:30 or before); another quarter want to eat late (8 or after); and a little under half prefer 7 or 7:30. Between the two favored times, 7 is far more popular than 7:30.

    Of course, the survey is far from scientific, but the volume of responses is probably enough to refute one rationale for a no rez policy. Not that this will change anybody’s mind necessarily, but maybe Dave or someone will see this as a call to start building a broader geographic customer base.


  23. Apollo says

    I am the sole 9:00 vote. I like eating late. maybe it’s my youth… Or maybe I’m still full from happy hour until about 9. I never liked eating late until I spent time in Europe.

  24. says

    You guys are cracking me up ! Where can I get some of that Ballbuster wine? No, there will be no MORE singingpiglets for me. 2 litters was enough.

    There seems to be more and more kitchen people reading this site. Last week, I received alot of ribbing from customers about my infatuation with the alleged picture of Nancy. I say alleged because I have never met her and so can’t confirm that that is indeed her picture. It might be the sales lady who sold her the camera, or maybe she found it on Yahoo!

    I was also greeted with a lot of laughter about my er..umm… procedure. I’m just happy my pain can bring so much joy into others lives. I’m a giving person that way. LOL

    I just came in from several hours of trying to get my 55yo cultivating tractor to not only work but work the way I want it to work. I was a little frustrated , but now I am just laughing at all of your comments. Thanks, all!

  25. says

    It’s a photo of me, alright. Anyone who doubts can come by Ristretto; I’m at the cash register Saturday and Sunday mornings. Can’t guarantee the come-hither look, only the coffee.

  26. says

    I’m just saying…….

    I will have to get to PDX early some Sunday so I can get a latte from you. I am a little reserved, so I might be too shy to introduce myself. Aw shicks, ma’am.

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