Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What I learned this week

Raking through the restaurant news of any given week can unearth information gems that somehow fail to snag the general public’s attention. Here, for instance, is what I’ve learned online just since Monday:

How to eat a helium balloon. Thanks to Grant Achatz’s Alinea, I won’t be embarrassed at the next party where edible inflatables are served. As this video shows, proper etiquette calls for sticking your tongue into the sugar-based outer surface and sucking out the presumably flavored air. The bonus: You talk like Mickey Mouse afterward. Where do Achatz and his staff come up with these ideas? Then again, we should expect notions this wild from a crew that comments, “the string’s obviously dehydrated apple.”

Why feet don’t tingle at Hooters. Who knew the waitresses wear a proprietary type of pantyhose that has no feet, the result of staff complaints about tingling and discomfort? Strangely, few customers have noticed that the servers even have feet.

Don’t taunt scientific realities. A yuk-yuk boast about promoting heart attacks can be an alarming self-fulfilling prophecy, as the famed Heart Attack Grill learned last weekend. The concept’s schtick is serving food so nutritionally over the top that servers dress like nurses to revive patrons who might slip into cardiac arrest. It’s not so funny when that actually happens, as it did to a guest on Saturday. The world was stunned to learn the “nurses” only dress the part. Similarly, the proprietor-doctor is only pretending to have medical knowledge. EMTs had to revive and sustain the victim.

The high road can be bumpy. Almost exactly a year ago, Starbucks was targeted by West Coast gun advocates who wanted to flash their iron in a public place, a demonstration of what they’re permitted to do under the carry laws of many states. Clearly they were picking a fight with the coffee giant, with thinly veiled threats to exert their muscle.

Starbucks tried to sidestep the pressure, saying it would let state laws decide what guests could or couldn’t do.
"In the end, we determined that following local laws is the best approach for us,” headquarters said in a statement. “Were we to adopt a policy different from local laws allowing open carry, we would be forced to require our partners to ask law abiding customers to leave our stores."

Now gun opponents are leaning on the chain. A group called the National Gun Victims Action Committee has called for a boycott of Starbucks until it bans customers with guns from all of its stores.

In announcing the boycott, NGAC noted that a gun had accidentally gone off at a Starbucks in Cheyenne, Wyo., when a 17-year-old patron dropped her purse. According to news reports, the bullet missed a patron by about a foot.

“Not a word from Starbucks about this; this is acceptable Pro-Gun Agenda risk,” NGAC said in its announcement.

The group claims to represent 14 million victims of gun attacks, their families, and anti-gun sympathizers.

Retailers munch your lunch. New research has validated what should be a chilling fear for urban or suburban restaurants with significant takeout business: Consumers no longer regard them as the only quality option. Two out of five southern California residents believe the ready-to-eat food sold by c-stores or other retail outlets is just as good and usually lower priced, according to a new Technomic survey. Two-thirds of the respondents said they’d noticed an improvement in quality and variety during the last five years.

Translation: If I don’t want to eat inside a restaurant, why would I pay more for its food?

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