A throw of the dice wasn’t what landed several high-profile restaurant operations in trying situations this week. But nor were matters completely in their hands. Customers’ health records can’t be screened, a fast-food outlet isn’t an impenetrable vault, and a restaurant isn’t just a restaurant when it’s connected to the leader of the free world.
Here are the nightmarish situations that could have befallen any number of operations, but happened to afflict these big names.
Trump’s bad sanitation grades
Rare is the restaurant that hasn’t been dinged by safety inspectors for minor, highly fixable infractions. But when that operation is owned by the president of the United States, who uses it to wine and dine other heads of state, the lapses have the potential of becoming international incidents.
That’s why the 13 health-code violations detected in the kitchen of President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, the foodservice operation of the chief executive’s weekend White House, drew gasps. In reality, the infractions (the temperature of a walk-in had crept above 41 degrees; one sink lacked the required hand-washing instructional sign; an employee was drinking from an open-topped cup) were corrected immediately, and would be familiar to any seasoned restaurateur.
Normally, such lapses would not even make the local paper. But in the case of the Mar-a-Lago Club, the news was covered by major television networks and innumerable other media, including Miami-area press.
Missing: Chick-fil-A’s cow costumes
Spoiler alert: The cows who encourage Chick-fil-A customers to “Eat mor chikin” aren’t real bovines. Ask the chain’s branch in Folsom, Calif., where intruders broke into a storage shed behind the restaurant and swiped three cow costumes.
The restaurant, suspecting the break-in was just a prank, has said it will not press charges if the outfits are returned. "I just want my cows back," proprietor Matt Crane told the local Fox News affiliate.
In the meantime, the public has been asked to stay on the lookout for cows roaming the street on two legs.
Two restaurants in Michigan are learning their limitations on protecting customers from serious pathogens. Authorities in Washtenaw County, near Ann Arbor, are warning consumers in the region that they could have been exposed to the measles virus if they dined recently at Mark’s Midtown Coney Island and Benny’s Family Dining.
The restaurants did nothing wrong, the health authorities stress. Rather, they merely hosted a customer who was later diagnosed with the illness, which poses a serious threat to pregnant women and elderly people who never contracted the sickness as children.
The afflicted customer, who was not identified, had apparently been infected while flying on the same aircraft as someone else who had the illness.
The affected restaurants have yet to reveal the warning’s impact on their sales.
Chef with no name can’t call himself that
First, celebrity chef Kent Rathbun lost the rights to use his own name in a highly publicized legal battle with former partner Bill Hyde, Jr. The moniker was part of the intellectual capital that went to Hyde when the two dissolved their H2R Restaurants partnership last summer, since Rathbun was well known as the chef behind the company’s holdings, Jasper’s and Abacus.
In a bit of legal jujitsu, Rathbun responded by calling attention to his no-name status, a notable situation unto itself. He started referring to himself in business situations and on social media as the Chef With No Name, turning anonymity into a memorable identity.
But now the courts have blocked the chef from using that tag, saying it’s often accompanied by Rathbun’s likeness—another piece of equity belonging to H2R—and is readily connected to the chef, in violation of the dissolution agreement.
Rathbun has yet to reveal what he might now use as his ID.