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The week in ideas, March 23, 2012

Restaurateurs have to fulfill a slew of professional roles, from accountant to marketer to motivational speaker, if they want to remain successful. This week’s crop of ideas shows why “psychiatrist” should often top the list.  Consider, for instance, how one place contended with a crazy riff on the old dine-and-dash scam.

The Vue de Monde restaurant in Melbourne, Australia, might feel one idea behind the four baggy-dressed businessmen who recently took a table in the rooftop hotspot to sip negronis. It should’ve been a tip-off that they’d lugged suitcases up to the 55th floor, but the tipplers said they were making a post-cocktail sales presentation.

When the bill came, the party stripped off their suits to reveal parachutes underneath. They grabbed helmets from the suitcases, then plunged over the balcony railing.

Turns out they were base jumpers, the thrill-seekers who prefer to skydive off skyscrapers.

The restaurant now has Plexiglas barriers in place, and says it’ll look at additional security measures.

That wasn’t the only restaurant crime where the perpetrators could convincingly plead insanity. A customer of a Papa John’s in Florida nicked a pizza-slice costume the shop uses to drum up business. Try fencing a six-foot-high slice of pepperoni in 80-degree weather.

But you have to wonder about the stability of the place’s staff, too. Wouldn’t a walking pizza slice raise some eyebrows?

The pizzeria has yet to air the ideas that came to mind to prevent a repeat.

Even regulators have shown a little more imbalance as of late. The Chicago Tribune ran an expose of a health inspector who’d allegedly sock restaurants with steep fines for decidedly questionable infractions (like keeping an open can of beer in the kitchen to use the suds for cooking). Then, according to the accusations, she’d come back afterward and offer to sell the proprietor vitamins. If the place popped for a big purchase, it would easily pass the next inspection, according to the story.

Restaurants got the idea that it might be worth their while to alert higher authorities. They did, and the inspector thought it’d be a brilliant idea to resign.

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