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The week in ideas, November 18, 2011

A week of goodbyes at WII: goodbye to IHOP’s waitstaff (at least some of them). Goodbye to Starbuck’s bathrooms (at least some of them). Goodbye to goodwill between restaurants and food trucks (at least in Buffalo). And goodbye to sane customers (at least with this one guy).

Idea #1: Say goodbye to Flo. IHOP’s sassy, coffee-pouring waitresses—ok, in my imagination they’re all sassy—are notably absent from the chain’s newest format, a self-serve unit that opened this week in San Diego. The IHOP Express spinoff has been up and running on college campuses and military bases, but this is the first open to the general public. The stores are focused on takeout, although they feature WIFI for anybody hanging around. They even feature special takeout items. Most notably: Cup O’Pancakes, which is, well, a cup full of pancakes.

Idea #2: Say goodbye to ’Bucks public bathrooms. Starbucks will no longer allow desperate New Yorkers full of Spiced Pumpkin Lattes to use their restrooms. As the New York Post—our first source for all bathroom news—reported this week, the chain has decided that the inconvenience to employees who have to wait in line as well as the increased maintenance has become unbearable. “Starbucks cannot be the public bathroom in the city anymore,” a source told the paper. The move isn’t city-wide—restaurants with 19 or more seats are required to have a restroom for customers—but where they can, the bathrooms are going employee-only.

Idea #3: Food truck ghettos. A fight has broken out between a group food truck operators and a group of brick-and-mortar restaurateurs in Buffalo over proposed rules that would restrict trucks to designated public parking lots. The truck operators say the areas are poorly trafficked, and they’re throwing around fighting words: The restaurant group's proposal "constitutes a barely concealed protectionist effort to substantially restrict the operation of food trucks on two of the busier avenues—and their surrounding neighborhoods—within the City of Buffalo," a truck association lawyer, Mitchell M. Stenger wrote, according to news reports. The restaurants behind the move had words of their own: Michael H. Kooshoian, attorney for Entrepreneurs for a Better Buffalo—made up of many restaurants, who drafted the proposal—called the "protectionist" criticism "propaganda,” and said the proposal was meant "to see vending introduced in an organized way."

Idea #4: Customers are insane. Are customers getting crazier or is it just us?  Add to the rash of 911 calls for bad service a guy in Nashville upset with the quality of his pizza. He threw a MOLOTOV COCKTAIL into the place!!! It started a small fire at the restaurant, Sicilian Pizza, that was quickly extinguished. And turns out the guy had 32 prior arrests. So maybe it’s not all customers getting crazier, maybe it’s just that guy.

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