Chiropractors should be exchanging high-fives after reaping a business windfall this week from head-snapping developments in the restaurant business. Here’s a review of the standout neck strainers.
1. Crewmember in Chief
Restaurateurs and their lobbyists are chronically frustrated by politicians’ ignorance of how the business really works. Persons inside the Beltway see a glamorous trade where customers spend big dollars for an extravagant, artful experience that must be fun to provide. They don’t see the grind of handling hundreds of customers in a two-hour window, or the sheer amount of work that’s involved.
They learned this week of a possible ally inside the White House, hopefully briefing the president on a near-daily basis of what the business is really like. This summer, Sasha Obama is working in a popular seafood restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard, filling takeout orders, clearing tables and helping with prep work. The 15-year-old logs four-hour shifts at Nancy’s, a favorite haunt of her parents when they vacation.
It’s not a completely routine restaurant job. Every day, she’s accompanied by an entourage of Secret Service agents.
2. NJ looking to limit dashboard dining?
A legislative proposal filed in New Jersey is being taken by fast-food fans as a kick in the nuggets. It aims to outlaw distracted driving by banning any activity except the operation of the vehicle. Wouldn’t that cover such activities as wolfing down a lunchtime burger or sipping a coffee on the way to work?
Technically, yes. But even a cursory view of the bill reveals its true intention: preventing drivers from yakking on their phones while the car is moving. The language is just less than precise on that point.
Still, the proposal has kicked up a controversy in the land of Bruce Springsteen and saltwater taffy. And the state that gave us Tony Soprano is not known for its reserve.
3. BYOT (the ‘T’ is for tomatoes)
As tomatoes ripened on the vines of backyard gardens this week, some consumers wondered why they should settle for the inferior specimens they’re likely to get in a fast-food restaurant. So, reports a writer for The Roanoke Times, tomato lovers are resurrecting a little-noticed Southern tradition of bringing the fruits from home.
A former photographer for the paper says he’s been BYOTing for 15 years, and is seeing fellow customers do the same.
4. Bojangles’ guerrilla marketing
Surprises are the stated objective of the ongoing marketing campaign of the Bojangles chicken-and-biscuits chain. Recently, for instance, the operation obtained a vending machine and stripped out its guts, changing the product choices displayed on the exterior to Bojangles signage. The doctored device was wheeled into a self-serve laundry, and a chain representative climbed inside.
Customers were none the wiser until they decided to get a snack from the machine. Instead of getting a candy bar or sandwich, the user was given a Bojangles biscuit sandwich or another signature of the chain, including its iced tea.
The stunt is part of a program called Random Acts of Bo. Previous executions have included distributing big suitcases of free Bojangles food via the conveyor belts in the baggage claim area of an airport, so travelers could grab one along with their wheelies and garment bags.
5. A different sort of gorilla stunt
Poor Ruby Tuesday. Yesterday the chain announced that it was closing 95 restaurants after losing $50.7 million during its just-completed fiscal year. Then, while detailing the painful situation to financial analysts during a conference call, CEO JJ Buettgen had to persevere through a head-scratcher of a prank.
Among the analysts registered for the call was Buddy Fox, who identified himself as the restaurant specialist for Geneva Roth Holding Co. He asked Buettgen if Ruby’s sales woes during the quarter ended May 31 had anything to do with the shooting of the gorilla that seized a little boy who’d fallen into the animal’s pen in a Cincinnati zoo.
Transcripts gave this account:
Buettgen: “Excuse me, can you repeat your question please? Impacted by what?”
Fox: “By Harambe's death and, if yes, do you have plans to mitigate it?”
The realization didn’t set in that Buddy Fox was the name of Charlie Sheen’s character in the 1987 movie “Wall Street.”