We've covered everything from runaway reptiles to dining room haircuts in this space, but this week's batch of restaurant nightmares may be the most alarming ever. Anytime you have a famous chef acknowledging injuries from cooking in the buff, you're breaking new ground. But see for yourself.
The boss informs customers your restaurants suck
If you’ve ever cursed Chipotle for not granting franchises, think of where licensees would be after founder Steve Ells’ stunning candor earlier this week. According to those who heard him speak at a financial conference on Tuesday, the chef-turned-CEO acknowledged that half the chain’s 2,000 restaurants are delivering a crappy experience. Those 1,000 stores deserve a grade of "C," "D" or "F," Ells admitted.
It’s just the thing to win back customers who abandoned the brand after it poisoned several hundred of them in December. No wonder Ells said he’s nervous about hitting the chain’s promised financial performance.
And that, in turn, alienated the brand’s other once-ecstatic constituency: its shareholders. Chipotle’s stock price immediately tanked.
Amazingly, there’s been a rumor that Chipotle’s other co-CEO, Monty Moran, is about to get the boot, not Ells. Chipotle said no such decision had been made.
We reported on the bombshell announcements a few days ago, but no list of the week’s nightmares would be complete without mentioning the incidents again, particularly if you had trouble believing they happened. But, no, neither was a bit of fake internet news.
Shootings don’t help a kids-focused restaurant
Nothing can wreck a family restaurant’s holiday season like drive-by shooters taking a pop at customers who’ve just left. Ask the Chuck E. Cheese’s pizza parlor in the Chicago suburb of Oak Lawn, where an exiting pair of apparent patrons drew fire for reasons that have yet to be revealed. One took a trip to the ER afterward, but was released immediately.
We make light of it because the victim escaped serious harm, and the incident was undoubtedly a nightmare of fright-flick proportions. Local officials are trying to shut the place, even after the chain explained it was an innocent bystander.
Indeed, Chuck E. Cheese's stressed the restaurant had no connection to the violence whatsoever. The event took place blocks from the restaurant, and the chain said there were no altercations in the restaurant beforehand. “We were not involved in this incident,” it asserted in a statement.
But Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury and trustee Alex Olejniczak contend there’s no reason to take a chance, particularly since other 911 calls have been tied to incidents arising inside the pizza-serving game arcade. They’re still working to pull the restaurant’s business license.
A celebrity chef who admits to taking a nude turn at the stove can lose some mystique, especially after detailing how a delicate bit was singed in the process. “A jet of hot steam attacked my manhood,” famed kitchen star Jamie Oliver recounted this week on a popular British talk show.
But he reassured the squeamish that he was cooking for his wife, not restaurant patrons, and was home at the time. If only he’d stopped there, instead of also noting he was anticipating a romantic evening that had to be postponed because of his injury.
Oliver’s nickname is the Naked Chef, which previously referred to his preference for simple dishes and complete transparency in relating how they’re prepared.
Exhibitionist as restaurateur?
Oliver was not the only trouser-shedding celebrity to evoke some winces this week from the restaurant business. Disgraced New York City politician Anthony Weiner, who destroyed his career and marriage by emailing below-the-waist photos of himself, has apparently decided to shift his professional focus to operating restaurants. The one-time mayoral candidate is calling friends in the business to scope out the opportunities, the New York Post reported this week.
Countering fake news
A young man who’d read of children being systematically abused in Washington, D.C., went to extraordinary measures this week to rescue the youngsters. He drove nearly 400 miles, rifle at his side, to confront the abusers, who were reportedly using a pizzeria as their front for Satanic sex rites.
It was fantastic, and patently untrue. Yet the young man barged inside the pizza joint, Comet Ping Pong, and fired his rifle to show he was there for a fight to the death with evil.
The incident was sparked by fake news reports of Comet providing a place for Hillary Clinton and other customers to sexually exploit children. The real nightmare for Comet has been the difficulty of countering a tale that is ridiculous per se, and downright ludicrous when the “facts” are considered.
For instance, believers in the conspiracy contend that “pizza” is actually a code word for pedophilia. They note that Comet has gender-neutral bathrooms—surely a sign that the areas are used for more than answering nature’s call.
They note that some of the punk music acts booked at Comet wore druid-like robes, and said they were communicating with the dead. Never mind that the shared communications were humorous, and so obviously a put-on that most people got it right away.
Plus, one of Comet’s bartenders is a drag queen! And its proprietor is gay!
The pizzeria and performance space has pointed out that there’s no foundation for the nightmare. Meantime, the staff continues to get death threats.