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The week in ideas, September 16, 2011

Our cup runneth over with ideas this week. Darden made the most of a big announcement. Smith & Wollensky came up with an awesome promotion. Plus, some advice masquerading as ideas. Enjoy.

Idea #1: Get a big bang for your healthy-menu buck. Darden didn’t just announce it planned to make its menu—and especially its kids’ menu—more healthful, it got First Lady Michelle Obama to make the announcement with them and give her endorsement. Pretty good PR.

Idea #2: Don’t get too freaked out about the economy. Yep, it’s bad out there, but Americans still eat 250 restaurant meals a year, according to new LivingSocial research.

Idea #3: Invest in an alarm system. It pays off. At least it did for the suburban Chicago restaurant Mr. Beef & Pizza (can’t decide if I love that name or hate it, by the way). Earlier this week a man broke into the restaurant, grabbed a soda and popped some chicken tenders in the microwave. The alarm sounded, and when cops showed up and asked the man—who was in his boxer shorts—why he did what he did, his response: “I was hungry.”

Idea #4: If you can help it, don’t hire idiots. A bartender at the Houston, Texas, restaurant Petrol Station scrawled on the to-go box of a Muslim customer last Sunday, “Happy September 11th,” along with a drawing of a plane flying into the Twin Towers. When the customer returned and complained he was mocked. He took to Yelp and wrote an understandably scathing review of the place (although, kindly, still said the place had good burgers). When the owner of the restaurant got wind of it he fired the bartender and apologized personally to the customer.

Idea #5: Know your customers. If you’re going to serve greasy hamburgers and fries, know that your customers might get fat, and that you might want to have bigger booths for them to sit. A fat guy is suing White Castle because he couldn’t fit in the restaurant’s seats. America the beautiful.

Idea #6: Make your customers feel special. Now here’s a cool idea. The Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in Midtown Manhattan is going to change “Smith” to the name of one of its loyal customers every day from October 3 to 31.

Idea #7: Pay attention to your phonebook listing. The phonebook is on its way to extinction, and it’s not helping its cause with goof ups like this: The Dex phonebook in Montana listed the Bar 3 Bar-B-Q restaurant under “animal carcass removal.” The restaurants sales plummeted and it was the butt of  joke on The Tonight Show. The restaurant’s owner is suing.



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