Charlie Cook On Air
A Place Where Everybody Knows Your Name
I go to this restaurant each Friday. I like their varied menu. The wait staff is friendly and spends time with me when I go in there. I get the neighborhood news. The place has more than enough seating but it is cozy and I feel like I am the only person in there. It seems to me that the chef is spending his time making a dish that I will love. The owner stops by occasionally and says hello.
I always meet someone new when I’m there. Maybe because we all live in the same neighborhood, I feel a connection to the other diners. I occasionally eavesdrop on the conversations of the servers and patrons. Many times they are laugh out loud funny but they are talking about things that interest me.
One of the last times I was there, I learned about an event going on down the street that I stopped at and had a great time. I felt really lucky because I would never have heard about this fun event otherwise.
One of the great things about this restaurant is that, because I am a regular customer, I get to enter a contest every month that gives me a chance to win a free meal. All you need to know is the server of the month and tell her that you’d like to win. It is kind of a secret contest just for regulars. Now, I have never won the meal but I like to play along and it gives me a chance to interact with the server, whom I like a lot.
This sounds like a great place, doesn’t it? I bet you want to know where it is. Maybe you’d like to visit and take your family.
But wait a minute. Over the last few months I have started to notice some changes.
A couple visits ago my favorite server wasn’t there. He always worked Friday nights. I felt like Norm from Cheers when I went there. I always felt like he was waiting for me to come in. No one said anything that night about him missing.
The next Friday I asked and the owner told me that he was let go. They had experienced some decrease in business, due to the downturn in the economy. There just wasn’t enough business to keep him. The owner was sorry he had to leave and wanted me to meet the other server, who he was sure I would also like.
He was a nice enough guy but it was going to take me some time to learn about what he was all about.
That night I also got my first bad meal at the restaurant. The cook came out and apologized, saying that they were cutting corners a little bit on the fruit and vegetables. He was trying to make my favorite meal for me but they only go to the Farmer’s market every second or third day. He was looking to leave his position because he didn’t agree with new direction and felt that, as the highest paid employee, the owner was putting pressure on him.
He said that as the cook he shouldn’t have to wait on some tables and even buss tables.
The next time I visited I found the menu missing. I used to spend 15 minutes looking it over finding new things that I wanted to try. My favorites would be there but there would always be something new that interested me and I was happy to try something different. This time there was a chalk board with only a few choices.
The owner said that he didn’t have the staff to take chances with new things. He had a guy come in from another restaurant across town and he would whip up some “specials” but that he wasn’t around all day and couldn’t make more than a handful of dishes each day.
On my way out, I looked for the server of the month to try my hand at winning a dinner. I didn’t see the display with the monthly plaques telling me who this month’s honored server was. The new server from last month (what’s his name?) told me that they stopped the contest because the same people were winning all the time.
You know what? I think I am going to have to find a new place to eat on Friday nights.
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