Archives for restaurants



The Days of Wine and Mouses

Season 2, Episode 1

When you take a sip of Cabernet, what are you tasting? the grape? the tannins? the oak barrel? Or is it the price?

Believe it or not, the most dominant flavor may be the dollars. Thanks to the work of some intrepid and wine-obsessed researchers (yes, there is an American Association of Wine Economists), we have a new understanding of the relationship between wine, critics, and consumers.

One of these researchers is Robin Goldstein, whose paper detailing more than 6,000 blind tastings reaches the conclusion that “individuals who are unaware of the price do not derive more enjoyment from more expensive wine.”

Why, then, do we pay so much attention to critics and connoisseurs who tell us otherwise? Read More »



Customer Dis-service

I recently had one of the strangest customer service episodes I’ve ever experienced. It took place at Café Bon Appetit in downtown Chicago. A group of twenty of us were eating lunch there. It is one of those places that has many food stations to choose from, then you pay for your food and find a table. There is no table service. It’s a huge restaurant. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the restaurant can seat 300 people. That is one of the reasons we go there in a big group — there are always plenty of seats.

One of the diners, who is on some sort of vegan, non-gluten health kick, had brought her own lunch. The rest of us had bought our lunch there. We found a table in the nearly completely empty back seating area. About halfway through lunch, the restaurant manager appeared. I assumed it was to thank us for coming and to ask how the food was. It turned out his mission was quite different. Read More »



Innovations in Restaurant Tipping: Just Do the Math For Us

At a local cafe in western Massachusetts the printed bill contains something I’ve never seen before: At the bottom is a list of percentages—15, 18 and 20—with suggested gratuity amounts based specifically on the bill’s total. While tipping is a social norm in the U.S., it’s a hassle to figure out the right amount to tip. The tip amount is rarely suggested, and never in specific dollar terms (though sometimes a gratuity is included for larger groups of diners).

So why not do this everywhere? Perhaps it could be viewed as crass; but it saves time and makes the social norm explicit (as it already is in our minimum wage laws)—and it might shame those who refuse to tip. I hope this innovation spreads rapidly in this time of apparently decreasing social cohesion.



Probably Not the Way to Run a Restaurant

I happened to be driving by an A&W restaurant the other day. I also happened to be thirsty. So I stopped in to order a frosty mug of root beer.

“We’re out of root beer,” the worker told me. Read More »



Tyler Cowen on Pay as You Wish Restaurants

Cowen thinks they’re a bad idea. Read More »



Is the Senior Slam Smart?

Denny’s breakfast menu in Provo, Utah, offers something that combines demand-based and cost-based price discrimination, but it’s neither.

The “French toast slam” is two pieces of toast and two eggs, two strips of bacon and two sausages for $6.99. The “senior French toast slam” is one piece of toast and one egg, and two strips of bacon or two sausages for $5.49, and you must be at least 55 years old to buy this. Read More »



From a London Bathroom Wall, A Lesson in Complementaries

Am on holiday with the family in London. Pure joy — although my 6-year-old daughter, who’d recently heard that black pepper can force a sneeze, took a handful and somehow mashed it into her eye instead; tears ensued; but it was nothing a trip to Hamleys couldn’t cure. At a very delicious Italian restaurant called […] Read More »



The Weirdest Cookbook You Will Ever Need

Shopsin’s is a New York institution, a restaurant that began as a grocery store whose owner, Kenny Shopsin, is colorful, irascible, and talented. It is famous for breakfast but also for its vast, unusual, common-sense menu. From Shopsins.com Shopsin has just written a book that is half cookbook and half memoir, entirely fascinating. I had […] Read More »