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This Is No Time To Run For Cover And Hide

Editor’s Letter

This Is No Time To Run For
Cover And Hide

You must be mentally exhausted.Thankfully, the winter is behind us. In the East, it was one of the coldest in 50 years, forcing many customers to hole up in their homes. The war with Iraq is also behind us, though its effects remain unsettling. Still with us, however, is the sluggish economy, which is as wearing as a bad guest who won’t leave. What’s next?

That’s difficult to predict, but if the tumult of the world proves anything, it’s that in business today one must be clever and willing to move quickly to drive business to your front door. Consider some of the following shrewd examples.

Freedom Fries. You remember: Because of the French opposition to our war with Iraq, Neal Rowland of Cubbie’s restaurant in Beaufort, N.C., took French fries off his menu and replaced them with "Freedom fries." Stupid? He was deluged with media attention that attracted customers. Not so stupid. The U.S. House of Representatives, if you remember, quickly followed suit and changed the name of its French fries to Freedom fries and its French toast to Freedom toast.

"Fry sales have really gone up," Rowland told "People who eat them now say, ‘Freedom never tasted so good.’"

In West Palm Beach, Fla., Ken Wagner of Roxy’s restaurant, made a public display of pouring French wine and Champagne in the streets to show his displeasure for all things French. The press dubbed his protest "The Palm Beach Tea Party," and Wagner said business has been up since the incident.

In Reno, customers cheered when the owners of Chophouse steakhouse decanted a $200 bottle of 1995 Dom Perignon and a $150 bottle of 1998 Puligny-Montrachet in a bucket outside the restaurant. And the press was there to cover the public display of emotional marketing.

All of this was well and good for the owners of American joints. But what about those who own French restaurants? There are attention-getting opportunities in every corner, as a number of N.Y.C. French restaurant owners recently demonstrated.

Despite several protests around the country, there have been no large-scale organized boycotts of French products or restaurants. That didn’t stop French restaurant owners in New York City from attracting media attention for a press conference at Le Cirque they dubbed "NYC Restaurants Unite to Oppose Boycott of French Restaurants."

To be sure, French restaurants are hurting, with some of them reporting business down by 15 to 20 percent. But so are many non-French restaurants. The cold winter, the war, the decline in European travelers, the city-wide smoking ban, the economic decline and more have hurt N.Y.C. restaurants.

After the press conference, Cristyne Nicholas of NYC & Company, admitted to the New York Times that there is no boycott. But the Times reporter and many others were there for the dog and pony show snapping pictures and getting quotes.

You know the saying about when the going gets tough. Be alert and jump on every opportunity.


EDITOR-IN-CHIEF [email protected]

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