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You Are, Apparently, a Greedy Villain

Editor’s Letter

You Are, Apparently, a
Greedy Villain

It was good news last month when a federal judge dismissed a frivolous lawsuit that alleged a fast-food chain was responsible for obesity in children who ate at the chain. But that suit and others similar to it are disturbing because the motives of those on the attack are highly suspect, and, by their charges, have painted restaurateurs as villains.

While the obesity suit has been thrown out of court, one would be overly optimistic to believe that the suits will end any time soon. And, as long as they continue, this industry will have to fight against portrayals that it is comprised of scammers who care more about money than customers.

I’m raising this issue because of a SmartMoney magazine article I read recently on its website. The article—"Ten Things Your Restaurant Won’t Tell You"—reinforces the argument that restaurateurs are greedy villains. Here’s a quick look at the article. Remember that the headers in bold are what you’re supposedly not telling your customers.

1. "You want romance? Then don’t eat here." This one’s about how "some" restaurants mark up prices as much as a third on Valentine’s Day. "Do yourself a favor," writes the magazine. "Give candy, roses, jewelry. Just don’t take your one-and-only out to dinner."

2. "Our markups will gag you." This one’s about how high-end steak houses charge more than $30 for a steak and then charge additional exorbitant prices for a baked potato and salad.

3. "Plus we’ll charge you when you least
expect it." The complain here is that customers who bring a birthday cake or a bottle of wine to a restaurant are charged a cutting or corkage fee. "Increasingly, restaurants of every scale are charging for services we once took for granted."

4. "Our food is sickening." Customers get food poisoning from restaurants, is the idea here.

5. "We attract kleptos, and you’ll pay for their habit." Customers steal stuff, like cutlery, and the restaurant offsets the loss by padding food and beverage charges, asserts the magazine.

6. "We can’t control our help." This is a warning to be aware that unscrupulous waiters rip off customers by adding extra charges to credit cards.

7. "Our fancy name will fool you." Menu names say your getting one thing, like truffles, but you may be served a lesser version.

8. "We’re as loud as Ozzy Osbourne." Some restaurants are dangerously loud.

9. "Don’t drink the wine." Some restaurants serve wines that have not been aged enough. "Some sommeliers and critics contend that restaurants rush wines out to customers for the sake of expedience, not for a pleasurable experience."

10. "Our chefs are masters—at making TV dinners." The magazine is appalled that most restaurants use prepared products and don’t "make mozzarella sticks and popcorn shrimp from scratch."

A good part of this, as you know, is so overblown it’s laughable. And all of it denies the fact that restaurants are a business, not a hobby. But it’s the article’s attempt to paint restaurateurs as rip-off artists that concerns me. What do you think?


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