Saturday, October 24, 2009

So you think the food biz is easy.

A regular customer yesterday asked me if the food business was easier than his insurance business. That gave me a good chuckle.

750 restaurants have closed since we opened Cagney's in 1976. More are closing every day.
I have an obituary list of 1200 eating destinations which have come and gone on the grand strand. Every one of those was somebody's dream. It's a tough biz. 2008 was tough. 2009 was even tougher. Like rising water 2010 was more of the same.
The entire world got the economic flu.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Except From Dino's new Book

The Perils and Pitfalls of Partnerships:
...Yea some partnerships can survive and thrive. Me and my partner have been Sancho and Don Quixote since before Carter. We gently butted heads and behinds but never once got in the other's face. I'd turn the music up, he'd turn it down. I'd turn down the lights he'd turn em up. He preferred dark wood, I liked natural tones. I preferred a NY Strip, he was a filet man. He liked a clean look on ads and menus, I dug funky artwork. He wore a 3-piece suit to funerals and weddings, I didn't own a tie. I wrote the training manual, he wrote the soup recipe. I deciphered the lease and the P&L, he decoded the broiler specs and re-plumbed the gas lines.
Handling employee snafus and removing rowdies by the seat of their pants was my job. Rewiring a 220v receptacle was his. He stayed alimony free, single and happy. I stayed married and happy. And neither of us ever offered the other romantic advice or was a sterno sniffer, slave to the bottle or arm spiker.

If he was in maitre d' mode I eased to the back. If he was on the kitchen line I manned the front. We both signed checks, both interviewed, neither ever questioned the other's integrity. We coulda made lots more money if we'd been a tad more tyrannical with pricing, expenditures, overtime and leaner staffing. But that wutn't our style.

Along the way we each made concessions, chased a few windmills, sometimes the same bar girls. We had a lotta laughs, made a lotta mistakes, peed in a few public fountains, but never needed bail money. And through it all we never jumped into each other's face and always respected each other's veto.
From what I hear that's plenty unusual.


Print and TV foodies constantly napalm us with with flaming hype and silver spit-buckets fulla syrupy adjective about fancy new dishes and wines.

Then you finally taste one.
You taste a truffle encapsulated in crystalline florettes of parsnips, a glob of beluga caviar on a lavender foam cracker and wash it all down with a turbo-tannic glass of Haute Medoc One.
Your face prunes into Peggy Anguish as you whine, "Is that all there is? Hells bells I'd rather have a NY strip, a shrimp cocktail with some good ole cocktail sauce and a Michelob."

Friday, October 16, 2009

(Excerpt from Dino's new book about the restaurant biz)
As the years pile on, most of us relish the opportunity to re-nourish our saggy spirit with the pleasant smells, sounds and sights that peanut butter to the top of your brain.
First taste of lipstick, cotton candy, smell of electric bumper cars, salt spray, clean clothes, cedar-lined closets, puppy breath, bacon fryin, new Buster Browns.
And trains. The muscular smell of metal and diesel.

Train stations were a big deal to a wide-eyed kid luggin his fabric suitcase to Visit aunt Sandra or Yia Yia. My first depot destination was Grand Central. That huge suck-your-breath-away soaring space. Maybe yours was Penn or Union Station.
These cavernous spaces were the original malls. Soaring skylit barrel-vaulted ceilings, massive marble columns, pulse-punpin examples of Greek and Roman architecture, pocked with beaucoup tobacco shops, haberdashers, bowling alleys, souvenir kiosks, stand-up greasy spoons, upscale cafes, newstands, and smoke-filled lounges with bow-tied barkeeps pourin from big forbidden bottles. They even had their own police station. Taj Mahal had nothin on these cathedrals of commerce.
Remember the call. "All aboard for the Stream-liner...all-a-board!"

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Remembering D.A and Marci Moore.

While we're paying tribute to members of our Cagneys dining familiy let us remember that big lovable bear of a man, D.A. Moore. He and his vivacious wife Marci ate with us almost every week for 30 years. Every member of the Cagney's staff hugged them on sight. Both were quick with a smile and always a new joke. A great couple and loyal thoughtful friends to all our staff.
They don't come any better. Good people as we say down south.

Buddy Deal from High Point

One of our Cagneys/Flamingo friends, Dusty Maynard, told us Buddy Deal had recently died.
Buddy was one of our earliest regular customers. Buddy was a classy original. Always sat with his back to the wall, ordered a carafe of house wine, spinach salad and Flounder Cagney. Always had the George Hamilton tan, he carried himself airrish. Always peacocked out in crispy-starched gant shirts, logo'd polo blazer garnished with silk hankerchief. Footwear was always gucci loafers, no socks. Yup, George Hamilton had nothin on buddy. Rest in peace ole friend and our warmest thoughts and memories to his beautiful wife Doris.
Dino, Dino, Danny and The Cagney's staff

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bad Year Comin-Can you survive it?

(Excerpt from Dino's new book)
Before you open your own bistro, cafe, diner, or AYCE buffet...answer me this one question.
Can you survive an off year, a down year like 2008? A can't-bring-a-dime-to-the-bottom-line year like 2009? A too broke to pay attention year?

If the answer is no then forgitaboutit.

Cause it's comin. Maybe the first year, probably the 2nd, for darn sure the 3rd. You can expect to slog through some tough times. I'm not talkin a case of wilted spinach or broken eggs.
I'm talkin major equipment breakdowns, Cad-3 hurricanes, ceiling cave-ins, 100-year floods, sewer backups, power failures, swine flu outbreaks, slip'n fall scamsters, night deposit muggings, in-law embezzlers, 9-11 biblical disasters.
Do you have a money plan B, plan C?
If not then you brought a pasta spoon to a knife fight.