Thursday, April 27, 2017

"And eat it too?"/ The Ladder: Juliette Brun

Jan. 16, 2017 "And eat it too?": Today I found this article by Corey Mintz in the Globe and Mail.  It asks: "Should restaurants allow customers to bring in a cake from outside the restaurant?" 

You read the article and you decide:

It doesn’t matter if it’s your birthday or you’re footing the bill for a party of 12. According to Corey Mintz, carrying cake to a restaurant is almost always in bad taste.

You can’t bring your own cake to a restaurant, dummies. I mean, you can. But don’t. Sometimes, I think the general public understands the concept: Just as you shouldn’t bring your own drill to the dentist or sing your own songs at a Broadway musical, you should expect to eat ( and pay for) the food on the menu when you patronize a restaurant. But restaurant owners and workers assure me that no, people don’t get it.

So here’s a reminder of why this is wrong. It’s very simple. Restaurants are small businesses that operate on a slim profit margin. If you want them to exist, it’s counterintuitive to bring your own cake.

I’m not talking about Kelsey’s or Earls or Applebee’s, which are corporations that sell food. I’m talking about actual restaurants. The majority of Canada’s independent restaurants are in or near urban areas where real estate is at a premium. Rent is just one cost among many. To recoup those costs and hopefully turn a profit, restaurant owners buy food, prepare it and present it in a comfortable environment, for more than they paid themselves. So while bringing your own cake incurs no food cost to the restaurant, it’s still asking to use their rent, insurance, utilities, labour and taxes for free.
This seems obvious to me. But apparently, when told not to bring their own cakes, people often do anyway. Even to dessert restaurants.

“This was an everyday occurrence,” says Kelly Kimel, owner of MoRoCo Chocolat.
Now retail only, MoRoCo was originally a dessert restaurant in Yorkville, a plush, velvet- lined room located on the city’s most expensive commercial real estate. It served all sorts of cakes and desserts, including vegan and gluten- free options, but despite their endless attempts to accommodate customers, even a business centred on desserts had to constantly explain to diners why they couldn’t bring their own.

“We had written contracts stating ‘ no outside food’ and they would still walk in and demand to have their special cake served,” Kimel says. “Most of it was customers trying to save a few dollars.”

When we dine out, we are renting space, and time is a commodity. A large group staying for dessert will take up an extra half hour, maybe a whole hour. With typical dinner operating hours being from 6 p. m. to 10 p. m., that’s big chunk of time to cede without revenue.

It may seem as if booking a party of 10 or 20 is buying in bulk, deserving a discount. But restaurant margins are notoriously slim. And yes, birthdays are special: to you. To a restaurant that serves hundreds or thousands of customers a year, every day is a potential birthday.

“We never say no to a guest,” says Ed Ho, owner of Globe Bistro in Toronto, who says customers asking to bring their own birthday cake is a regular occurence. “We try to manage the situation on a case- by- case basis. We also generally buy dessert for the birthday person.” For some restaurants, taking a loss on a group’s dessert may be a key to maintaining a regular client.

In some circumstances, it might make sense to bring your own cake: If the restaurant, pub, water park or sex dungeon where you’re hosting a celebration does not make or provide their own suitable desserts, or if your birthday boy or girl has a severe allergy that can’t be accommodated by the kitchen. So long as you ask and the owner or manager says yes, it’s kosher.

You’ll probably be charged a small “plating” or “cakeage” fee, maybe $ 3 or $ 5 a person: Regardless of who made the cake, it takes the same amount of time for it to be sliced and plated, for servers to present and clear and for dishwashers to clean up afterward. It’s not outlandish. (“Always check the condition of the cake the moment it is delivered to your staff, with the guest present,” Arthur Bond, a server at Cava, advises restaurateurs. “The last thing you need is to be accused of ruining a cake that was actually damaged in transit by the guest or cake company.”)

A few weeks ago, I had dinner at Momofuku Noodle Bar in Toronto, which is in a building housing multiple Momofuku businesses, including an outpost of its Milk Bar bakery. The friend I was with told me a story: A while back, he’d attended a birthday dinner upstairs at Momofuku Daisho. The dinner host had called ahead and been told no, please don’t bring your own cake, but had brought one anyway. The result was an unpleasant standoff with staff and, ultimately, the guests had to carry the offending cake back home whole.

I called Daisho and asked if I could bring my own cake to a party. The reservationist explained they did not allow outside food, but talked me through options for an in- house cake that would work out to about $ 5.50 a person. Name me another nice restaurant that’ll serve dessert for that price, especially one imagined by a pastry chef with two cookbooks.

But the issue was likely never money. The request to bring your own cake is rarely about lack of options, and more often because people want to have their cheap supermarket cake served in a nice room where someone else cleans up afterward.
The truth is, if there’s cake on the menu and you still want to bring your own, you’re being selfish. Happy birthday.

My opinion: Prior to this article, I thought it would be okay to bring your own cake because you want your cake that is nicely decorated and personalized with "Happy birthday ____" and the restaurant you're at isn't going to make it for you.

Are you going to celebrate your birthday at a restaurant by eating dinner and then all going to your house and eat that cake?

This part got me really angry.  However, I don't think that is a lot of customers' intentions:

The request to bring your own cake is rarely about lack of options, and more often because people want to have their cheap supermarket cake served in a nice room where someone else cleans up afterward.

Jan. 30, 2017 The Ladder: Juliette Brun: Today I found this article in the Globe and Mail:

Juliette Brun, 36, began Montréal-based Juliette & Chocolat in 2003. The company operates eight restaurants featuring dessert, and a chocolate laboratory dedicated to experimentation and handmade offerings.

I came to Montreal in 1998 from Brazil on a student visa. My parents lived in Syria. My sister lived in Montreal and I liked that Quebec was francophone and anglophone, the best of two worlds. I don’t speak Portuguese any more. I finished my Bachelor of Commerce at McGill University, always very keen on numbers, loved and comfortable with numbers. But I love cooking, I love anything food-related. I thought after my career, I’d have a restaurant – my house up top – meet people and cook. It wouldn’t be for money because I’d have retirement pay.

After graduating was the best time to start a business. My husband and I were dating and I could give my energy to a business. We didn’t have a house. We didn’t have kids. We had no restrictions. Coffee-shop businesses were popping up everywhere. Coffee’s great, but in Montreal, it’s so cold you want something comforting. I thought a coffee-shop concept with chocolate a good combination. Restaurants can be tough. It’s all the time, holidays, nights, days and weekends. It’s all the time. In packaging and branding, I knew what I wanted. My husband had been in graphic design. He said if he didn’t stop what he was doing and work with me we’d be completely disconnected; we needed to work together.

We have maybe 300 staff. I ask, “Do you have ideas? Go! Try different things and discover.” I usually start with an idea, then we find a way to make it work. Teamwork and getting everybody stimulated by a product is more fun when you’re participating and creating. My advice is to focus. You have a tendency when you run your own business to be enthusiastic and want to do everything yourself. Focus on what you’re best at, then delegate. Every time there’s a new menu coming out, I’m in charge.

We work with different chocolate companies, last year buying 33 tonnes. Suppliers tell me, “I’ll give you a super price,” but I don’t want to be committed to one. I want to be able to discover different kinds of chocolate. If I was bound to one, I wouldn’t be able to buy from somebody else. We have chocolate from many countries: Asia, South America, Africa.

You want something special when you’re eating. When we started, 75 per cent of people asked for milk chocolate. Now it’s about 50/50 and people are trying different dark chocolates. There’s a world of a difference between chocolate from Madagascar and Peru. It’s like wine. You discover a whole set of tastes. I try to be first in a trend … make it our own because you don’t want to be like everyone else. Why would customers come to us if they can get it everywhere else? For our dark-chocolate balsamic-vinegar dressing, if customers don’t like it we’ll bring a new salad.

We use real ingredients, like in my raspberry and my passion-fruit chocolates. When you order lemon meringue pie, you don’t expect it to be super sweet, you want to taste real lemon, tartness and sweetness at the same time. Sometimes, a real ingredient is not strong enough, you need to add a natural essence, like blueberries – they’re overpowered by chocolate.

Everything is homemade. It’s labour-intensive and how we run the restaurants. For example, we make marshmallows. It’s a lot of work, but I want people to bite into my marshmallows and go “oh, wow, it’s like biting into a fluffy cloud.” We mix brownies by hand and cut them by hand. Things are done by hand because we want to keep the quality. We package online and corporate orders like gifts. Even if it’s for you, it’s like Christmas; half the fun is unwrapping presents to see what’s inside. For me, every day needs to be fun. I tell my team, I tell my kids: “Make every day special.”

I eat chocolate every day. I love my cocktail chocolates. I have five kids and didn’t drink for five years. You need energy when you’re pregnant.

If I’m not eating chocolate, I’ll eat anything with nuts. When I’m invited to dinner, my friends are … “Juliette could you, hmmm … bring dessert?”

As told to Cynthia Martin. This interview has been edited and condensed.

My week:

Apr. 13, 2017 "Strangers leave waitress $400 tip, then an even bigger surprise":

For months, Cayla Chandara has been a waitress at two different restaurants, pulling double shifts just to make ends meet.

The 21-year-old moved to Waikiki, Hawaii, from Santa Rosa, California, for school. But with student loans and the high cost of living, Chandara didn’t want to slip into debt.

Instead of continuing her education, Chandara decided to take a step back. She accepted a job at a nearby Cheesecake Factory and Noi Thai Cuisine, hoping to save up enough money so she could return to school one day.

Little did she know, a group of strangers would make that happen faster than she could have ever imagined.

The tip was $400 -- double their bill.
“I was then at a loss for words and all I wanted to do was hug them,” Chandara told CBS News.

Chandara recalled where the couple said they were staying, and decided she would swing by after her shift to thank them properly.

“I genuinely wanted to say thank you,” Chandara said. “I sent a thank you letter saying how much it meant to me.”

She left it at the hotel’s front desk and slipped out -- never expecting to see the tourists ever again.

The next night, the woman and the little girl returned to the restaurant. They told Chandara they would like to give her $10,000 to pay off her student loans and to contribute to her continuing her college education.

The 21-year-old wants to thank the couple for not only helping her fulfill her dream of graduating college, but also for teaching her a valuable lesson.

“They have truly changed my life, not only financially but in the way I look at things. They are the most beautiful and kind-hearted people I’ve come across and I really look up to them and I can’t wait until they watch me graduate,” Chandara said.

She hopes the story of their generosity reminds others that there are still good people in the world.

“Always be genuine. You will get it right back. Good things happen,” Chandara said.

Apr. 18, 2017 Alberta Hotel Bar and Kitchen closed: I was passing my resumes around downtown and see this place is closed.

BCBG store in City Centre mall closing down: I put this on my Facebook status update too.

Mark Hamill on The Simpsons: This is the episode where Homer becomes the bodyguard to Mayor Quimby.  I've been singing what Hamill was singing.

Hamill: Luke be a Jedi tonight, Luke be a Jedi tonight.
Chorus line: Do it for Yoda while we serve our guess a soda.
Hamill: Do it for Chewy and the ewoks, and all the other puppets.

I read the comments and it turns out it was making fun of the song "Luck be a Lady" by Frank Sinatra:

Apr. 23, 2017 Bebe clothing stores closes down: I'm surprised.  Lots of clothing stores are closing down ever since 2014, but you never know which is one is next.   I already put this on my Facebook status update that the Bebe in West Ed mall is closing.

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