Tuesday, December 1, 2009
With two cooks down, our pirate restaurant was up a creek without an oar. In my long journey from dishwasher to night manager, I, myself, passed briefly through the kitchen. I had applied myself both as a prep person and as a line cook and was barely mediocre in both positions. Truly talented chefs, the kind who can make lobster meat from codfish, serve 12 ounces of meat into a 16 oz. portion of prime rib and cajole an extra crate of lettuce out of the delivery guy, don’t come around every year. Adding to my anxiety was the fact that Dick or Paco or whoever he was (duped! I was duped!) was responsible for hiring some other kitchen workers whose legal status, in light of recent developments, now seemed questionable. Could Clint Eastwood and Steven King not be who they said they were?
It’s nice to have a restaurant that can cook food. But it’s not essential. As any bar-restaurant manager will tell you, the bar has greater potential for making money. In its best days, our bar took in $20,000 in a weekend. That’s when a Harvey Wallbanger cost $2.40. I won’t tell you how long ago it was when we pulled in $20K in a weekend, but people were still ordering Harvey Wallbangers. The crowds that used to show up at the disco every Friday and Saturday are probably doing the Hustle in their retirement communities. On any weekday since the first Bush Administration, you could fire a gun off at our bar and not hit anyone. This was a good thing, given the kind of clientele who haunted The Poop Deck.
It was generally said of the ‘Deck that it was where the pros go to drink. Whenever highway patrol was having one of their much-ballyhooed crackdowns on drunk driving, they’d park their cruisers across the street from Smug’s and write up our customers for D.U.I. and simple possessions until they ran out of tickets. The towing companies loved us. Recently, Smugglers’ Inn had settled out-of-court with the family of one man who had tried to drive under a semi truck after attending our 3 for 2 mojito night. The owners had not been amused.
So, the kitchen was a wildebeest preparing to cross the crocodile-infested river with a sucking chest wound. The bar had potential, but only if disco came back. You may think someone would take some kind of decisive action. The manager, perhaps? Sorry, Scout. I had gotten used to free hot meals and the occasional backrub from that cocktail waitress who really, really, needed a night off. Call me selfish, but after 30 years with the same employer, I was not eager to explore new career horizons. The last thing I was about to do was make a call that was likely to put me, and everyone else (but most importantly, me) out of a job. The Smuggies are no strangers to adversity. We’d pull the meat out of the dirt this time, too.
We always did.
TO BE CONTINUED.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Restaurant turned ad agency, Smugglers’ Inn, responded to a distress call from New Mexico recently. Local hamburger chain, Blake's Lotaburger, whose green chile cheeseburger had reigned unchallenged in the Land of Enchantment for 50 years, was taking a caning from a horde of national chains that had swept into the area with shiny new stores and 99-cent menus.
One of the assets that Lotaburger had was the funky burger joint ambiance of its 75 locations; no one was ever going to confuse them with McDonald’s or Sonic. Many locations were dominated by fifteen-foot metal representations of the founder, Mr. Blake, holding a sign. Some have remarked that Blake reminded them of an evil clown; others say he looks like George W. Bush. We dug the signs and were pretty sure they could be used for more than just trumpeting “best breakfast burrito in town” or “new blackberry shake”. (This latter message had been posted, at one store, for 3 years.) We wrote a dozen messages designed to stop traffic and, hopefully, generate some buzz for Lotaburger. In short order, pictures of the new signs were flying around the blogosphere. Local TV news ran stories on who was behind the strange messages, which was never revealed.
To see more from this campaign for Blake’s Lotaburger, as well as examples of our work for other client’s, click on our website link.