Tuesday, February 14, 2012

the rumour mill grinds out a few tall tales

So winter has finally arrived to our little Hamlet, seemingly missing its cue throughout the past few months.  But despite the balmy temperatures, this fall, and indeed the season we just 'weathered', took its toll on more than a few "culinary destinations" here in Stratford.

Read on for a brief synopsis of the changes coming to our fair restaurants, some have already seen their demise but perhaps will be born again with new life.

Disclaimer: not all of the following information is based on fact, quite frankly it's pretty much based on nothing at all, other than the word of mouth from our fair citizens.  It is peppered with a little research, but, reader discretion is advised!

1. Ellam's may finally close its doors after what anyone would have to fairly call a good run.  Health and fire safety restrictions have already removed part of the shanty at the back of the building, expect more demo.  On the brighter side of things, we look forward to watching the transformation into Canada's first cockroach museum.

2. Duelling Thai; Stratford can't seem to embrace having just one of any kind of ethnic food downtown, we like to double down.  Two Thai restaurants will be opening this year a mere footed jaunt from one another, perhaps it was planned this way to allow for the rumoured sumo wrestling events between owners that will take place bi-weekly in Market Square.  Inflatable Sumo suits provided generously by the Party Supply Store.

3. Erie St. Kitchen; that's right, everyones favourite little sandwich shop tucked away on York st. will be giving up its name and possibly its popularity to venture across Ontario st. to a new address.  Alpha Beet, Veg Out and Menrui were all so successful I can understand why someone would want such a prime location.

4. The Church Restaurant, a name synonymous with dining in Stratford, may not open this year at all.  After 30 odd years as a restaurant they're going back to their roots.  Word is that Tom Cruise and John Travolta will be launching the new Canadian headquarters for the Church Of Scientology at the corner of Waterloo & Brunswick. This is what caused them to finally tear down the old eyesore next door.  Only the best of everything for the thetan cosmic life force.
(Tom Cruise slated to reprise his role from Tropic Thunder as a cameo appearance in various productions at the theatre this summer!)

5. Fear not, lovers of fish and chips done simply, Shawn's little venture may rise from the ashes as a gourmet wedding cake shop, seafoam green is this seasons colour afterall.  Details to follow...

6. A personal favourite of mine will be seeing some changes this year as well, Pazzo, both ristorante and pizzeria are on the hunt for new Chefs.  Perhaps Jeff and Larry can take over their respective kitchens to see the world through chef whites, they certainly have the fortitude for the job.

7. Taj Mah-Fall; unable to compete with its Indian focussed counterpart around the corner, Taj will be embracing its size this year and opening Stratford's first curry themed bowling alley.  Bahji will remain available as bar snacks for hungry bowlers.

8. Tango has closed and is rumoured to re-open as Cha-Cha's: an all male dance club reminiscent of Chippendales. Hoping breakfast will still be served, only now with extra sausage.

9. Whispers around the city suggest that Rundles will be raising its prices this year, pre fixe dinners will crest the $5000 mark for the first time in Stratford history; rumours of a new Mazzerotti purchase by Jim and Richard are apparently unrelated.

10. Big D's Demise; as forseen difficulties are associated with the location at 104-108 Downie st. it's really not a big surprise that this awkward space has defeated yet another restaurant.  Starbucks is eyeing the location.

11. Speaking of Starbucks; the giant coffee conglomerate has snuck into the core on the wings of Subway, now you can get a $5 footlong alongside your Venti-skim-soy-caramel-frappu-macciato.

If you have any additional rumours, or can lend truth or falsehood to these, please join the conversation below...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

please remain seated

Ok people.  This is a simple concept, when you are dining in a restaurant (perhaps with the exception of a diner or Cora's breakfast) you should not get up from your seat to pay your bill.  You may have noticed that your server has brought everthing else to your table throughout the course of your dining experience, there's a good chance they will also take payment while you are seated.

You may think that you are making it easier on your server by 'coming up to the machine' to pay.  This is not the case.  Here is why: your server is keeping an eye on your table and knows that he/she has just dropped off the bill and will come by in a few minutes to sort out payment.  When you vacate your table your server can lose track of you which will probably result in you asking another server to process your card/make change.  This may seem simple but servers have a list of things to do in their minds and for someone who is not taking care of your table, processing your bill is not on that list.

This is even more important when you are in a group of 6 or more, especially with separate cheques.  You may not notice in your oblivious bubble but crowding around the service stand (often where the debit/credit machine is located) makes it difficult for the servers who are using that area to get around you.  You were well situated around your table and now you are congesting the thoroughfares of the restaurant; blocking servers and guests alike.

This type of scenario also makes it more difficult for a server who is processing your multiple cheques to make sure that everyone has paid.  Again, everything is much simpler to do while everyone is seated so that someone doesn't skip on the bill.

The worst part of all of this is when you leave your table prior to getting your bill at all.  You then approach a random server and say "I'm ready to pay!" well that is so nice for you, I have no idea who you are, what you have eaten or who was serving you in the first place.  We then engage in a game of charades, "oh she was about this tall, about your height, hair down to about here, maybe blonde?"  Great, just a moment while I go find your server, ask what table you were at, try to describe you to your server in a similar charade fashion, borrow their swipe card to access your bill and then come back and print and process.  All of this takes more time than if you had just remained seated at your table until your own server had time to process your bill and though I'm sure you're not concerned about the other guests, I have to ignore my tables while I sort this out for you.

Now as always there are exceptions, if you have been waiting a really really really long time for your card to be processed then I can kind of understand.  But 6 minutes does not count as an eternity, have a little patience.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

please erect your tent if you intend to camp

Two ladies sit together in a booth, dinner has been ordered, served and cleared; coffee and dessert are long reduced to crumbs and rings on the table.  The bill has sat untouched for almost an hour and the conversation rages on...

It's been so long since you've seen each other, I know, you just want to relax and catch up and enjoy each other's company, I get it.  But what you are not considering is that you are reducing my income significantly by taking up a table long after you have eaten.

You see, in most restaurants each server has a section which is comprised of a specific number of tables.  Those tables represent the potential income, not only for the establishment in which you find yourselves, but more directly for the server in that section.  When you forge your way past lingering into the realm of camping we begin to get upset.

As with any industry there is an assumed amount of time it takes to process an order or deal with a client, the same goes for the restaurant biz, there is an average amount of time that it normally takes to 'turn the table'. Some other occupations charge by the hour so that they do not have to concern themselves with potential campers, we don't have that luxury.  Restaurants do not rent you a table for a specific fee but they do expect that once you have finished dining and enjoying the offereings of said restaurant that you will pay your bill and be on your way so that the next table may be given the same opportunity.

If you are planning to stay for the duration of an afternoon or evening it would be courteous to inform your server and perhaps include a little extra when it comes to paying the bill so that he/she does not lose out on a significant amount of income from that table.

Stratford is filled with lovely independent coffee shops that provide an atmosphere to linger in, have a few lattes and catch up on the last 20 years of your life there perhaps?