In the traditional restaurant a greeter meets you, an assistant greater seats you, a busboy brings you water and bread, a waiter takes your order. A different busboy then brings your appetizer, the waiter takes your order for the main course, a busboy brings the main course, the waiter then reappears to take your dessert order, with the dessert order the waiter takes your coffee order, your coffee comes, you sit over it for another half an hour, you then ask for the check and after some time you pay and stagger out. That can take a couple of hours.
Meanwhile, the restaurant owner is paying outrageous rent for space, a new minimum wage to the staff, and higher workman’s compensation fees. Is it any wonder that it’s hard for any but public companies with the benefit of public stock purchases to make a profit in the restaurant business? And even for them, it’s tough.
Some clever restaurant people are changing that algorithm, to one based on the sushi bar model. Take Uovo in Santa Monica. It takes up very little space. There are no waiters or busboys. Only one or two small tables. You go in, you sit at the bar, there is no appetizers or pre-dinner drink to mull over. You order a dish of pasta. It is made right in front of you and placed in front of you in minutes. It’s delicious. There is no dessert or coffee. After you gobble down the pasta you get out of the seat so someone waiting in line can take it. You pay at the cashier to free up the seat that much quicker. There is no tipping. That takes too much time.
The last time I was there I found the pasta carbonara too salty. The manager showed up and asked if everything was OK. I said it was too salty. She whisked the plate away and took a replacement order from me which was back in two minutes. The second plate was perfect. Service like this is hard to find.
Next door you find the same concept with hamburgers, although the quality of the food is inferior. Down the street is Kazu Nori with the same bar concept, no tables. Once you get through the line and sit down, a sushi hand roll expert listens to your order, makes it right in front of you, and plops in down on your plate. After you gobble down two or three, for about $15.00 total, you make room for the next customer and move to the cashier and out the door. Slam Bam Thank you Sushi Man.
So no more spending a relaxing evening out with a loved one, gazing into his or her eyes over a glass of wine, sinning with a forbidden dessert, and pondering over a tip.
I looked to see what the customers were doing. Most were texting on iPhones. Eating seemed a secondary concern. I was the only person there over 35. It’s truly a new era for food service. Maybe it’s a spinoff from the food truck culture. Whatever it is, I wish it would go away.
Kazu Nori is at 120 Broadway, SM tel 424-999-4594
Uovo is at 1320 2nd St Ste A, SM tel: (310) 425-0064
Your comments are always appreciated, even if negative. Harvey Frey wrote, regarding the Tumbi restaurant article: A ‘tamarin’ is a south American monkey. 😉 You meant ‘tamarind’, the fruit.”
My wife mentioned that a “d” was left off one word.
Such is life.
ANNOUNCEMENTS: BALTAIRE restaurant on San Vicente just started a happy hour from 3-6 PM. The appetizers are delicious and the drinks wonderful. And the general restaurant menu and wine list are incredibly mouthwatering if you can afford it.
Merv Hecht, like many Harvard Law School graduates, went into the wine business after law. In 1988, he began writing restaurant reviews and books. His latest book is “The Instant Wine Connoisseur” and it is available on Amazon. Or you might like his attempt at humor in “Great Cases I Lost.” He currently works for several companies that source and distribute food and wine products internationally. Please send your comments to: email@example.com.