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Thursday, June 24, 2010

DeRushaEats: Service Matters & Soda Prices

Two topics for the price of one:

Last night my wife and I were dispatched to Molly Cool's in Lakeville for a mini-review in an upcoming Minnesota Monthly. It was my first time at this place, and the server came out with a great attitude. I looked at the menu (which was huge!) and asked what was good. Brian Brent started telling us some things, then he said, "I've eaten absolutely everything on this menu. It's 55% fantastic, 40% really good, and 5% eh."

How awesome is that? I'm sure restaurant managers and chefs don't want their staff describing the food as 5% "eh," but as a diner, it was so refreshing to have a server who has tried everything. I can't tell you how many times I've gone out to eat, asked about a dish and heard, "I'm a vegetarian, so I haven't tried any of the meat." What? I'm sorry. Not that vegetarians should be disqualified from working as a server... Ok, now that I think about it, maybe vegetarians should be disqualified from working as a server.

Brian Brent forgot to bring my wife her starter salad, and we didn't even care. He was great. And we had a really nice experience, ordering things that were indeed in that 55% category. Great service matters.

Issue #2: The price of soda. Or is it pop? Or soda pop? Whatever you call it. I'm a Diet Coke drinker. Well, I'm actually a gin drinker, but that seems wrong for lunch. This week I had a pretty good lunch at Jason's Deli in Eden Prairie (they have organic raspberry vinaigrette dressing—almost all of their food is fresh and organic). The lunch special was $8, I added the salad bar for $1 (well worth it—the salad bar is a great deal!), and then a soda which cost $1.99.

Diet Coke is super cheap for restaurants; the cost of the cup is generally higher than the actual product. And $1.99 isn't even that bad. I've seen soda for $2.50-$3. Isn't this getting out of control? It takes a reasonable $9-$10 lunch and pushes it to $11-$13. And that seems like too much, doesn't it?

What's the highest price you've seen? Can we demand a revolution in soda pricing? Or do I just need to skip my soda addiction?

Molly Cool's Seafood Tavern
17516 Dodd Blvd, Lakeville

Jason's Deli
11995 Singletree Lane, Eden Prairie

Posted on Thursday, June 24, 2010 in Permalink

Comments may be edited for length, clarity, or appropriateness.

Old to new | New to old
Jun 24, 2010 12:41 pm
 Posted by  davincidad

Soda prices for restaurants aren't quite as drastically cheap as some people think when you take into account most places offer free refills. The average customer ends up refilling once so the food cost of the $2 soda ends up around 40 to 50 cents--about 20 to 25 percent. Most restaurants I've worked for have an overall food cost between 24 and 30 percent. The seeming imbalance is one of those things that helps boost the bottom line which if you're good will be 8 to 10 cents on the dollar.

I agree it's awesome that Brian has apparently tried everything on the menu, likes most of it, and admits there are a few items that are "eh". It is frustrating from the management side to have employees flat out say "I don't eat ______", but I never asked my employees to lie about liking/not liking something. Servers who haven't tried items for one reason or another should be prepared to say something like "I haven't tried that dish but my other guests have said ________ about it."

Jun 24, 2010 09:49 pm
 Posted by  peter_mpls

Get over your soda addiction. High fructose corn syrup / aspartame, caramel color, caffeine, a little sodium benzoate for fun... Do these products have anything to do with food - really? Water - in a cup - free and better for you.

Jun 25, 2010 08:28 am
 Posted by  minim

Aw. Don't give the Soda Police an opening, Jason. If you like a soda with your meal, you have every right to one.

Jun 25, 2010 12:46 pm
 Posted by  Morchella

It strikes me as a bit odd to fault someone's ethics if they haven't eaten everything on the menu.

Different restaurants have different benefits for servers- tasting everything on the menu is encouraged and easy at some and expensive and time consuming at others.

I always ask for recommendations from servers and sometimes I'm steered right and sometimes wrong. If they're a good server, whether or not they are rich, vegetarian, self-proclaimed foodies, etc., doesn't really matter.

Jun 25, 2010 01:15 pm
 Posted by  ElsaM

I can see your point about vegetarian servers, but I think you have to take into account that the server sees what dishes are successful or generally liked by customers, even if s/he doesn't eat them. If a particular dish is getting sent back, not eaten, or complained about, the server would definitely notice. Same if it's getting raves and recommendations. You don't have to eat it yourself to notice.

Jun 25, 2010 02:21 pm
 Posted by  Jason DeRusha

That's a fair point: that servers notice what gets sent back. But it is hard to give a real recommendation if you haven't tasted it, isn't it?

Jun 25, 2010 06:12 pm
 Posted by  bud dingler

soda is cheap because the federal government subsidizes the over production of corn that is used to make the cheap corn syrup filler found in just about any product imaginable.

Jun 25, 2010 07:58 pm
 Posted by  mtullius

I really don't expect a server to have tried everything on the menu. More important is if he/she can DESCRIBE everything on the menu, which is not dependent on having tried it. After all, taste is subjective, so if one server says he doesn't care for a dish, I might love it. But a good description should actually help me decide.... e.g., "if you like XXXX, you will probably like this." or, "it's very XXXX, not so much XXX." That kind of thing. That, plus a good server will be able to say, "other customers thought XXX," or "my colleagues tell me XXX" about a dish they've never tried, for whatever reason. I think vegetarianism is not the issue.

Jan 1, 2011 02:28 pm
 Posted by  zpgmom

Very disappointed in this "review". Nowhere does Jason even mention the food he ordered at Molly Cool's! Glad that you liked your server, but I actually wanted to know about what food was good there. How can you do a restaurant review without mentioning one dish that you ordered? And Diet Coke isn't food, and I don't want to read about it in a restaurant critic's column. No food was reviewed here-- unbelievable, really.

Jan 2, 2011 09:10 pm
 Posted by  Jason DeRusha

ZPGMOM: This is a blog, not a review. In fact, in the second paragraph of this blog entry I wrote about the fact I was sent to Molly Cool's "for a mini-review in an upcoming Minnesota Monthly."

For your convenience, here's the link to the review: http://www.minnesotamonthly.com/media/Minnesota-Monthly/August-2010/Sun-Sip-Sup/index.php?cparticle=3&siarticle=2

Thanks for visiting the blog!

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