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Thursday, November 1, 2012

DeRushaEats: The $5 Thimble of Juice

The more I eat out, write about eating out, and eat out with my family, the more I realize I'd never want to run a restaurant. The line between success and failure can be just one small thing.

That one thing, for my mom, was a $5 tiny glass of fresh squeezed orange juice.

My family visited from Chicago a couple weeks ago, and we took my parents, my kids, and my cousins to a restaurant in Minneapolis. The food was great, the hosts were gracious, I really enjoyed it.

There was a kids menu, reasonably priced at $6-$7, with delicious, fresh, wonderful food. But it didn't include a drink. My five-year-old asked for orange juice, and out came a little glass of freshly squeezed OJ.

It was probably 4 ounces. $5. I didn't think much of it—it's freshly squeezed, it probably took a couple oranges, what's an orange or two cost in October in Minnesota?

But when we left, my mom said, "I'd never go there again." I was surprised—she liked her food. I asked "Why?"

"Sammy's breakfast cost $12," she said. "$5 for an orange juice? You've got to be kidding me."

One small thing.

As writers, we talk so much about the quality of the food, the execution, the ingredients, the concept. We don't talk enough about service, in my view, because I think that's one of the most important things real customers care about.

But a restaurant can nail all of that, and still lose a customer because of one small thing.

I'm not sure what to make of it. Is my mom right? I don't know. Is it crazy to spend $5 on a 4-ounce drink for a five-year-old? Is $5 too much for freshly squeezed orange juice? Probably not.

If you have a kids menu, should you include a drink? I don't think so, but I do think you should offer a kids-sized, kids-priced drink.

I'd be interested in your thoughts on this. What's the one small thing that's kept you from coming back to a restaurant? The one small thing that makes you fall in love with a place? And what is the right approach to a kids menu?

Bottom line: It goes to show you how tough it is to succeed in the service industry. One small thing. That's all it takes.

Posted on Thursday, November 1, 2012 in Permalink

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

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Nov 1, 2012 03:15 pm
 Posted by  Kristin Boldon

I ate lunch at a new place last week. I was trying to keep costs down, so ordered one of the least expensive items on the menu, which was $9. I also ordered a cup of coffee.

The food was great, the coffee was great, but I was a little surprised when the bill came and was higher than I expected. The cup of coffee was $3, a third of the price of food. Was it good? Yes. Was $3 a fair price for it? Maybe, as I suspect the beans were top notch. Yet something about the $3 mug of black coffee bugged me in the same way that a $5 juice bugged your mom. And I think it speaks to how precarious a thing a restaurant experience can be, made up of so many factors.

Nov 1, 2012 03:51 pm
 Posted by  Jason DeRusha

That's a really great insight Kristin. It's funny how we have these gut check reactions to various prices.

Nov 1, 2012 09:46 pm
 Posted by  MaryHansonPhotography

I'm with your Mom. $5 for a 4 oz glass of OJ, fresh squeezed or not, is ridiculous. I wouldn't go back. Kids meals should be cheaper so families will be able to go out and the adults will pay more for their meals. Also, my next pet peeve is kids meals that end at age 10. My kids never eat much, except for my almost 15 yr old, so it is annoying to have to spend $10 bucks on a burger for a kid who won't eat half of it. If you want families to patronize you, include kids meals with drinks until age 12. My .02.

Nov 2, 2012 09:03 am
 Posted by  MarkMac

We went to a new area rest. that just opened in THE LYNNhurst neighborhood, we went on day 2 of breakfast/lunch service.

2 kids/2 adults. No kids menu, but they had pancakes. 1 for $6. We ordered it for my daughter - and we got one (maybe) 5" diameter pancake on a large plate, no side/meat, not even a orange wedge or strawberries for $6. SIX DOLLARS for a 5" pancake. This wasn't a side item, this was a breakfast entree. It was outrageous. I know there is food cost and some items offset others - but a pancake is flour and water and eggs.. maybe this cost .40 cents to make. (We were at Victors 1959 this weekend - $3.50 for a dinner plate sized pancake with mango or banana etc...so that is a fair comparison).

Our entire breakfast was north of $45 and I will never go back. The prices were overall really high, the portions on the small side too. I think what bothered me the most was that this was a place that claimed its concept (back before opening) was neighborhood/family friendly/a place to come for food and to hangout with your neighbors. With those kinds of prices, no kids menu or even kid-sized/priced options, etc. forget it.

I have heard they have a $14 hamburger... wow that will no doubt go over well with the casual neighborhood diner...

Nov 2, 2012 09:49 am
 Posted by  thatkarens

One small thing, indeed. Kids meals should include a drink.
Write more about service. Great food and good prices are only made better if the folks delivering it you are doing their part as well.

Nov 4, 2012 02:53 pm
 Posted by  Stu

At BLG the service was very good. The menu selection was very good. The quality and quantity of the items served were very good. Beverage selection was very good. The noise level was painful. It made me physically ill, such that I had to go stand outside on Washington Ave. to clear my head and rest my hearing. I became hoarse from shouting. Will never return just because of this one non-food or service related issue.

Nov 4, 2012 06:30 pm
 Posted by  Jason DeRusha

STU- noise level is a big one. If I were a regular reviewer - I would include a decibel reading in a text box. I'm surprised at how loud some restaurants are. I should do a story with a restaurant designer on why some places are so loud, and why they choose not to design them to be quieter.

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TC Taste answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally bring the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Minnesota Monthly editor-in-chief Rachel Hutton, Sustainable Food Correspondent Marie Flanagan, Chef Jason Ross, Food Writer Joy Summers, and Drinks & Real Food Senior Editor Mary Subialka. Learn more about the TC Taste bloggers.

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