Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Open Thread #8

Since I'm too lazy to ever come up with any new content on here lately, I'll just make another open thread. This time, I'll start it off...

Topics covered: Olive Garden coming?, Boston's closing?, First Night, Mama Maria's, Suite 49, tipping and service in local restaurants, Winnipeg dining scene

54 comments:

GrandForksGuy said...

I'm dragging out that old Olive Garden rumor again. We've been hearing about the chain "maybe" coming to town on and off for years now. People seem to love spreading Olive Garden rumors. Seriously, I don't really understand what people see in over-priced pasta. Still, I know we really need one so people will stop going to Fargo just to eat at the Olive Garden.

Anyways, I've been hearing more and more rumbling about the Olive Garden coming to town in the last few days. Has anyone else heard anything? I heard that they are supposedly going into that bigger space in the new strip mall just northeast of Kohl's. I really don't think that spot is big enough and I think the Olive Garden would want their own building...not just a location in a strip mall. Anyways, that's what I've been hearing...

BTW, does anybody know if something new is in the process of coming to Columbia Mall's food court? One day, I noticed that they had installed a door in the board covering one of the empty spots...that usually seems to be an indication that something is one the way.

dale (google log in sucks) said...

I haven't heard anything, and the space in that strip mall is way too small for any non-fast food restaurant. I remember looking at it when there was speculation that Golden Corral was going in there and thinking that was ridiculous. There is more space further east on 32nd, past Sam's, but commercial growth down there seems pretty stagnant.

I have, on the other hand, heard that Bostons is probably on the way out. A friend of mine interviewed a (possibly) former employee, who said that the management knew about all of the complaints, and they were of the opinion that, when Texas Roadhouse opens, the plug would be pulled. It does always seem to be relatively busy, but I'm sure that there remains a limited market for that level of restaurant, and poorly operated ones will close as new options come available.

So you've possibly got that prime space, along with the Ground Round and Grizzel-bys within the mall lot, two other "less than stellar service" places that I'm continually amazed stay in business (though we went to Grizzlys a month or so ago and were pleasantly surprised by competant servers and a decent meal.)

Anonymous said...

Boston's is always packed - I don't know if they'll necessarily need to close. Time will tell.

Bob said...

I've heard the Olive Garden rumor again - showing interest in loans from a local bank to build in the University Village.

Coffee Guy said...

Would a company as large as Darden Restaurants need a loan from a local bank? I don't know, and I'm asking w/o any sarcasm (this time).

I wouldn't think that it could cost that much to build and start up a restaurant in Grand Forks, could it? I'm talking in the grand scheme of the Olive Garden/Red Lobster/etc. empire, that is.

Does anyone know if this is how large restaurant groups do things, by securing loans to build?

I just checked their financials, and their net earning for the FY ending May 2006 was $338 million.

Anonymous said...

Is the cost/benefit of First Night worth it? I know it's a big warm fuzzy for the do-gooders of the world but, a government agency set up to blow the private sector out of the water for one night? I just don't see it. Besides, every First Night I ever attended, I got liquored up and enjoyed my evening that much more. I highly recommend it!

mattfacingsouth said...

I was scheduled to play First Night, but they cancelled us to due budget constraints.

So we're playing Sanders instead.

Bottoms up!

Zaya said...

Regarding the loan: It would depend on how they handle their franchises. The "local owner" may be the one inquiring into the loan, not the corporation itself. You usually have to have proof of X amount of liquid capital to franchise, but that wouldn't necessarily prevent you from using a loan for start-up costs.

GrandForksGuy said...

If the Olive Garden were to build in University Village, what would that mean for Suite 49? Also, could a University Village location be tied into the hotel project that we've been hearing about?

WeatherGal said...

If you want good Italian try Mama Maria's. They have a killer canoli.

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine that Suite 49 does anything other than lose money as it is so hopefully they would close...
Here is an idea - whoever the local owner is should approach Suite 49 to use their building for the Olive Garden.

Anonymous said...

Suite 49 probably makes enough charging people $10 to park at the Ralph for hockey to cover any sort of shortfall in the restaurant biz.

ec99 said...

Mamma Maria's has gone down hill since the original owner sold out and went back east. Now the food is mediocre. Good service though.

Coffee Guy said...

Re: Olive Garden - They don't franchise. Hmmm....

Re: Mamma Maria's - the second owner sold it back to the original owner's son. At least this is the story last time I was in there and talked to him.

ec99 said...

Didn't know that. But it was the original owner who did the cooking.

Anonymous said...

Boston's is not closing. It was probably an employee who was fired talking trash. Boston's is getting better.

Anonymous said...

The original owner of Mamma Maria's (Vinny) is back, or at least has been the last few times I was in there.

Boston's is getting better? Well, it sure couldn't get much worse than it was when I was there about a month ago. Worst service I've EVER seen in a restaurant in Grand Forks. And, from what others have said, it's not an isolated thing.

Anonymous said...

What is it with restaurants in this town? We went to Green Mill after church on Sunday and it was horrible, service and food.

Anonymous said...

Are we going to bash restaurants again? I only have one thing to say, tell the managers. If you don't talk to the general or operating manager, then nothing will change. It really doesn't surprise me since they go from one restaurant to another.

It's the Christmas season and soon a new year. Can we get a positive thread going?

You do a great job grandforksguy! You update on a regular basis and keep us informed. Hope our finals went well. Happy Holidays!

Charlile said...

I'll second that; a positive thread would be most welcome. Sitting here, at this hour, trying to get back to sleep...and all I can think of is the young teacher that met me at the door at Holy Family yesterday. She was simply offering her assistance, and left me with a sincere, "Merry Christmas!" It took me by surprise, as we don't hear that so often these days. Like some songs, the words have been playing over and over since.

Ditto, too, GFG; love this blog...love that you take time to moderate it.

Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

How about a new blog dedicated to food and dining out in GF?

Anonymous said...

In reference to the comment about First Night GGF being a project of local government: Do your homework.

Friends of First Night® Greater Grand Forks is an independent 501(C)3 non-profit organization. The majority of funding is provided by corporate sponsorships, government grants, and private contributions with additional revenue generated through button and promotional item sales. In-kind assistance is donated by local government, businesses, and individuals in the form of office space, site space, equipment, materials, and employee time. Dozens of volunteers help make First Night® Greater Grand Forks a success.

Merry Christmas and a VERY Happy New Year!

Coffee Guy said...

How about a new blog dedicated to food and dining out in GF?

I've been tossing this idea around in my head for months. Anybody want in with me?

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Anonymous said...

I don't live in GF, but otherwise would love to join in. Have you seen the Zagat surveys? Started in NYC, but now all over. It would be great to maintain some form of ongoing ratings of restaurants...and maybe, ultimately a guide. It could be the start of a publishing empire ;)

Anonymous said...

As a former GF resident who did his fair share of waiting tables before leaving recently, I can say that the reason most diners in GF don't get good service is because the majority of people do not tip correctly in North Dakota. Combine that with restaurant owners that refuse to pay a decent wage to employees, and you get disenchanted waiters who couldn't care less if 75 year old "Mrs. Johnson from Hallock" has a problem with the pancakes she's already sent back twice because the edges were "too crispy".

The correct percentage to tip a server is 20% of the total or a minimum of $2.00. Don't like the percentage? Go to the managers and complain that the servers should be getting more than $3.25 an hour and that you should not be obligated to pay the server's wages when the restaurant is making up to 800% profit on items like coffee and fountain soda. And, of course, there is always the fact that if you have a family and can't afford the correct tip, maybe you should go to McDonald's, where you are not obligated to pay for the service. I have the EXACT same job here in Florida at the same restaurant chain that I did in Grand Forks, but the difference is that I make $16,800 MORE at this job than in GF. No Kidding.

Coffee Guy said...

The correct percentage to tip a server is 20% of the total or a minimum of $2.00.

No, the correct amount to tip varies according to the level of service, with 15% being the baseline for decent service and 20% for excellent service. With the exceptions of Sanders and Red Lobster, we have found the service in GF restaurants to be lousy. Even the service at the Toasted Frog is not all that good.

Maybe your presumptuous attitude is the reason why you (and your fellow servers?) received poorer than average tips. Or how about the fact that, depending on where you are in Florida, you might be dealing with wealthier seniors or vacationers, both of whom tend to tip better. The "75 year old Mrs. Johnson from Hallock" is the type of senior who is not wealthy enough to bug out of ND and spend the rest of her days in Florida.

Anonymous said...

Chicken or egg.

My mom, despite my constant pleadings, rarely tips even 15% no matter how great the service is.

Her logic? We pay the same prices for dining out as everywhere else in the country, but our wages are far below. While what she says IS true, her behavior is flawed and keeps server wages down.

Anonymous said...

Hey anon server dude...you are clueless. The reason you earned bad tips in G.F is because you're a bad server, evidently. I'm guessing the reason you make better tips now is because you have better management and training. I'm not going to go on and on here but...the problem is NOT the hourly wage. With an effort ALL servers should be able to walk with, on average, over 20 bucks an hour. You raise the wages $1/hr. and guess what? You now go from $20/hr to $21/hr BUT...your employer has now increased their labor costs by THOUSANDS of dollars a year. AND, now you work at a business that is less healthy.

Servers that are new to the business have 2 major issues working against them...#1 They don't realize how much "side-work" there is and...they look at their tip income from table to table, rather than a longer period, say...one week. When you do this, it enables you to operate more effectively. Know what? Low tippers is part of the gig, accept it and live with it! What's happening now is you're dwelling on it and it's effecting your abilty and, you're probably gossiping/complaining to the other servers and now...you have a cancer where you work.

Hold your head up...you make $20/hr+ working part time! The alternative is work-study or a Blockbuster, for example, earning 1/2 (or less) of what you make now.

The mesaage of your post is..."I'm a bad server and earned bad tips because of it". Yawn. Yes, you are a bad server.

Anonymous said...

OMG,

Dear Mr./Ms. Florida. As a New Yorker who travels there regularly, it has a reputation for for bad service. Ask anybody. The reason servers do well there is because they add a service charge for European visitors who are used to not tipping or rounding up to the nearest dollar.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how people here will inevitably turn every topic into a discussion about bad food/service at a restaraunt.

How about you cook a damn meal every now and then instead of dining out every night?

Coffee Guy said...

I'm opening my house and cooking a "damn meal" for 23 adults and 13 children this weekend, most of whom I have never met, or have only spoken to for no more than 5 minutes at a time. We do it because it's the friendly and neighborly thing to do. When was the last time you did anything like that?

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Anonymous said...

CG, will you be providing damn fine napkins for your guests?

Coffee Guy said...

You're darn tootin'!

GrandForksGuy said...

Gee, you guys sure like any thread dealing with restaurants, don't you? We must have a bunch of foodies (fatties?) here...

Has everybody noticed what someone just posted in the previous Capone's thread? As of today, the sign in front of the building says "For Sale".

Anonymous said...

I'm glad Winnipeg restaurants are only 2 hours away. We're tired of mediocre food and bad service in Grand Forks and after "discovering" Winnipeg a couple years ago, try to make it up there every other month. Their diversity of restaurants, as well as service, price, and quality are great compared to the offerings in Grand Forks. What do we expect, Grand Forks is a small town...

GrandForksGuy said...

I have to say that I have never been very impressed with the service I've received at Winnipeg restaurants. On several visits, I've found the waitstaff to often be extremely slow.

As a whole, I've always thought the Winnipeg dining scene is a little overrated.

dale said...

I'd concur with generally slow service in Winnipeg... we were up there earlier this year and endured glacially slow service. I'm okay with that, though -- when I'm up there, it's on holiday, so I'm generally not in that big of a hurry.

Beach Bum said...

Ok,

First things first. We don't "add a service charge for European visitors who are used to not tipping" or "round up to the next dollar" on the bill totals down here in Tampa. You must vacation in Orlando if you think that is how Florida is for service. Tourist traps like those found in and around Orlando are ABSOLUTELY NOT an indicator of how service is in Florida.

Second, whether the standard is 15% or 20%, it's still a far cry from the BS tips I got up in Podunk from the tight-wad, subsidized millionaire beet farmers who shuffled their pig-crap-covered boots into civilization every weekend looking to cheat a free meal out of everybody. Look, if you can't afford to tip when you come to town to go to Wal-Mart, pack a lunch, okay?! And to imply that farmers are poor is ignorant. Every damn one of those people rolled up in late model Caddies and Lincolns.

Oh, and is it "presumptuous" of someone to expect more than a damn church flyer on the table when you've been running coffee to people who have been holding one of your tables hostage for over an hour and keeping paying customers from being sat there?

I apologize for my tone here. I don't mean to argue with anyone, in fact I'm actually a fan of yours, Coffeeguy. It's just that I actually enjoyed living in ND, and I had to leave the state I was born in because I couldn't make enough money to live. God knows I wouldn't trade the weather down here, but I just wish that ND would catch up with the rest of America so some of us displaced souls could come home and have a decent life, and not have to trek miles and miles just to see family and friends...

Anonymous said...

You traveled cross country to get a better paying waiter job?

Anonymous said...

Wow. Disgruntled server goes postal, holds customers hostage with a butter knife. Full story at 6 and 10...

Anonymous said...

Did you see the paper yesterday? Let me get this straight; FEMA has directed the city to tell the Nation how great they are? What a joke.

How many tens of millions did the city spend illegally? Then, FEMA decides to back off on collecting the funds because it would tank poor little Grand Forks and make FEMA look bad; again.

It's too bad all the real stories of misconduct will forever be buried and not see the light of day.

Anonymous said...

When someone like anonymous accuses people of doing something illegal, he/she should be willing to put name to suggestion. Quite frankly the individual has no idea what they are talking about. I would bet they did not have any direct contact with FEMA or any other entity involved.

Please give direct charges of misconduct or illegal activity made by FEMA and where they were filed or get a life.

Anonymous said...

Maybe someone can post a link to an archived story about FEMA's OWN audit regarding how G.F. misspent the CDBG funds. It was covered in The Herald. Start there.

Really...who cares? It's history. The point is...the Grand Forks "recovery" isn't worth boasting. If you're the type to celebrate a massive disaster...knock yourself out.

You say the anon "has no idea what they're talking about". Frankly, there's 100's of people in town that know what she/he is talking about.

Your anon -vs- anon angle is cute too.

Anonymous said...

Yeah. And FEMA is planning to infect us with an alien virus through bee stings. I know, 'cause I saw it in a movie.

Anonymous said...

I actually enjoy the slower dining pace I have experienced in Winnipeg, it doesn't feel like they are trying to get you in and out ASAP. I've ate at several great Thai, Ukranian, Ethopian, and Italian restaurants there, and I wouldn't call them overrated. The only lousy experiences I have experienced there is when I ate at large chain restaurants (Don't go to Montana's or Moxie's or the Old Spaghetti Factory unless you love Grizzly's/Ground Round/AppleBee's/Green Mill)
Also, stay away from the revolving restaurant tourist trap, that is overpriced with mediocre foot.

Anonymous said...

mmmm, foot.

DrJ said...

Having just moved here from the East, I am sad to say that most of the posters are correct...the restaurants here are BAD, except for Sanders, Green Mill, RL and Applebees (if you can navigate through the Snowmobile-coat-wearing crowd of people, and I use that term loosely.) At least with the University here, the city is a little more refined than it would be otherwise. Although not a snob, I do enjoy dining out with my husband as time permits; although I can cook a damn-fine damn meal when called upon. Now, would someone please explain to me why isn't there a decent Italian restaurant here???

mattfacingsouth said...

Or Thai, or Mexican, or...

FWIW, it's a LOT better than when I moved here in 1999.

John Blaze said...

Grand Forks is getting much better as far as progress, dining options, etc. It will continue to improve in the next few years as the entire town is growing.

Anonymous said...

Applebees and Green Mill are good?
Just like all the other restaurants, it can be good one day and bad the next.

Anonymous said...

"snowmobile coat wearing"

Real classy post from you, if you don't like the people here, you shouldn't have moved. Do you want us to bash people from out East also?

Anonymous said...

Grand Forks' Third Law....

For every citizen longing for population growth, there's two equal and opposite xenophobes.

Now share some lefse and make up.

DrJ said...

Go ahead, bash away if you like. Yankees like myself can take a little criticism.
And, um...what exactly IS lefse?? I see they sell it at the Stamart travel plaza, but that's pretty scary.
If you'll try some Maple-sugar-on-snow, then I'll try lefse. Heck, I'll do just about anything once!

Anonymous said...

I've waited tables in Grand Forks, and I've known plenty of other people who have waited tables. We all made roughly 20% on our tips.

Canadians are the worst tippers. Old farmers are usually pretty bad, too. I pity the waitstaff at the Bronze Boot for that.

To the person from our East: We don't have an Italian place here because no Italians live in Grand Forks. I, like most others, couldn't tell the difference between a can of Prego and your mama's homemade sauce.