Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Over the last several weeks I have heard a lot of laughter amongst my friends about "ludicrous" advertisements that are (captioned ridiculously for liability reasons)and tag lines that are laughable so, I thought, this could be a blog! The above situations made me ponder this topic...but there are so MANY inaccuracies where do I start or what example should I use? Then I went shopping this weekend before the show and it HIT ME, my latest experience (of which I have had many at this chain) was a PERFECT example! For which I thank them! I will not mention the chain but their advertising tag line is "where shopping is a pleasure"...a "PLEASURE"? Hmmmmm. Merriam Webster defines "pleasure" as "a feeling of happiness, enjoyment, or satisfaction : a pleasant or pleasing feeling" so is the definition I will go by. So let's look at the "PLEASURE" experience on any given day at this heavily add conscious company. I offer my thoughts predicated on MY particular criteria for choosing a place to shop(over the years I have found that MANY of you use the same criteria in no particular order). I use convenience, pricing, selection, the checking out process as my benchmarks, I also look toward customer service throughout the store but we all know most not all are poor at that! Convenience...is it "a feeling of happiness" to walk into different locations under the same name and spend literally hours trying to figure out where items are in that location...i.e. shredded cheese NOT in the dairy section but in the frozen food section with pizzas and frozen veggies...or hot dogs in the beer section sted the meat section...with every store making their own decision as to where THEY feel it should go..I could go on. Not to "pleasurable" to me. Pricing...consistently higher prices at these locations is it "enjoyable" to pay more for less...not in my mind. Selection...I walk in with a list of 10 items and am lucky to walk out with 5 after spending hours wandering around look for what I was able to find...am I "satisfied"? Not really! Checking out...how many times I have had 5 or less items and I have to stand in line at the 10 or less line because the customer service window is already occupied and the other lines (only 1/3rd of the lanes are open) they have baggers who want to run your groceries at every open lane but NEVER enough open lanes...in my last experience at said establishment I finally noted a glimmer of experimentation with scan your own (which my choice has had for several years)...however, they had a first screen that you could not advance past so scan your products until you entered 1 for English 2 for Spanish...REALLY? No satisfaction here! So, when a company heavily promotes in their advertising "where shopping is a pleasure", I wonder, who is receiving the "pleasure" surly NOT the average customer...wait, I know, the shareholders...unfortunately this chain has done well for them...but trust me friends it will not continue...their outdated and slow to grow with trends will lead to customers going to the competition in increasing numbers (I know a number that have left the above) as the competition is VERY aware of new customer concerns and needs and are reacting to them...like increased selection (including grab-and-go meals, organic, manning all lines during prime shopping times, offering easy scan your own, better pricing while offering bonuses for reducing your gas bill and working diligently at improving in areas where they are weak! I guess the old adage if you say it long enough people will believe it may be true at least in this particular case...but I am also confident and in my limited research I have found that another old adage is also true...fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on ME. If you think this one example of questionable advertising is just an anomaly, you would be right, however, I could give many more examples...neither time nor my fingers would allow it so I will leave you with this wildly expensive ad campaign offering...it will be "cheaper, better and give EVERYBODY unparalleled access to...healthcare"! So before you create a tag line to best represent your company in it's adds...think about it...be cautious and accurate so that your tag lines don't become a laughable JOKE line! Although a good JOKE can bring great "Pleasure" at least by Merriam Webster's definition.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
We ALL have heard the old adage "the customer is always right" at some time in our lives and when I heard it recently I found myself saying NO, THEY ARE NOT. Below are the reasons and my thoughts as to why I have come to this conclusion, I offer examples and solutions you may not agree with but I hope it makes you think and for those of you SMART ENOUGH (lol) to agree I hope you will help to try and evoke change. When I was younger there was a thing called SHAME...it was something that was foisted upon you by society as well as by ones self if they were brought up right. It was something you NEVER wanted to face but inevitably did and you tried to keep away from it as much as possible. Complaining was something you rarely did in public but if you were forced to it had meaning, complaining was something you did not want to have to do and you certainly did not want to do anything that warranted complaints to be directed to you, compensation for your complaining just was not something you accepted except under the harshest of situations. Lack of shame and constant complaining for compensation are just 2 REASONS why I truly believe that the customer is NOT always right. An example I KNOW you all have experienced...you walk into any store with an express lane you pick up a couple of items and you are in a hurry there will inevitably be someone in the express lane that didn't want to wait in a regular line like most folks with their basket full of products, so they chose the express lane for THEIR convenience...the customer is NOT always right. When challenged, and I have challenged people on a number of occasions the response is "f" off or something along the lines of challenging my heritage or my mothers sexual proclivities...the customer is not always right. I was told about 6 months ago by a customer that they would NEVER tell a colleague at work about my former restaurant of employment as their colleague would come in almost every day bragging about how they had "beat" a restaurant out of a free meal by complaining (whether true or not). Or, the customer that would come in and not PAY for fries as he felt they were too expensive and then when food was delivered complain that their fries were forgotten and begin to raise hell...the list goes on and I bet you could add to this list quite easily! I was in a store in Panama City recently where a young gal had hot pink shorts that bore some commercial logo, had a shopping cart full of pre-packaged beef loins, she had half a dozen...she also had a number of other food only items that seemed excessive (all large packaged meat items), she then proceeded to run her ebt credit card and decided she had some extra money, sooooo, she got a couple of Starbucks coffees out of the cooler and realized she still had some left over soooo, she bought a pack of beef jerky, no shame, a customer that certainly wasn't right, all the time, I stood behind the young lady and her friend as they discussed their plans for the evening...and work was not in the plans! As a society that unfortunately is becoming increasingly "low information", we are teaching our kids that 1+1=3 is not wrong if you can explain it, a society where EVERYONE is a winner and that there are no losers, we are giving people free smart phones, govt credit cards and in return expect nothing. People laugh at the "scams" that people pull and get away with. We are becoming a society of entitlement regardless of how little is given. The result, we are creating a society, of whiners, cheaters, takers and "low information, low productivity" "customers" that will, lie, cheat, and do whatever under the banner of the "customer is always right" and feel perfectly entitled to do so. Companies giveaway billions in profits every year to "complaining customers" so they can be done with it and then are vilified for being rich money grabbing capitalists. To many small companies and businesses run into the same problems and they are afraid to say or do anything but "give in" for fear of being social media massacre victims. My solution, let's all do our part and let's reintroduce shame into society for wrongdoing or misbehavior, take a stand against those that are scamming businesses of all sizes and hold our governmental leaders to a standard that helps people with a "hand up" instead of a "hand out". I truly believe that a vast majority of people agree with me, however, I also believe that they would rather sit idly by and complain rather than take action and face the wrath of the individual or group that is being challenged...if we ALL work together to make changes to the above issues the old adage the "customer is always right" may once again mean something, better still we as a society will be MUCH better off and the whiners and complainers will be relegated to the proverbial "ash heap" where I believe they belong!
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
I am sure y'all can probably remember where you were on 9/11 I can. What I remember most was the tears, the hurt, the sorrow I felt for all of the innocence lost and the brave responders and heroes that were lost...I will never forget. I also remember the pride in my country after that tragedy, the way we all pulled together and gave back better than we got...but never better than we lost! Alas, this anniversary year again brings tears to my eyes but for a totally different reason...my country that was hit on that tragic day came back even stronger, our leadership was strong and resolute our action decisive and we were all proud to be Americans...my how times have changed. I cry for my country now, not only for the loss remembered but for the ebbing away of my country from what it was to what it is. I never dreamt I would see MILLIONS and MILLIONS on food stamps, MILLIONS and MILLIONS not working and an equal amount quit working. Free phones, free healthcare, amnesty for MILLIONS, diplomats slaughtered in Benghazi, thousands gassed in Syria, transgendered bathrooms for kids, 1 plus 1 equals 3 is an okay answer if you can give the teacher your thought process...really, I would have slammed Mr. Crabtree's geometry class if that happened back when I was in school....people are turning to a rudderless, leaderless govt floundering at home and worse abroad but beating the chest of "see what I've done"...this my friends is why my tears flow...this country of self reliance, limited government, take personal responsibility, a country that celbrate the small businessman who created and flourished and wealth and success were something to be admired and a goal to be achieved, where children WANTED to be President, policemen and firefighters instead of hip-hoppers, lude exhibitionists and pro athletes...a country where everyone from everywhere was welcomed with open arms through LEGAL quotas that lead to LEGAL citizenship...so my tears flow today and tomorrow and probably for many more days to come as I watch a once great and proud country become a European socialist disaster and our leaders continue to find ways to GIVE more and more away to create a majority of takers and those that are taken from have less and less and the United States becomes nothing more but a sad footnote in history and historians will scratch their heads and say...REALLY they were that stupid...they really believed that giving everybody everything from the backs of the creators was the way to go....did they not have tens of examples from history to learn from? Really? What a tragedy...what a waste...May God bless the America I knew and may he give us his grace to open our eyes before it's too late...I would love nothing more but to shed tears of happiness like the famous picture of the Frenchmen watching US troops march in as the Nazis thrown out during WWII...HE knew tears of happiness...I hope we do too...may this 9/11 anniversary begin the reawakening of our great country...WE CAN DO IT...one proud American at a time...Take our country back!!!!
Saturday, August 31, 2013
Parramore Too, the way restaurants should be!!! Ordinarily, I wait till a third trip to a dining establishment before I make up my mind as to it’s merits or demerits whatever the case may be but this “mom and pop” tucked away on a little side road in he small town of Blountstown, Fl (35 miles NW of Mexico Beach or 25 miles SW of Marianna, Fl…if this helps) doesn’t need this admirers “third trip” to realize what a GREAT little spot to rest and dine and take some leftovers AND money home with you. Parramore Too was recommended to me by the great folks at another treasure in this small town…Panhandle Settlement…”your hungry Fatman and want good food for a good price try Paramore Too”, I did and the rest is as we might say is histoire! First you must understand this is a WELL KNOWN spot in the REGION, thusly, this establishment that seats probably close to 100 with both sides, kind of off the beaten path is busy…all of the time, my first encounter was on a Tuesday fresh catfish and shrimp special day I drove around the building twice and waited 5 minutes to get a parking spot…it’s one of the locals favorite days. Let’s see I had the special which was 4 nice sized (fresh farm raised catfish fingers, that were more like small fillets, lightly breaded and fried to perfection, two sides, from a list too numerous to mention but mostly homemade(they do as much “homemade” as possible and practicle), dessert, tea (sweet and unsweet with pitchers at the table and the tea was not acidy or skunky like “used” tea can be) oh and hush puppies, and if you choose you may have bread and butter pickles and fresh slices of onion at the table to snack on…and snack on I did. I might mention the price of this midday feast….$5.95, now if you have a bigger appetite you may add half a dozen fresh gulf shrimp or more catfish fillets…I mean fingers for …$2.00…really…I am not kidding and everything was tasty and cooked well. From the time I walked in to this very busy gem I was impressed, the service VERY GOOD, locals that really seem to like to work there the prices way beyond fair with the portions outstanding. The servers were quick, efficient and PROUD of their restaurant and the way they bragged about the restaurant and their food you would of thought they all owned it. My last trip we had Lori as our server and she was just perfect, even though we came in late and they were fairly close to closing, she did not rush us, and all the staff did their closing procedures quietly, efficiently and without making me feel like we were a bother…things just hummed. The second trip was the evening I just mentioned above and we had the special…8 catfish fingers/fillets, two sides, tea or coffee, bread and butter pickles, onions and hushpuppies $10. Yep, that’s it. It was everything the first was but this time I was with the “beast” and she had different sides (cheesy grits, and fried okra) and she was very pleased and really liked Parramore Too (they used to have two locations but they decided to have a bigger one and focus on it and they have and they do!) A simple menu built around the two star items fresh farm raised catfish and fresh gulf shrimp and local seafood when available and for those that don’t like seafood ( which is three quarters of the menu) Parramore Too has steaks, and ham and other country delights with their daily “specials” that really are specials. Open M-Sat for lunch and dinner this is a great restaurant to “drive a little out of the way to try”, but, I warn you this is NOT a restaurant for the “light” eater or nibbler (unless you want to take a whole lot of food home)…this is a restaurant that has the local charm, excellent food, very good service and a ticket that will leave you smiling and telling everyone you know about Paramore Too…but hey, just remember where you heard it first…OK. Just a final note bring CASH as they like Panhandle Settlement are NOT able to process cards…but hey they are local and trusting so they WILL take a check! Parramore Too is truly the way this writer believes a restaurant SHOULD be! Can’t wait to get back…I wonder what the special will be…hmmmmm…..
Thursday, August 22, 2013
“One can never truly appreciate what one has until one understands what got them there” (one of my own undeniable truths of life). I have always appreciated the importance of history to our future and I recently discovered this wonderful little jewel known as Panhandle Pioneer Settlement http://www.ppmuseum.org/visit.htm) located in the beautiful Sam Atkins state park in Blountstown, Fl. (approximately 50 miles slightly southeast of Dothan, Al and approximately 25 miles south of Marianne, Fl.) and this place truly appreciates history in a way seldom found today. Panhandle Pioneer Settlement is a wonderful and loving tribute to a bygone era that has been painstakingly rebuilt on the inside and out with an amazing attention to detail. This 18 building living tribute to times long gone is the dream of co-founder Willard Smith. Willard was concerned at an early age that the wonderful time in which he was raised might be forgotten and that the rich cultural history of his area would be nothing but a passing memory. So in July of 1989 with the help and support of fellow co-founder his charming and actively involved wife Linda, the two set out to make Willard’s early childhood dream become a reality and they did so with uncanny accuracy and respect to the young Willard’s earliest vision. A tour of this immaculately trimmed and lusciously green quiet and peaceful homage to an era from early 19th to mid 20th century begins (where else other than the center of social life for all local citizenry at the time) the general store, as you tour the settlement, you can’t help but be impressed with the creativity and the cleverness of local pioneers/citizens of the area from the mud and stick chimney’s, to the graves (not real gravesites) covered with shells and broken crockery to prevent erosion and animal intrusions. Panhandle has three different type of log cabin joints showcased amongst their buildings that most would never have known about, however, at Panhandle Settlement they are showcased and described in detail with the wonderful volunteer tour guides like Darryl Taylor (the retired Supt. of schools for the Blountstown area who actually attended a one room school house exactly like the one in the settlement). From a local 1942 gymnasium to an 1820 log cabin, the blacksmith shop and the old Methodist church with everything in between you are whisked away to a time that should NEVER be forgotten and don’t miss a stop by Doc Dowling’s office a revered Dr. from the early to mid 20th century who’s career included the assisting of the births of over 4,600+ children during his 51 year tenure as the “local doc” his hat still sits on his desk in his office and you would swear that he would show up any minute to grab it an go. Panhandle Settlement is almost entirely funded by visitors and the thousands of hours of amazing volunteers that give so much of their time and hard effort to the loving preservation of this historical gem. This is NOT a money maker…YOU are critical to the growth and continuation of this wonderful spot and if you check the schedule of events (http://www.ppmuseum.org/events.htm) the Settlement also offers re-enactment days, a variety of classes (http://www.ppmuseum.org/classes.htm) period arts and homemade syrup in the General Store. So I implore all that have ANY kind of appreciation of our history and our culture, Panhandle Settlement is lovingly recreated in a beautiful and serene part of a beautiful state park and waiting for you…if but for a moment of your fast paced lives, you journey back to a time long gone but thanks to Willard and Linda NOT forgotten, you, your friends, your children will make a memory here and who knows, you may even get a fresh cracklin or possibly even taste some FRESH just made homemade syrup and who can’t appreciate a good “hoe cake”…Bring cash as it the only tender they except, NO CREDIT cards at Panhandle, it would be downright “desecration”!
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Over the 11 + years and 350 + restaurant reviews I have done I can’t count on two hands the times I had the pleasure to dine at a spot that TRULY gets it and does it well in ALL aspects of the dining experience. I had the pleasure this last weekend to eat at Cedric’s Tavern an Irish/English themed pub in Antler Hill Village on the historic grounds of the majestic estate and the pleasure was all mine. For years I had heard that Biltmore itself was amazing but the food was…well kinda like Disney used to be…great and amazing scenery but seriously lacking culinarily. Oh, how the times have changed. In a joint collaboration of Executive Chef Damien Cavicchi, the Executive Chef of Biltmore and Executive Chef Mark DeMarco, Cedric’s Tavern has become a true destination location. From the moment Chef DeMarco met us and gave us the tour of the kitchen and facilities it was clear, that the organization, cleanliness, efficiency and courteousness of the staff that we we’re about to embark on a a wonderful culinary adventure and we did. The adventure began with our superb server, Russell. While Chef DeMarco was giving us his recommendations Russell was setting silverware presenting menus and taking our drink order in such a manner as to not break in on our conversation with the Chef a real art form. Servers should be seen and only heard just as much as WE the diners require and he NAILED it and made the dining experience that much better. His customer “instincts” were impeccable no order pad, no mistakes Russell is a true pro server and we were appreciative. To start we were presented with an incredible jar of homemade sweet sour pickles (the pickles are so good they have the recipe on the table for you to take…and I did) that were incredible and quickly devoured. The pickles were quarter spears, crisp, tangy , sweet and oh so delicious a GREAT way to start (they sell them at the reception area) pickles instead of bread….nice! We then had three apps, pretzel rolls round squash ball sized pretzel looking but soft and dense warm center with a local ground mustard and butter whip and you wipe it on and poof…there gone. All the breads are made in house and the breads are excellent. Next, cheddar curds fried in a crisp, light but fluffy batter that were tasty and a spicy mayonnaise based dip that just enhanced the flavor but did not take anything away from the subtle but delicious taste of the wonderful local cheese curds. Finally we finished with Chefs take on a “ham and cheese”. A wonderful tangy white melted cheese with green onions chopped and mixed in the cheese which covers very thinly sliced ham that you dig out and place on thin slices of slightly grilled/toasted homemade sourdough bread…it could not be any better. An incident occurred at a table near us that could have been quite an issue but the great communication of the staff and the quick and polite handling by the front of the house manager made the issue disappear with little notice. Well done and an example of great communication the key to success in any business. Now, on to the entrees. Since we were there for lunch we wanted to try the Brasstown Beef hamburger on Cedric’s in house buns the fully topped burger came with a cone of house fries that were in house cut…and are you ready for this…CRISPY and golden with a soft dry center served hot. The fries were as good as you could ever want and the burger, juicy, delicious (no wonder Biltmore chefs demand Brasstown Beef) and cooked just right with a nice slice of local cheddar that was perfect for the burger. The attention to detail, two ramekins of ketchup one for the burger one for the fries…how refreshing. To finish we had small squares of homemade ice cream atop small squares of thin brownies and coated in chocolate…the perfect end to an outstanding dining experience. Cedric’s Tavern is a true destination location and a lot of people already know so you better make reservations (http://www.biltmore.com/visit/dining/cedrics-tavern.asp) so that YOU may enjoy the salute to Irish/English cuisine. The prices are very good, the portions are very good and there is a HUGE emphasis on local everything. Executive Chef Mark DeMarco really gets “it” (“it” is something I can’t really describe, but once you experience “it”…you know what I’m speaking about) and his menu reflects his thoughts. The menu is just the right size with the proper number of selections in all genres on two sides of one sheet. The menu is also well written and laid out with excellent descriptions of each item that will make you drool just reading them. An excellent Chef, staff, front of the house management, a superb menu in all ways attention to every detail, great in house breads and pickles surrounded by the beautiful scenery of Biltmore. It can’t get much better. Thank you Steve Whitmire of Brasstown Beef for introducing me to this wonderful young and energetic Chef.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Benton Lee’s Uvalda, GA After an approximately 35 minute drive from the RealSweet Vidalia onion fields of Shuman Produce in Reidsville, Ga (where we had been filming recipe videos all day, I was tired, thirsty and hungry) I found myself along the beautiful Altamaha River at the legendary BIG STEAK house of Benton Lee’s. I arrived at approximately 5pm and I was the only car in the very large lot…I was a little concerned. Soon my worries were abated by the friendly and helpful greeting of Jill. She told me to sit anywhere I liked (I was the only one there, but that was soon to change) the restaurant was large, clean and country, I loved it, I grabbed a menu and Jill was tableside within minutes. Jill could tell that I wasn’t from around these parts, (Benton Lee’s is a short drive outside of Vidalia, GA) so she walked me thru the process of ordering. I wanted the BIG sirloin…I had no idea how big it would be so with Jill’s council I ordered grilled onions and a side salad as coleslaw, fries, and a roll come with the meal (the side salad in case I didn’t like the slaw) and an unsweet tea. She cheerfully approved of my order and left, directing me to the big tea urns located in a couple of different locations for convenience, “hep yourself” she threw back over her shoulder as she headed to the kitchen. About 20 minutes later Jill returned table- side with an extremely large stainless steel plate LOADED down with the second biggest steak I had ever seen in my life (the first being the 72 oz Big Tex in Amrarillo,Texas) and I was stunned by its enormity. It was cooked to perfection, HUGE tasty and juicy…the grill marks were beautiful and the sides were good (the slaw and the salad are very basic but fresh and tasty) everything was served hot as appropriate and the feasting began. Jill was kind enough to give the story of the legend of Benton Lee, for you see, there really was a Benton Lee and she had worked for him (Benton Lee retired after 40 some years when the restaurant burned down in 07 I believe) and the new owners rebuilt the steakhouse, one of the owners being that of the lovely and kind Vickey Tapley…it was about that time of the story that Jill excused herself and Ms. Vickey came by to say hello and ask my thoughts about the food. Ms. Vickey gave some more history and shared some of the celebs that had been to Benton Lee’s and the visit albeit fairly short was very enjoyable (we had pictures together before I left). After 45 minutes I surrendered…the steak was GREAT, now for my thoughts on the sides, the French fries are made fresh daily and were good (if you are a fan of fresh made fries), the coleslaw was simple but very tasty everything else was good…I wished I coulda had a bigger bun or big hunkin chunk of Texas toast to sop up the steak juices as they were deep on my plate and sooooo good. Jill came by to check on me and inquired as to my thoughts of the food and she seemed very pleased by my response (more so than the usual employee enthusiasm) I later found out that she not only took the order, she fresh-cut my HUGE steak on the band saw, made the coleslaw that morning, took my order, served my food, cleared the table and met me at the desk to take my card…a jack of all trades and a smile the whole time. At Benton Lee’s it truly is about the “cow”, however they have plenty of other dishes from frog legs to quail, fresh chicken tenders to pork chops, catfish to alligator….it’s all here at Benton Lee’s. I will admit this was my first and only real experience here but I had many people tell me about this legendary steakhouse and I am sure glad I took the time to find it (thanks to my Sprint navigation). The steak lovers can get T-bones and sirloins…they also have a sirloin for two…how HUGE that must be. They had to cut mine almost in half and stack it on top of the other huge piece to get it all on the plate. If you want an excellent steak, comfortable scenic relaxation (except on weekends when I here it’s packed ALL of the time but still scenic) and you long to be out away from it all. Try Benton Lee’s in Uvalda, GA you WON’T go away hungry and if you get the chance to meet Ms. Vickey or have the pleasure (Wed and Thursdays) to meet Jill, you will leave with a smile on your face and a notch extension in your belt! My to go box (which I have NEVER taken in my life with steak) was filled with a HUGE piece of steak, fries and grilled onions…the whole meal including tax, tea et al….$30.00 I kid you not. I do not know how big the big sirloin was but it had to be pushin an easy 28 oz’s (small and medium size are available upon request of the sirloin and t-bone). Benton Lee’s is only open Wed-Saturday 11am-9:30pm so plan accordingly but certainly plan.