Sunday, June 15, 2008

Nobody Gets Hungry in Louisville After 10 P.M.

I went to see my buddy Rick Fisher play with his band Panhandle Daddyz last night. They performed at a place called the Waterloo Icehouse in Louisville, which touts "Real Food - Real Music - Real Friends" on its home page. I checked out the menu and saw that they had chicken and apple sausages with beer cheese sauce, which sounded like a step up from normal bar fare. So I was looking forward to both some good music and some good food.

I got there about 9:15, got a beer and chatted with Rick and some of his other buddies before they went on about 9:45. A couple of songs into their set I decided it was time for the sausages so I tried to get the waitress' attention, which ended up taking about 10 minutes before I succeeded. I wasn't in any particular hurry, though,

I told her I'd like to try the sausages and she gave me a sympathetic little pout, "Sorry, hon. The kitchen closes at 10:00." I quickly checked the time on my cell phone -- it was 10:03. "I can get you some chips and salsa, though."

I was too taken aback to respond intelligently, so I just politely declined. But I felt a little like Michael Douglas' character in Falling Down when he got to Whammy Burger at 11:34 and was told he couldn't order breakfast because they didn't serve it after 11:30. Without the psychotic rage and automatic weapons, of course.

The Daddyz ended up playing two sets and I didn't leave until about 12:45, and I finally did break down and grudgingly order some chips and salsa. Waterloo Icehouse certainly isn't the only restaurant/bar to close their kitchen early. But the whole thing got me wondering if this practice really makes sense.

Could it have to do with paying the kitchen staff for those extra two or three hours? You've got be operating on a razor-thin margin if that's the case. A lot of McDonald's franchises are able to serve food 24 hours a day charging two bucks for a burger, and the Icehouse charges $10 for theirs. It doesn't seem like you would need too many food orders during those final few hours to cover your expenses.

Is the profit on alcohol sales so much greater that there's a concern about cannibalizing those revenues with lower-margin items like food? Frankly, I'm likely to drink MORE when I'm eating than when I'm not. Besides, can you imagine The Gap cutting off sales of jeans two hours before they close because they make more money on belts?

Couldn't there at least be more of an effort made to set appropriate expectations? There's some small text on the bottom of the Waterloo Icehouse home page that says "kitchen closes after dinner," but I didn't see any similar notice in the actual establishment (never mind that "dinner" isn't an actual time). The waitress never said anything, either. If I'd known, I would have just ordered the sausages earlier.

I'm not a restaurateur or a bar owner, and those who are must have a reason for this. But I am a customer, and I'm pretty sure whatever that reason is it doesn't have much to do with me.

Ah, well. At least the Icehouse lived up to its music and friends billing, so Meat Loaf would have been satisfied.

No comments: