Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Deal or No Deal - The restaurant wine version

I don't know if you've seen the latest US network rip-off of British television Game Show - Deal or No Deal but here's the premise. Wild-eyed kookie contestant gets a briefcase with an unknown amount of money in it, 24 hot models in skimpy, yet primetime tasteful, outfits stand around with other briefcases - contestant has to open some of the models cases and the money amounts are shown on the "Big Board".

Amounts in the cases vary from a penny to $1,000,000, after a few cases the "banker" phones down to Howie Mandel, hopefully this gig means we don't have to watch him in Boston Pizza ads anymore, and makes a monetary offer to buy back the contestants' briefcase. The banker's offer is higher if there are lots of big numbers on the board, the contestant can only keep their briefcase after all the others are opened, once the banker makes an offer the contestant can either accept it, Deal, or keep opening more cases, No Deal.

We are currently going through the same sort of process at my restaurant with the winelist. In December our sommelier departed, foolishly choosing to work shorter hours for more money in a better restaurant, leaving the winelist in the hands of our teatotalling micromanaging General Manager. Among the GM's great ideas is "saving money by keeping inventory low", this is a tried and true method employed by people too lazy to actually manage their stock, preferring just to randomly run out of items regularly and piss off their staff and guests.

We've reached the point now where I actually ask tables if they plan on having more than one bottle of the wine they've ordered so that I can get the bartender to hide it away because we've probably only got 2 in stock.

So this is my vision:

I approach the party of eight, host has closed the winelist and made his selection.

"Have you selected a wine for the table sir ?" I ask

"Yes, we'll have the decent $70 Syrah, please." replies the host

"Excellent choice sir, but how many bottles do you think you might want?" I ask

"Well, I'm not sure" says guest, a little confused by my question "probably three, maybe four"

"Aah that could be a problem" I say, then pull the ringing cellphone out of my apron.

"It's the Sommelier" I state, pause and mutter into the phone then cover the mouthpiece and say to host,

"Here's his offer, he has 4 bottles in stock, if you pay for all four now they're yours but I should warn you the 4 top on table 18 is considering the same wine" I confide

"But what if I only order 2 bottles and want more later" queries host

"Well there's no guarantee I'll have any "decent $70 Syrah" by then, you might then have to choose between "something similar for $110" or "something not even remotely like it but in the same price range" I answer, then pause for effect before asking ..........

"Deal or No Deal".

Host, flustered, spurts out "OK, I'll take the four bottles ......Deal" I hang up the cellphone and glance down to table 18 where fellow waiter is shaking his head while intoning..

"I'm sorry sir that's no longer an option - how about a bottle of "vaguely the same for $86".

In all honesty, two weeks ago I won a "paper. rock, scissors" with another server for the right to keep my table on the same type of wine while he went back to break the bad news to his party.

If you think it's hard trying to explain why you are out of so many items try explaining that "I'm sorry you can't have the Chardonnay you want because trusty old rock let me down."

On another note I had a decent bottle of red last week from South Africa, Leopard's Leap Red, #233270, $11.99. This is New world wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Cinsault it is easy to like and would be fine with spicier meat dishes, but lacks the acidity to handle a mild ragout or grilled beef, I'm unlikely to buy it again but it is a decent quaff.

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