Bistro Feedback – We Get All Kinds…Even Some Good


We get a lot of feedback of all sorts. We respond to 99% of it. I don’t have the opportunity to do that much of the responding…trying to do my job and all of helping Steve to run the company…but from time to time I do get the chance to have a bit of a dialog. Often, the ones that come to me are the ones that deal with the philosophies and menu choices that we have for the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens. Since I was the main driver behind the menu and philosophies, sometimes I’m the best to respond. So, when I can, I do.

This is one such short email thread that I thought I’d share.  It has some similarities to other email conversations, so it seemed relevant.

Cheers!

Greg

From: Rod M. Sent: Tue 2/10/2009 9:44 AM
To: Greg Koch
Cc: Frank Busic
Subject: RE: Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens
View As Web Page
From: Rod M.
Sent: Monday, February 09, 2009 3:50 PM
To: Stone Brewing
Subject:

Had lunch today at your brewery, and as always enjoyed the beer.

That said, the food is over priced and the portions are too small. I suppose if you served normal food portions, the price might be about right. Whereas we do understand the concept of keeping out the riff raff by charging high prices, beer drinking is for the working classes also.

The thought of serving a $5.99 cheese burger lunch might send chills up your spine, but you may even get more people to show up. The dining room was 2/3 empty while we were there. I am just a dirt archaeologist, so what do I know about business (especially in today’s economic climate).

Rod


From: Greg Koch [mailto:greg.koch@stonebrew.com]
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 8:42 AM
To: Rod M.
Subject: RE: Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens

Rod, Thanks much for the feedback. It’s much appreciated. If you don’t mind, I’ll respond with an equally straightforward response.

First off, glad that you enjoy our beer. We know that it’s quite a bit more expensive than the generic industrial alternatives, and that you’re among the relatively small percentage of people who appreciate it and are willing to pay for something better. The truth is that most don’t ‘get’ specialty beers, and don’t see the value in them. However, that fact is changing and more and more people are getting turned on to the “affordable luxury” that great craft beer represents.

Regarding the prices of our food, I can assure you that it is not overpriced. A bold statement perhaps, but I can explain. I make that statement based upon the fact that our food cost percentages tend to skew higher than is typical in the restaurant business. In other words, the cost of our raw ingredients makes up a higher percentage of the cost of the finished plate than what the restaurant business considers is the right percentage. Most restaurants’ profitability on a plate of food is higher than ours. Why? Because the ingredients we buy cost significantly more than typical commodity foodstuffs.

You see, when we decided to build the restaurant and have folks over to our house (that’s how I see it…you’re an honored guest that is coming into our home, the brewery), I felt that I should research food and the food system. So I did. I read introductory level tomes such as Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and then moved on to more weighty books such as Food Politics, and The Ethics Of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter.

What I learned was not pretty. True, I had long been on the side of the Slow Food movement http://www.slowfoodusa.org/ but I will admit that I did not know the full depth that is the travesty of our food system in the United States. And I do not use the word “travesty” lightly.

In short, I came to the realization that we could not in good conscience participate in the commodity food system. Pre-processed foods? No. High fructose corn syrup? We enacted a complete ban. Factory meats? No way! Tasteless veggies that travel countless miles to get here? Absolutely not. Instead, we opted to prepare everything from scratch in our kitchen, source out higher quality ingredients, use all-natural meats and source our produce from local, small organic farmers.

The sad fact is that once you step outside of the industrialized food system, costs skyrocket dramatically. However, we believe that the value is indeed there.

The percentage of income that we spent on food has gone down dramatically in recent years, as illustrated in this pdf: http://www.ilfb2.org/fff06/51.pdf This otherwise generic article on the subject is especially relevant as a result of the three “comments” posted by readers at the end of it: http://www.salem-news.com/articles/july192006/food_prices_71906.php Conversely, the cost of our health care has skyrocketed. In fact it’s flip flopped with food costs since 1960. What we used to spend on food, we now spend on health care.

That there’s a connection between the health of our food, and the health of our population and planet is not a terribly new line of thought. However, most of our populace still seems to either not recognize this, or not want to recognize this. Yet, there is light. There are growing movements that are seeking to reverse the decline of the health of our people and our planet.

Please know that our philosophies are not geared towards “keeping out the riff raff.” While I might admit that a lower “riff raff” quotient might be overall desirable (it’s no secret that we’re not an establishment that caters to drunkards or hooligans), our goal has always been to do what we feel is right.

You are correct that the thought of a $6.99 hamburger does indeed send a chill up my spine, but not for the reason that you may have thought. The true reason would be the slashing and burning of our food philosophy and ethics that would be required to get there. I just won’t do that to our guests.

When you came yesterday, you may have noticed that you arrived on a day of torrential downpour. As you may know, Southern Californians are wholly unprepared and uncomfortable with rain events, and especially with blustery ones. Yesterday was especially blustery. It did indeed affect our lunch business yesterday. The modest crowd would be attributed to the fact that it was the Monday before Valentines (the restaurant business often takes a slight dip before and after major dining occasions such as Valentines, New Years, Mothers Day, etc.), and raining cats and dogs.

I am happy to report that our restaurant business went up by 20% in 2008, vs. 2007. Business remains solid in the early part of 2009. While not everyone ‘gets’ — or heck, even likes — what we do, there is indeed a significant number of people who are voting with their fork and dollar, and coming. And coming often.

My apologies for the long response, but as I felt that your concerns were quite understandable, I thought you deserved to know our perspectives.

In closing, I’d like to ask you to view the Food Declaration http://fooddeclaration.org/ when you get a chance. Hopefully, you’ll consider signing it and passing on the word. The health of our nation depends on it!

Cheers,

Greg

——-

Greg Koch, CEO
Stone Brewing Co.
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens
1999 Citracado Pkwy, Escondido, CA 92029
760.471.4999 x1102


From: Rod M.

Mr. Koch,

Thank you for your response. I respect your enthusiasm and passion. Perhaps
more importantly, I like your beer. And, I get it. Healthy food, healthy
people, healthy planet. Some of us support the farmer’s market every Sunday
morning, and buy everything available that is organically produced. By the
way, in reading the food declaration attachment I did not read in the 12
principles a specific advocation for foods that are organically produced
(and are pesticide free).

In the meantime, the baby back ribs and cheese soup we ordered, while made
from scratch and from (and in support of) local farmer resources, would
cause my doctor to give me a severe reprimand based on the saturated fat
content. But perhaps that is all I was saying, once in a while we need a fun
break, and do the things we are not supposed to do while having a craft brew
— at an affordable price. It cost the two us $55 for lunch with tip,
including two tasters and two 8 oz beers. Our lunch would be defined as a
large bowl of soup, a scoop of hummus (we shared), and the smallest baby
back ribs I have seen in my entire life. I recommend that you have the staff
inform “guests” up front that there is a charge for every taster and not
just state that yes we will happily give you a taste of any beer you want.
We live AND learn.

The upshot is that we cannot afford lunch at the brewery on a regular basis.
Perhaps we will just drink and skip the food? Thank you again for your
reply.

Rod

PS- I am sincerely happy for you that business for Stone continues to go up.

5 comments

  1. I had dinner on Saturday evening. The selection of different beer was great. I ordered the pork tenderloin. It was dry, and over cooked. I had to bring it back twice. I ended up ordering for my third time the flat iron steak. The steak was acceptable (slightly under cooked). The service was pretty good though. As someone who owned a restaurant I was disappointed with the quality of food that was served versus service and selection of beer. Thank you for you time.

  2. Eric Gins
    /

    All this constant talk of inferior food makes me anxious about June when I will get a chance to try it out myself.

    I admit, if I had heard this much negative discourse about any other restaurant it would definitely make me think twice before eating there.

    However, my loyalty to your beers inspires faith in your food.

  3. Eric, when folks write about restaurant experiences, they rarely write about what worked and what they liked. Nature of the beast. Most folks come and have a great time, which is why we’re actually doing quite well. When we make a mistake, we fix it. And we do make mistakes. One of our challenges — as I tried to outline in this post — is that some folks arrive with expectations that we’re a restaurant with a “same ol’ same ol’” menu. We’re not. We’re different. We know it, and we love to celebrate that difference.

    Personal preferences of food are the end-all-be-all to folks. It’s kinda like that old adage about drivers on the freeway: Everyone that’s driving slower than you is an “idiot” and everyone that’s driving faster than you is a “jerk.” LOL What this means of course that one’s own personal perspectives is the gold standard. Same for food! For the folks that don’t prefer our style, they KNOW that if only we’d have the good sense to listen to THEM then we’d be golden from that moment forward. Thing is of course, that everyone’s opinion is all over the map. As it should be. That’s the beauty of the diversity of our world!

    Come with the expectation that we do things different here, and come with the plan to enjoy that difference and you’ll have a great time.

    And if we cook a porkchop incorrectly, let us know and we’ll correct it on the spot. We make mistakes sometimes, but we want it to be right all the time.

    Cheers!

    Greg

  4. I wanted to weigh in with my experience at Stone last August. It was busy out on the patio as the beer geeks in the area for the RateBeer summer gathering descended on Stone all at the same time.
    I had a wonderful time and I look forward to visiting again. The tour guide did a great job; the highlights were wandering around in the cold
    room looking at kegs and trying the chocolate that went into the 12th Anniversary beer.
    Our next stop was the gift shop and the tasty 2006 bourbon Double Bastard growlers as well as some Stone apparel that I wear with pride at the beer event I go to around the country.

    My favorite part of the visit was the restaurant. You and your team did a wonderful job creating a place fitting for Stone. As I like to say, even the bathroom is cool. The lunch was quite good. I had the buffalo burger with the egg on top. I thought the price was appropriate. There are several restaurants in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area that specialize in organic and locally produced goods. One good example is Cafe 28 http://www.cafetwentyeight.com the prices are on the website and they are fairly current and comparable with what I saw at Stone.

    The beers you had available were outstanding. Many of your beers that I was hoping I would be able to find were available that day.

    I’m hoping that I will see Stone in Minnesota before too long.

    BTW, The 12th Anniversary beer was a wonderful paring with my sweet potato pie with vegan caramel sauce last Thanksgiving.

  5. Pingback: Hamburger Recipes » Blog Archive » Bistro Feedback - We Get All Kinds…Even Some Good

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