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Soda Pop High

19 Dec

I am sorta surprised by how many places are jacking-up the prices of their sodas.  Especially when places like McDonald’s and every gas station are offering .99 cent drinks.

Restaurants are averaging 2-2.50 a pop per pop…but now drive-thru joints are creeping up to that as well.   How high is too high?  When will you stop buying a soda at your local burger joint?

Take Sonic for instance.  That 2.15 I spent could have got me a small burger and small fries….. or small tots and a corn dog….or….my point is it seems crazy to pay 2.15 from a drive-thru soda that equals in price to an entire meal.   And after this one….I won’t anymore.

Ziosk is here

12 Dec

Okay, this is cool, and potentially annoying at the same time.  ZIOSK is a portable and wireless hub that are being tested at Chili’s restaurants.

IT”S COOL- because you can order food and drinks directly instead of wondering where your server wandered off to.  You can even tab-out, swipe your card, and pay the bill in a flash.  It even prints out the receipt right there.  That is super-convenient and a feature I did and would use…and is needed in EVERY restaurant.

It also has a free USA TODAY APP that you can use to read the news while you wait on your food.  This is super-cool and a great conversation starter.

IT’s POSSIBLY ANNOYING –  It has several games and apps you can play on the machine for $1.99.   I suppose if you have kids to entertain or something, but that seems kinda weak to charge a fee to play.  Maybe if the game allowed me to win a discount on my order or points towards something…maybe.  Guess they have to off-set the costs somehow.  Another thing that is kinda odd- is that it has a camera in it.   The Ziosk website says it’s so you can “like, or check-in on Facebook/twitter or take pictures at the table and upload them”.   Isn’t that what we all have smart-phones for?  Not sure I want to load all my photos and personal info into a random machine at a restaurant.

Paragraph above aside – the coolness outweighs the annoying by a MILE.

Cold Snap 2013

9 Dec

So a winter storm hit last Friday and just about paralyzed the entire Metroplex.

I hit the store to stock-up on supplies and prepare to stay in for the weekend and the stores were WRECKED.   Funny thing is I was 100% correct in guessing what would be wiped out first.   Beer, Hot Chocolate, Bottled Water, and Frozen Pizzas.  People knocking over each other for cold cuts… leaving the fruit and vegetable section in pristine condition.

It’s 27 degrees and oddly enough, I am craving ice cream.

All It Takes is ONCE

23 Jul

I love to support local business……BUT DAMN it’s getting harder sometimes because some local businesses take short cuts and short change customers and expect them to return.

I mean more often than not local businesses charge more than the chains.  They usually have to so they can stay in business.   So I understand that and don’t mind paying extra if it’s going to keep quality and service at a level I expect.  Try and just short change me and you will burn this bridge permanently.

Personality is also a plus.   If I visit your location and you are quirky and somewhat rude, I might find it funny and keep coming back despite your sour personality.    OR I might take it as you are a full-on-asshole and never come back despite it being the best dish I ever had in my life.

Case in point:   Look at those slices.   I am charged 2 bucks and change per slice and you give me old-ass-slices-that-have-been-sitting-there-how-long????   So to “freshen” it up you thrown on some fresh cheese before you warm it up as what…. a bonus for me?    While I am waiting I see you barking at two other customers with more than a hint of disrespect.    Why?

When I got down the street and took a look at these slices I felt ripped off.    I mean the damn cheese isn’t even melted!  Way to stick it to your customers.

There are WAY too many places to get food in this town for this to happen.   I don’t fault the guy for trying to make a living – so I will not reveal where this is from – but it only takes ONE shitty experience for me to shift gears from supporting your local business – to never going there again.

This place?  Ate there at least once a week.  After this?  Never going back again.

QT 5 buck combo

16 Apr

The other day I got drive-thru and my regular combo was almost 8 bucks.   EIGHT BUCKS!?!?!   Even with their “value menu”-  prices are going up all over the place.

Then I stop for gas and see this sign.   For a FIVER I can get:

1.  a salad, sammich, or wrap

2.  bag of chips or piece of fresh fruit

3.  Any size tea or fountain drink or water.

for 5 bucks?  come on!    Haven’t tried this yet, but the price alone is worth thinking about.

Six Flags Mall – My last slice

22 Mar

Back in the day, Six Flags Mall was a great mall.   Located near…..uh huh…. SIX FLAGS, it had been a staple in Arlington forever.

Over the years, South Arlington grew to be more popular than the north side.  So  the mall just sort of fell into a steady stream of decline.

There was hope that the “new” Cowboys Stadium nearby would revive it and bring in a whole new audience.   That hasn’t happened.   In fact, most places around the stadium are in a constant state of flux.   Several have turned to selling their parking spaces at a premium to football fans looking to park close.

So the other day I decided to actually go into the mall and see what it was like.

GHOST TOWN.   The entire mall was empty.   There is a Dillard’s outlet, a movie theatre that is still open, and a lonely pizza place in the abandoned food court.

Quite sad, really.    So as a farewell, I decided to treat myself to a “goodbye” slice because the entire building might not even be here tomorrow.

 

El Chico Responds

7 Mar

A couple day ago, I mentioned a rumor regarding El Chico’s future.   You can read the whole thing here.   Since that post, I have been contacted by the boys at El Chico to clear things up:

My name is Don Dungy, president of El Chico Restaurants. I want to thank you for your recent visit and appreciate your great feedback. We want to create the very best customer experience, and comments such as yours enable us to be one of the top choices for dining out. Thank you for making a call to action encouraging your readers to support El Chico. We are proud of our history and future. Our restaurants reflect over seventy years of changing tastes and styles. El Chico has created unique and memorable dining experiences for our guests. We welcome you back as often as possible.

Let me address the rumor mentioned in your post. We welcome new and current franchisees as members of the El Chico family, and we look forward to growth this year with the addition of new restaurants. We have several loyal franchisees that have expressed interest in the potential of adding more locations to their portfolio. With over forty years of franchise experience, we have learned that dedicated franchisees are the key ingredient to the success of El Chico. Franchising an existing El Chico is simply good business because it brings entrepreneurs into the El Chico family. This enables our continued growth and success for years to come.

Should you have any interest in franchising El Chico, please contact Director of Franchise Operations, Mike Flippo at mflippo@croinc.com.

I posted the full thing because alot of JFC readers are in the media and/or food industry, so setting the record straight here goes a long way.

As you know – I am not only about questions – I am about RESULTS!  SOLUTIONS!

So– MUCH respect to El Chico for taking the time to do this.   I am certain their customers will appreciate it.

Hell, it makes me want a margarita and some sizzlin’ fajitas right now!

EL CHICO in trouble?

5 Mar

EL CHICO has been firmly planted in the DFW since 1940.   Their tamales have been around since 1926.  By the late 80’s, El Chico was everywhere in the metroplex.   It was the go-to place for Mexican/Tex-Mex food.

Flash forward to 2013 and El Chico is completely surrounded by other competing Mexican/Tex-Mex restaurants.   I had dinner there with some friends the other night, and aside from a few small issues, there are still alot of things to like about this place.

The drinks were great and the food was super-fresh.   Large portions too.  Everyone was very satisfied and full.   The common phrase heard at the table was “That was pretty good…why don’t we come here more often?”

So, I am filing this under “RUMOR” because after Crystal’s, Olive Garden, Wendy’s, and all these other restaurant struggles going on…I hope…HOPE this isn’t true.

A reliable source within the company has revealed that El Chico is in a bit of financial trouble.   They might even be trying to sell locations as a franchise in order to raise some capital.

Is this true?  I don’t know.   Driving around Arlington today, I see alot of places going under.

El Chico has more than earned their stripes by making affordable food and providing a nice atmosphere for over half a century.  In today’s current economy… I only wish them the best.

It’s also a reminder to us all – if you don’t support the places you love with your frequent business – they will disappear.

Share your thoughts below or hop onto Urbanspoon and continue this topic!

El Chico on Urbanspoon

Goodbye Crystal’s Pizza

19 Feb

Nothing good can ever stay.  On the 8th or maybe 9th day, even before Chuck E. Cheese, God created Crystal’s Pizza and Lord was it good.   For those not familiar – it was a pizza palace.  Seriously- the place was huge.    It always struck me as Louisiana architecture/haunted house -meets-mansion-from- the-movie-CLUE, with its own arcade and cartoon theatre inside.   It was full of side rooms and places that both adults, teens, and kids could all enjoy.   It was truly unique.

Flash forward 35 years and time has taken its toll on the ol’ girl.   My last handful of visit in the last 5 years I have seen a steady decline in terms of upkeep.  Neon doesn’t work outside.   The once cool dark and all wood booths had been painted red-white-and cream colors in an attempt to brighten up the place.   This only made it look dingy.   The place was SUPPOSED to be dark and moody!!!!   Games in the game room stayed broken 80% of the time (with no signs to indicate this so you would lose your money).    The upstairs TV nook was totally closed off permanently.   Once known for its Pizza, Spaghetti, and fun – sadly it was now getting by with lunch buffets in order to compete with places like CiCi’s.  Even the quality of the food suffered.   Nobody was staying to enjoy the place.  The buffet people would eat the cheap eats and immediately leave.   If it wasn’t for the local businesses-people nearby supporting it, Crystal’s would have been in trouble long before now.

Visit after visit, I would see all this and wonder how much it would cost to return this place to glory.   I held out hopes until a week ago when I found out they were going out of business.  This past Wednesday they had a “say goodbye” party of sorts and the place was PACKED.  Newspapers, TV, radio, Facebook – the news spread everywhere.   The place that used to be teaming with kids and teens was now swamped with 20,30,and 40 year olds with their kids and friends in tow.   This place was very sacred to quite a few people and most of them didn’t want to see it go.

Seeing this mob, I was thinking “wow if we had all supported it like this before, maybe it wouldn’t be going out of business.”

Sad really.   The place was enormous so maybe upkeep is expensive, but a few years ago I remember hearing word Crystal’s was under new management.   I am left to wonder if that management really understood what they had on their hands.   Everything that made that place special was almost systematically dismantled.   The stage where acoustic acts and magicians played was in shambles.   The cool fish-tank-table was empty and gone.    It’s like they just let the place disintegrate and focused on just the eating areas.

I returned Saturday afternoon to see how things were going.   I don’t know why, but in my mind I was thinking there would be some news that all this attention had boosted sales and the owners had decided to keep the ship afloat.   No such luck.  I did see that the crowds had continued to grow.   I sat in the middle of the dining room and counted a line of nearly 60 people at one point.   The owners were slinging pizzas on that buffet as fast as possible.   The place was again rockin’ with the sounds of people almost running into each other because it’s so busy.

I chatted a few people up and they shared my concerns and hopes.  Why couldn’t this place be saved?   How had the cool pizza palace from my youth have ended up a dump that people were coming  to say goodbye to?

After seeing two nights of large crowds I just can’t shake the feeling that this could have all been avoided somehow.

I learn of Facebook pages dedicated to former employees from all the other Crystal’s locations and you read nothing but fond memories of working there and how much they loved the place.    Even the Irving Facebook page is slammed with “nnnooooooooo…don’t go” comments.    So there is clearly a loving and loyal following to this place.

And while I think we all sort of share the blame for this place closing (management for letting it become a dump and us for maybe not going more) I am sort of bothered by the latest activity I see in their Facebook page.

The owners have decided to sell off as much of the joint as possible.   Light fixtures, games, signs, and the whole shebang.  You can bid on these items on Facebook.  As you can imagine, anything with a Crystal’s logo on it is getting tons of attention, while the tables and chairs aren’t getting much thought.   I can understand the owner wanting to salvage some money he might have invested in this place — BUT —  auctioning off this stuff tells me that you realize the sentimental value of the place.   I just wish you had figured this out earlier.  Maybe you could have saved the damn joint.

Subway Nightmare

7 Feb

Imagine you are Subway.  Not the transportation service, but the sammich company.   You have spent YEARS building your brand.  You have slowly taken over the world.   There is a Subway within a block of my home in each direction.   It’s literally everywhere.

Now imagine that some random person actually measured your “footlong” sammiches and discovered more often than not, they aren’t FOOTlongs.  More like 11 and a half inches.   That person posts his discovery and pictures on Facebook.   BOOM!    Instant DRAMA!

I was at Subway today and I asked the friendly girl working how this has affected them.   She tells me that in her local store, the bread is normally OVER 12 inches and has been admonished by corporate for being OVER.

Now that  the Facebook drama has exploded, she tells me her store is required to MEASURE all bread loaves.   They are to write-off the smaller ones for six-inch subs and throw away the rest.

I can see both sides here.   As a consumer, I want what I paid for.   As a business, what a NIGHTMARE.   I can imagine some intern busting into the boardroom :

“uhm…..Facebook is saying our sammiches are coming up short and there is oh…10 thousand people forming a bandwagon…..sir.”

Subway sort of down played this at the beginning but now has issued statements to stores to MEASURE  the bread?  wow. How intense is it around the Subway offices these days because someone got funny with a tape measure?

The world.   She hangs in delicate balance.

If I ran Subway, I would have had fun with it.   I would have picked a day to offer FREE ONE INCH SAMMICHES to anyone and everyone that wanted one.    Problem solved and you look like a HERO.

I’m just sayin’.