Flippy’s Takeover

Out in California there’s a “fast casual” restaurant called Caliburger.  As the name suggests, hamburgers are one of the staples on its menu.

448b016b00000578-4905576-image-a-2_1505977728222Caliburger’s Pasadena location has a new worker called Flippy.  Flippy is a quiet, methodical, highly reliable worker who doesn’t take up a lot of space, because Flippy is actually a robot.  Made by Miso Robotics, Flippy’s design is simple — it’s a robot arm, bolted to the floor in the restaurant’s kitchen next to the grille.  Flippy has a spatula where his hand should be, and he’s programmed to flip burgers and then put the cooked burgers onto buns.  A human assistant puts the meat down, Flippy does his burger-flipping thing, and then the human worker finishes dressing the burgers to fit the incoming orders.  The fact that Flippy has only a spatula hand make it easy to clean and maintain.

Flippy sells for $60,000.  Caliburger was one of the investors in the company that manufactures Flippy, and it got one of the first devices.  It has pre-ordered others, and it plans to install them in a number of its restaurants.  And, of course, Miso Robotics will look to sell Flippy to other burger-oriented restaurants.

Each burger-flipping robot will be performing a job that used to be done by a human being.  At about $60,000 a pop, Flippy seems expensive — until you figure that, with many states and cities raising the minimum wage, it wouldn’t take many months of operation before Flippy starts to pay for itself.  And Flippy is never going to miss work, or show up late, or complain about its hours, or become distracted by talking to a co-worker.  And Flippy is not going to need health insurance, or file a claim against his restaurant employer for violating a federal or state statute, or advocate for wage increases, either.  Until legislators start legislating about treatment of robots, Flippy is a lot easier for employers to deal with.

Welcome to the future.  And good luck finding that entry-level job that pays the ever-increasing minimum wage that is supposed to be an economic panacea and allow a fast food restaurant worker to support a family of four!

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Avoiding Barside Embarrassment

When you go up to a bar to order a drink, you want to project a certain nonchalant yet decisive elegance with the bartender that shows her that you’ve been here before and you know what you’re doing.

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The goal is steely-eyed, white-jacketed, Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca-like cool certainty, as opposed to waffling or floundering or acting like goofy Clarence the Angel ordering a flaming rum punch at Nick’s, the hard-drinking bar in the alternative, George Bailey-free universe.

Knowing how to correctly pronounce the drink you’re ordering sure helps.

Would you know how to order a caipirinha, which the national drink of Brazil?  Made with sugarcane distilled spirits called Cachaca, lime, and sugar, it packs a lethal punch and is pronounced kai-pee-reen-ya.  Or let’s suppose you were up in Sweden during its endless, dark winter and wanted to warm yourself with a glass of traditional mulled wine, called glogg (with an umlaut over the o, too).  Appropriately, it’s pronounced glug, which should be easy to remember after you’ve swilled down two or three of them, because Swedish mulled wine tends to have a lot more alcohol than the American version.  Or let’s say you’re in a somewhat daintier mood, and feel like having a sgroppino to top off your meal.  That’s an Italian concoction of Prosecco, vodka, and lemon sorbet that’s pronounced sro-pee-no.  (You wouldn’t want to order that one at Nick’s, by the way.)

Hospitality Training Solutions has provided a guide to the correct pronunciation of these and other cocktails, to ensure that you project an image more like Bogie and less like Clarence the next time you belly up to the bar.  And remember, too — people rarely mispronounce beer.

Dreaming A Big White House Lawn Mowing Dream

Recently President Trump got a letter from Frank Giaccio, a sixth-grader from Falls Church, Virginia.  The youngster said he admired President Trump’s background in business and that he was starting a business of his own:  mowing lawns for $8.  He had a proposition for the President — he’d come and mow the White House lawn for free.

white-house-lawn-mowed-02-pol-jpo-170915The President heard about his letter, and last Friday he gave the 11-year-old his wish.  Frank came to Washington, D.C. with his Dad, mowed the Rose Garden lawn, posed for pictures with the President, and said a few words to the media.  The President even sent out one of his famous tweets about Frank, thanking him for a lawn-mowing job well done.

We’ve heard similar stories before, about a young kid with a dream who dared to think big, and found out that sometimes thinking big gets rewarded with big results.  And in this country, we traditionally want and encourage our young people to dream big.  It’s a classic American feel-good story, right?

Not so fast!  No, some people in the Twitterverse pointed out that, by allowing a young kid to mow the lawn — even equipped, as young Frank was, with safety goggles, ear plugs, and gardening gloves, by the way — the President wasn’t sending “a great signal on child labor, minimum wage and occupational safety.”

Seriously?  Have we really reached the point in this country where a young boy who wants to start his own little business and make some money can’t mow a lawn under the supervision of his father without somebody invoking the great National Nanny State that has to control everything people do?  Have we really reached the point where we feel that mowing a lawn is just too dangerous a job for a kid to undertake?

I’m critical of most of what President Trump does, but I’m with him on this one.  Show our young people that they should dare to dream, even about something like mowing the White House lawn, because sometimes those dreams come true.  And stop the incessant hand-wringing and caterwauling about perceived risks everywhere that discourage kids from doing anything other than hunching over their video games in the living room.

The Birds, Redux

Suppose, for a moment, that you are in a strange town on a business trip.  Suppose that, in the eerie twilight, you are walking back to your generic motel room after having consumed a forgettable meal served by a forgettable franchise restaurant, along a busy commercial thoroughfare with telephone wires overhead.  Suppose you hear an odd fluttering noise, like a random displacement of air, when suddenly you look up and see that every square inch of telephone pole and wire is covered by a roiling mass of indistinguishable black birds that don’t seem to be doing anything except creepily perching in this spot for reasons known only to their tiny, alien, nictating bird brains.

Oh, yeah — and suppose when you were a kid you stupidly watched Alfred Hitchcock’s  The Birds on late-night TV and ever since you’ve been secretly terrified by the possibility that your eyes will be pecked out by evil birds in a strange town — probably after you have to put up with tiresome lectures by some bird know-it-all woman wearing a beret.

Yes, you’ll sleep well tonight, experiencing the wonders of business travel.  At least you haven’t seen anybody in a beret . . . yet.

Random Restaurant Tour (III)

On Friday the HJ lunch group hoofed it down to the far southern reaches of downtown Columbus, past the Columbus Commons, past the High Street construction sites, and past the Great Southern Hotel, searching for another stop on the continuing random restaurant tour of the downtown area of Ohio’s capital city.

Our destination was Dempsey’s Food and Spirits.  Located at the corner of High and Mound Streets, catty-corner to the old Franklin County courthouse complex, Dempsey’s is housed in one of the oldest surviving buildings in downtown Columbus.  It’s been operating for about six years, but of course none of us had tried it.  More’s the pity!  Once you get past all of the Notre Dame paraphernalia — it is an Irish pub, after all — Dempsey’s is a fine lunch option, and looks like it would be a good place to stop for a cold one after work, too.

I asked our waiter Molly (another crucial indicator of a legit Irish pub setting) whether Dempsey’s had a specialty, and she recommended the meat loaf melt sandwich.  She strongly encouraged getting it with pickles, but being gherkin-adverse I opted for the pickle-free version. The Bus-Riding Conservative, being pickle-friendly, went all in for the sandwich in its original format.  We agreed that, with or without pickles, the meat loaf melt is spectacular — melty and gooey, with excellent and subtly flavored beef and sausage meat loaf, served on crunchy, buttery Texas toast that will leave you licking your fingers and hoping for more.  I noticed that the BRC was being unusually quiet during our lunch and glanced over to see that he was hoovering down the sandwich, pickles and all, with remorseless efficiency and had cleaned his plate while I was only about halfway done.  JV reported that his Big R reuben was quite good.  The Unkempt Guy. however, sniffed that his fried bologna sandwich was only of average quality, apparently lacking the Flintstone-like dimensions that he’s used to up in Delaware County.  Since I don’t like bologna, this did not trouble me.

We’ll be adding Dempsey’s, and the succulent meat loaf melt, to our lunch hour rotation.  And the hike down south and back will just help to burn off a few of the carbs we’ll be consuming on our next visit.

Waiterspeak

I was a waiter once, back in the day.  I feel a certain kinship with waiters, and always give them the benefit of the doubt.

But when I’m by myself in a restaurant, please . . . just leave me alone to read my book and eat my dinner in peace.

Sure, it might just be the milk of human kindness– or it might be a desire for a tip.  But every time I eat alone these days, the wait staff annoyingly gloms on to me, asking what I’m reading and making irritating chitchat when I ‘m just trying to read and eat my dinner.  It makes the dinner intensely irksome.  I don’t want to hear what waiter  X has to say — I just want to read my book.

Here’s a tip for the wait staff.  Sometimes, at least, the solitary diner with a book isn’t lonely and craving your company.  They just want to read.  Leave us alone, already!

Neighborly Sentiments

Recently, signs like this one have been cropping up around German Village.  In these troubled times, they express a worthy and noble sentiment that I wholeheartedly endorse.  Yet I feel that the message is somehow . . . incomplete.

I’m perfectly happy to live next door to anybody, no matter where they are from, what they look like, where they work, their religion, national origin, or sexual orientation, or for that matter what they do with their lives.  If they’re willing to live next to the likes of me, I’m willing to live next to them.  My focus, instead, is much more narrow and admittedly self-interested.  I only want to know whether they will perform very basic property maintenance — mow the grass, weed from time to time, not put a crappy couch on the front porch, slap some paint where it’s needed — keep their dogs from barking and biting, and not be obnoxious, intrusive, or noisy at 3 a.m. when I’m trying to sleep..In my view, these are the acid tests of neighborliness — the straightforward, but crucial, measuring points on the good neighbor scale of behavior.

So I think I would amend the sign as follows:  No matter where you are from, so long as you keep your place up and keep the noise down we’re glad you’re our neighbors.