Liking Mike Pettine

Okay, I know it is just the second week of the NFL, and I know the thrilling last-minute win over the Saints today is just one win. I know that it is a long season and, the Browns being the Browns, many bad things — horrible things, unspeakable things, impossible things — can and inevitably will happen.  I haven’t totally lost touch with reality (I think).

But, I’m willing to declare this:  I’m liking what I’m seeing of Mike Pettine, the Browns’ new head coach, so far.

I liked the way Pettine handled last week’s first half debacle against the Steelers, and the way the and his staff got the team turned around and ready to play the second half.  When the Browns came roaring back he kept his cool, and he maintained his composure even when the team lost a heartbreaker.  That’s not easy, but it’s essential in pro football.  The coach has to keep a level head, and Pettine looks like he has that ability.  Today we saw more of that.

We also saw one other crucial thing:  players making key plays at critical moments.  In pro football, the margin for error is so slim that one play can be dispositive.  Today the key play was a third down sack that kept the Saints out of field goal position and gave the Browns a chance to come back.  In past years, for whatever reason, that play doesn’t get made.  This year it did, and the Browns then didn’t implode in the two-minute offense.  I credit the coaches for the team’s ability to execute when the chips were down.

Pettine not only keeps his cool, he looks cool, with the shaved head and shades.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he might finally be the head coach we’ve needed.

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Paying In Advance For A Restaurant Reservation

Cancelled reservations are a curse for restaurants.  Reservations get made, the diners-to-be never appear, and a perfectly good table goes empty on a busy night while people wait impatiently at the bar or in the foyer, or leave altogether.

One restaurant in Chicago, called Next, decided to address the problem by replacing reservations with tickets.  You buy your ticket in advance for a table at a particular date and time, and the tickets are non-refundable.  Next’s website explains that “[u]nlike an a la carte restaurant with many walk-in customers and dozens of menu items, Next is creating a truly unique dining experience and doing so at an amazing price. By eliminating no-shows, requiring pre-payment, and varying the price by time and day we are able to create a predictable and steady flow of patrons allowing us to offer a great deal more than would otherwise be possible at these prices.”

Requiring diners to buy tickets dramatically reduced the number of no-shows; Next experienced only five full table no-shows last year and the number of tables where the full party didn’t come fell sharply, too.  Other restaurants are beginning to adopt the practice, so it may be coming soon to a restaurant near you.

I would be perfectly happy with this system at high-end restaurants on busy nights.  If I like a restaurant, I want it to succeed.  If cutting out the lost profits from reservation no-shows helps a great place to stay in business, I’m all for it.

I also think, however, that the reservation/ticket process should be a two-way street.  Kish and I aren’t the no-show types — our problem is showing up at the designated time and having the restaurant tell us that the table isn’t ready yet.  We had a bad experience at one restaurant where we waited for a long while and the hostess just shrugged it off.  If we buy a pre-paid, non-refundable ticket and the table isn’t available when we arrive, we should get a free drink and a significant discount.