Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sorry About Bailing

I really look forward to the Wed bike hangs. Good food and atmosphere are icing on the cake, but it's the visiting that I crave. I've grown damn fond of the hang gang.

Tonight, at South Perry Pizza, it was impossible to chat, harder even to meet anyone new and double harder to get service. I tried to scoot a puny little table up to the main table, but a server told me it was reserved for more important customers that hadn't yet arrived. I love beer and pizza, but I couldn't buy either. I felt like a second-class citizen. No, actually, I didn't feel like it, I was.

So that was enough of that and Mike, Sarah and I headed over to Hucks and had a coupla beers and hooked up with some other bikey types that wandered in and it was all good and I'm not ranting (well, maybe just a little), but it got me wondering about the whole dynamics of the hang and what we do to establishments. The FBC has been through this to the power of ten (remember Jeff's rant about The Maxwell House?), but has it come to the point that our relatively small hang gang is a royal pain in the ass for the places we choose to patronize? Do we inject just a little too much uncontrolled chaos into the controlled chaos when we show up? (I know we ran a couple of ladies out of the the Rocket Market with our F-bombs in the dead of winter, but that was an isolated incident ;-)

I don't have any experience in food service, but I walked in with cash in my pocket and I wanted something to eat and drink and I'm a damn good tipper because my daughter, who spent a lot of time in the business, trained me well (insists). So all in all, I bet I would have spent 20 or 25 bucks, if I coulda. Maybe more, if the beer started flowing. Maybe that was above average, but say everyone at the table spent 15 bucks, on average, and maybe we had 20 people there, well that's $300. Not massive, but it damn sure helps pay the bills and if you were willing to work our crowd and provide some actual service, you could probably bump that up a coupla notches.

We're entering a new season and the hang paradigm is changing, but I'll bet for damn sure the group is gonna wanna eat and drink after our rides and I think we have a tiny bit of spending clout and instead of begging the trendy dopes to take our cash, it would be fun to find places that would be delighted if 20-or-so hungry/thirsty riders landed on their front porch. An example of the kind of place that come to mind is the old Zips on 3rd, that has since been an Asian restaurant that went out of business and is now a family Mexican restaurant (man, you have to have balls to open a restaurant on 3rd!). Every time I drive by they look starved for customers and I bet we get treated like actual citizens or maybe even royaly if we show up there at dinnertime on a weekday.

Anyway, thanks for listening to my non-rant and I look forward to our next hang. I'm not pissed, but now I have to go chew on some leather.


Mike Sirott said...

Yeah, it was kind of a bummer. I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt and say our group was "too big",to provide good service without reservations, but we really weren't.

Well, I had a great time at Huck's with you and the other cast aways.

Alan said...

I like Mexican food. Bring on the rice and beans!

alex wetmore said...

We run into similar situations sometimes with point83 in Seattle.

Starting with a ride instead of meeting up at an establishment will help. Then if things go south at one establishment then you'll know that it is time to move on. It is pretty amazing watching our group mobilize en masse(that could be 50 or more people) and leave a bar in less than 5 minutes.

Point83 has also just learned where they are welcome and where they aren't. There are enough larger establishments with pretty good food and beer here that it isn't too hard to find a home that welcomes us.

I will say that the good spots for big groups tend to be a bit more "dive bar" than where I'd go on my own. That isn't a bad thing and I've learned about a ton of new places (including some a couple of blocks from my house).

FBC Spokane said...

Don't get me started.

Lennie's has always been glad to see our large groups and would love to have you, just give them a heads up. Though, I'm not sure they are ready for the FBC.

Thanks for the honorable mention. That was a pretty good rant.

Andre said...


Adding to what Alex has said about the Seattle bike ruffians trying to find seating. We've had some bad experiences at pizza places, they seem ideal for splitting some pies and pitchers but apparently they are still too restaurant orientated vs bar orientated. Wanting one check for 40 people and only taking 1 credit card is a little extreme. For some reason the buy-by-the-slice joints are better.

Point83 can make quite the din itself but the social time is great and a nice way to pass a dark/cold/wet evening in winter.

Sounds like the pizza place you were at was pretty lively on a Wednesday, but in general I like the weeknights since lots of places are more open and would welcome the business.

Also as Alex mentioned we go to some pretty dive-y bars, ones I wouldn't go to with a party of 5, but for some reason having a party of 10 or 15 or more makes it way more easy. It throws some of the locals for a loop. Some still sneer from their bar stools but others seem to find the change of pace interesting.

That said we keep it fluid, move places mid-evening if we need to and try new places as often as we go back to tried and true places.


John Speare said...

Pat -- I love the idea of going to Altiano's. It's good food too -- reminds me of the small open-air Mexican food stands in southern California.

They must have beer though. I"m about 80% sure that they do, but we'll need to do some recon to verify.

Hank said...

Along the lines of the history of FBC frustrations...

In my post about the Vintage bike ride last Sunday I mentioned noticing people calling David's ahead of time and ordering pizza. There was a comment posted expressing frustration with getting service at David's at the end of the ride. Mike Starr saw this and he is going to work with Josh, who apparently never notified him that 30, 50 or 90 cyclists were showing up. So hopefully future vintage rides will go better.

Hank said...

Correction: Mark Starr.

Pat S said...

Mike, as always, it was fun hanging with you and Sarah.

Alan, I'm with ya, bro.

Alex and Andre, great comments. The idea that some places will want us and some places don't is just fact and totally ok. We just need to get used to thinking that way and not sweat it. BTW, I've long-admired Point83 from afar and one of your rides is on my bucket list.

Jeff, that was a pretty classic rant. Shoulda posted a link. Here it is..

John, yeah, beer recon. If I must.

Hank, with 24 hours of retrospect, I'm thinking a call ahead probably woulda been a good idea. We've been small enough in hangs past that it hasn't really mattered, but I guess we need to get that idea in our heads.

Traditional Bike Club Curmudgeon said...

I don't read that as a rant, just an accurate description of the way most bars and restaurants (the "hospitality" business) in Spokane regard and treat customers.

Admittedly, a group of more than eight is going to be something of a challenge to most places and calling ahead would be a good idea; however, the real test is how they handle the surprise visits. When it happens, it may be a pain-in-the ass, but the customer shouldn't know it. They should add some hustle, acknowledge that there are going to be some snags and do their best to get beverages flowing right away so people have something to do other than dwell on how long it's all taking.

I'm glad some folks got up and left and I hope that the owner is aware. Neighborhood eateries rely on repeat customers and I doubt that those who left (and some who stayed) will make it a point to return there real soon.

Being a fan of The Shop and The Perry Street Cafe, I have noticed and considered the pizza place. Not likely to go there real soon now.

Pat S said...

Curmudgeon, thanks. I can't speak for everyone there - most were seated and they may have had good service. I was mostly standing, but I just felt like an unwanted customer. And I'm not necessarily trying to blast the pizza joint, just kinda surprised me more than anything. But I do agree that how they responded to our being there forever changed my perception of them.

Sean said...

That is too bad. This is a new restaurant and I am sure they are eager to please. The owner is a really young gal and this is her first crack at running a business. Also, her father is an avid cyclist in town. I don't know them very well, but maybe if you drop a note to her (her name is Krista I think), you'll feel more welcome next time. Good places to hang in Spokane are far and few....

Mike Sirott said...

Yeah, it's understandable to have to give some advance notice for say, 20+ people. I didn't think we were a very big group, but obviously it was more than Perry Pizza was expecting. Live and learn Pat.

I organize meetings for a few different groups, and yes, it's always helpful to get reservations. Some places are even willing to give you your own room. Last Thursday we used Zola's conference room for a meeting. It was pretty sweat because it overlooks the restaurant and you feel like you’re really important up there drinking your beer and looking down on everyone! And the best thing: Happy Hour food and drink until 6PM :)

Anonymous said...

As the former president of the 30+ membership Vespa Scooter Club of Spokane, (but firstly an avid loner cyclist),we have experienced the same problem. Lesson #1....get off the South Schmuck Hill. We actually walked in to one South Hill establishment and the first thing out the waiter's mouth was "large groups must pay an automatic gratuity and we do not split bills". Are you kidding me! There are plenty of worthy plces around town that would adore your patronage. Two of our favorites ate the ed Lion Pub and the Satellite Bar and Grill. Very friendly people. Keep looking.