Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mr. Chow Sticks It To Philippe Chow Again; For TEN Million!!

Really, the insane Chow Wars are the gift that keeps on giving. The latest, via Eater Miami is that Mr. Chow was back in a Miami court today to file an amended complaint against all the Philippe restaurants. The new complaint merges the Florida and California cases and asks to be heard by a single court. Plus, four ex-Mr. Chow chefs have been named as new defendants because—according to the complaint—they were allegedly lured by Philippe (!!) to share trade secrets and other valuable confidential info they gained during their tenure at Mr. Chow. Team Chow says they stand by all of the claims in the lawsuit and will pursue damages in excess of $10 million. Follow along the fun at Eater Miami.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lawry's Settles Men's Sex Discrimination Suit for $1,000,000

Lawry's settles men's sex discrimination suit

LOS ANGELES — The Lawry's restaurant chain agreed Monday to pay more than $1 million to settle a federal lawsuit that claimed it barred men from waiting tables at its high-end steakhouses.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a final consent decree Monday in federal court. A judge must still approve the decree, under which Lawry's agrees not to violate U.S. laws against sex discrimination.
The EEOC sued the company in 2006, three years after a busboy at Lawry's Las Vegas restaurant claimed he was barred from a more lucrative serving job.
At the time, Lawry's waitresses could earn $25,000 to $56,000 a year, depending on tips, while busboys and others typically earned about 40 percent less.
Pasadena-based Lawry's Restaurants Inc. was accused of violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that bars sex discrimination.
The case was unusual because women usually are the plaintiffs in such discrimination lawsuits, said EEOC regional attorney Anna Y. Park, who oversaw the case.
While there are many waitresses in the restaurant industry as a whole, food servers at high-end establishments usually are men, Park said. However, Lawry's had a tradition of banning men that stemmed from a 1938 policy, she said.
"We hope employers take a look at their practices. Traditions or marketing is never going to be a defense," Park said.
Rich Cope, Lawry's director of marketing, said the company was pleased to resolve the issue.
"For over 85 years, Lawry's has been an industry leader in improving the quality of employment with our co-workers and continues to be committed to providing a workplace free of discrimination," he said.
Cope said the company has hired men for serving jobs since 2004, although he didn't immediately know how many men are employed as servers.
Under the consent decree, Lawry's agreed to pay $500,000 to men who were refused Lawry's serving jobs. Several hundred people might be eligible for compensation, Park said.
Lawry's also agreed to pay $225,000 to train all of its workers to comply with discrimination laws and more than $300,000 for an advertising campaign to let men know that server jobs are available, Park said.
The company also agreed to appoint an equal employment opportunity officer to ensure it complies with the three-year decree.
The settlement covers all of Lawry's restaurants in Southern California, Las Vegas, Chicago, Dallas and overseas.
"Sex discrimination, against men and women alike, continues to be a problem in the 21st century workplace," EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru said in a statement. "This case should remind corporate America that employment decisions must be based on merit and ability to do the job — not on gender stereotypes."

Foodie Rant - Properly Sauced? Try Properly Ripped Off.

As every good foodie knows, each new and exciting trend produces plenty of stale, unexciting hangers-on. Exposure quickly dampens our enthusiasm, but even lasting trends are hurt by the legions of high-priced, low-quality imitators. I've seen this happen with cupcakes, creme brulee, bacon, boutique pizza - and now it's happening with cocktails. Recently, I've been ripped off by a lot of bad cocktails, and it's reaching the level of a trend.

Let's be clear: I'm not complaining that every corner bar doesn't have an in-house mixologist. I'm also not complaining about the cocktail trend; it's one I happen to love and write about. I'm exceedingly happy that Americans are being reminded that there is more to drink than light beer and bad vodka. But, in a city where you can get one of the best cocktails in the world at the Violet Hour (for $12) and have a master mixologist make your cocktail tableside at The Drawing Room (also for $12), how can bad $14 cocktails be explained away? At Trader Vic's, a perennial Chicagoist favorite, you can get a great cocktail for $9 - what's the excuse?

Sometimes, one expects to be overcharged. If you're having a drink at the Signature Room, you're renting space at the top of the world. If you order a martini at Charlie Trotters, you probably don't care about the price. On the other hand, when I walk into an average 2-star restaurant and get charged $14 for a martini, I want to go beat the bartender over the head with a bottle. If the martini is bad, as it often is, the situation deteriorates. A decent $14 cocktail is a mild insult; a bad $14 cocktail is a slap in the face.

Now that every restaurant feels the need to have a cocktail menu, sometimes the evil is more transparent. Recently, before looking at a menu, I ordered a Sidecar at a relatively posh, well-established Chicago restaurant. A venerable old cocktail, the Sidecar is classically made with Brandy or Cognac, Cointreau and Lemon Juice. I got my Sidecar (which cost me $13) and almost spit it out - it was so badly made that I wouldn't have been able to recognize the drink blindfolded. When I looked at the menu, the cocktail was listed, and described as a combination of an anonymous Brandy, Dekuyper Orange Liqueur and Sour Mix. Bottom shelf liquor and sour mix out of a gun, and for this they charged $13? AND they admitted it? Standards need to be reestablished.

A few hints to avoid this silliness. If you want to drink cocktails and the restaurant has a cocktail menu, pay attention to what they're putting in your drinks. If a drink is more than $8, it had better have high quality ingredients and fresh juices. If they're not clear, feel free to ask the waiter or bartender. If they don't have a bartender, and random waitstaff are mixing drinks, don't pay top shelf prices - you're paying for the craft as much as the ingredients. Don't hesitate to ask about prices in advance - often, cocktail prices aren't on the menu, leading to an unhappy surprise later on. Lastly, return often to those restaurants and bars that do a great job at a reasonable price. Let them know you appreciate it and pad their bottom line - hopefully, they won't be tempted to jump on the high-price bandwagon.