Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Bleeping Bleep Report (Ep. 16)

The Bleeping Bleep Report
for Hell's Kitchen - Episode 16
first aired on Thursday, June 13, 2013

This was a quick episode.

Chef Gordon Ramsay:  19
Susan:  0
Zach:  4
Cyndi:  7
Jon:  9
Mary:  0
Ja'nel:  4
Unknown:  1
Total:  44
That is an average of 1.05 bleeps per minute or one bleep every 57.3 seconds based on an air time of 42 minutes.  As expected, when we get down to the last 6 or 7 contestants, the bleep count goes way down.

But that's OK, because we'll begin to focus more on the contest in the next 4 shows.

Susan and Zach were both up for elimination.  They have both had their own share of blunders this season.  However, Zach has continued to fumble while Susan has significantly improved; so Zach was eliminated from competition. 

Farewell Zach.  You are a strong (albeit not elite) chef.  You will do well.

Chef Ramsay gave Susan some encouragement saying that she will easily find an excellent job in any restaurant if she is eliminated.  This tells me what I've long suspected:  Even if you don't win in Hell's Kitchen, the exposure it provides can push your career forward.

Have a great night.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Bleeping Bleep Report (Ep. 15)

The Bleeping Bleep Report
for Hell's Kitchen - Episode 15
first aired on Thursday, June 06, 2013

We are (unofficially) picking up from last week.  This is part two of a two part episode.  But it will be scored separately.

Chef Gordon Ramsay:  24
Susan:  0
Zach:  10
Anthony:  4
Cyndi:  2
Jon:  14
Mary:  0
Ja'nel:  2
Unknown:  2
Total:  58
That is an average of 1.38 bleeps per minute or one bleep every 43.4 seconds based on an air time of 42 minutes.  Yep, Nedra's absence has been noticed.  Even Chef Ramsay's bleeps are down.

Special note:  One of the Unknown bleeps belongs to a Dining Customer.

The Blue Team (a.k.a. the Men's Team) blew it again.  I've seen the Women's Teams dominate in past seasons.  But this year's mismatch has me wondering if the Contest Sponsors and Coordinators have a preference for the fairer sex.

Anthony and Zach went up for elimination.  Zach is the better Cook/Chef, but Anthony has the better attitude.  Which one will stay?  Which one will go?

For Chef Ramsay, this is not a hard decision.  He has always stood by the better Cook.  And he did so again today.

Anthony was eliminated from competition.  Farewell young man.  This was the first episode this season where Chef Ramsay gave an encouraging word to the evicted contestant.  That is worth something.

To fill the gap in the men's team, Ja'nel was moved from the Red to the Blue Team.

Previews for next week imply that Ja'nel sabotages the two remaining men and that there is a fire in the Blue Team's kitchen.

We'll know more next week.

Until then, Bleep off.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Bleeping Bleep Report (Ep. 14)

The Bleeping Bleep Report
for Hell's Kitchen - Episode 14
first aired on Thursday, May 30, 2013

Right to it!!

Chef Gordon Ramsay:  1
Susan:  4
Zach:  7
Anthony:  6
Cyndi:  1
Jon:  10
Mary:  0
Ja'nel:  2
Unknown:  3
Total:  34
That's about 0.8 bleeps per minute or one bleep every 74.1 seconds given a 42 minute air time.

Amazing!  I don't remember the last time - even over all 10 seasons - that there was fewer than one bleep per minute.

The Team competition was "Name that basic food".  Contestants are blind-folded and put on ear phones (so they can't here).  Then, Chef Ramsay feeds each of them a basic food that they must identify.  Each chef tastes four foods (for a total of 16 foods total for each team).

Anthony got skunked (zero for four).  But the big surprise is Jon.  He identified 3 of four foods despite being a smoker.  Statistically speaking, smokers should have a reduced sense of taste.  But Jon knows his food.

Back to the Bleep Count.  Why was it so low?!  Well, this episode did not have a dinner service.  And it's the dinner service with accompanying debate about who should be eliminated that creates almost two-thirds of the bleeps.  Indeed, if you compensate for the dinner service using the 2/3rd's rule, then you get 102 bleeps for the day (very comparable with last week's 109 bleeps).

Speaking of dinner service, since there wasn't one, no chefs were eliminated today.  Yep, another cliffhanger.

However, we did get a quick preview showing us that someone will set the kitchen on fire next week.

Wait, there's more!  Next week, after one of the chefs is eliminated, the remaining competitors will receive a Black Jacket.

See you next week.

Until then, bleep off.


The Bleeping Bleep Report (Ep. 13)

The Bleeping Bleep Report
for Hell's Kitchen - Episode 13
first aired on Thursday, May 27, 2013

Yeah, I'm behind.  There will be two Reports today.

This was a big episode.  The Men's Team had too few chefs.  Nedra moved over to make the teams even.  Some of you will say that this was a very Monkish thing to do.  But it's not because the teams did not wind up with ten members each.

To make matters more dramatic, the bleep count was awesomely high.  Here we go.

Chef Gordon Ramsay:  31
Susan:  1
Nedra:  38
Zach:  13
Anthony:  1
Cyndi:  1
Jon:  12
Mary:  0
Ja'nel:  5
Unknown:  7
Total:  109
That's about 2.6 bleeps per minute or one bleep every 23.1 seconds given a 42 minute air time.

Yowzas!  Nedra had more bleeps than Chef Ramsay.  That's relatively rare.

In the end, Nedra was eliminated from competition.  It's just as well.  No sane person wants to work with someone who uses that much profanity.

Nevertheless, Nedra had a good run.  Good fortune to you ma'am.  You demonstrated excellent cooking skills on several occasions. 

Everyone else ... bleep off.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Revisited: Amy's Baking Co.

Kitchen Nightmares Episode 6.16
Amy's Baking Co. (a.k.a. ABC Bistro)
first aired on Friday, May 10, 2013

Please keep this in mind when you view Kitchen Nightmares or read this article:
"A great chef doesn't create great food.  A great chef created food that other people think is great."
Last week I reviewed the Kitchen Nightmares episode on ABC Bistro.  Both the owners (husband Samy B. & wife Amy B.) demonstrated psychological behaviors so toxic that they are hard to watch, harder to accept, and almost impossible to work with or treat without professional, psychological intervention.

Now, after a week has passed and my emotions have subsided, it's time to look at Amy's Baking Co. a little more closely and through a clinical lens.

If you didn't see this episode, you can view it here on  Hat tip to DemSign who provided the link.

Before we begin, you need to know that I am not in the mental healthcare industry and I have no formal training in the mental health disciplines.  Please exercise your own judgment regarding my analysis and certainly don't be afraid to do your own research.

The Problem with Amy

Indeed, the problem - all of the problems - stem from the wife, Amy B.  And her problems stem mainly from Narcissistic Defenses.  More on that at Wikipedia.  Here are the key attributes of Narcissistic defenses.
  1. They are rigid and totalistic.
  2. It is one of the earliest defense mechanisms to emerge; usually in childhood.
  3. The typical five narcissistic defenses are:  repression, denial, distortion, projection (blaming others), and codependence.

Evaluating these in order ...

Rigid and totalistic:  Amy is always right.  Anyone who disagrees with her is always wrong.  There is no in between.  There are no filters.  There is no analysis or evaluation.  She even has a negative attitude to those who want to substitute items listed on the menu.
Key phrase:  "The customer isn't always right. And I won't take (expletive deleted) from anybody"

Develops in early childhood:  two quotes that are dead give aways.  Any emphasis is mine.
"It was at a very early age that I discovered I had a real true passion and talent for anything having to do with the culinary arts."

"We're in the restaurant business.  It's not all daisies and ponies and unicorns."

"At a very early age" ... Amy believes that she has a "real true passion and talent".  And in her defense, Chef Ramsay did validate the quality of her desserts.

But the blowout phrase is, "it's not all daisies and ponies and unicorns."  These aren't just fantasy items ..., they are childhood fantasy items.

Uses one or more defensive tactics:
Amy uses two in particular:  Projection & Codependence.
Projection (or blaming others) is described beautifully and frankly by Amy:
"Approximately two years ago, these Reviewers and these Bloggers decided to make up lies and say that they ate the food and that it was disgusting.  And we lost a tremendous amount of business because of it."

If you listen carefully to the youtube posting, Amy says "these Reviewers and these Bloggers" with a slightly sarcastic disdain.

Codependence:  Although some of the employees have learned to adapt to Amy's um ... quirks, The Codependence Crown obviously goes to her husband Samy B.  What is he willing to do to support his wife?  I mean besides spending over One Million Dollars opening the Restaurant.  Here's what Samy says:
"If anyone (mumbled) my wife's food is no good, I just tell them to leave the restaurant, I don't want them and don't come back." 

And he proves it immediately.
Samy:  "Madame, is this your first time here?"
Woman:  "And my last."
Samy:  "And it's your last.  Don't come back."


Problems Beyond Amy.

The first thing you have to do is to get Amy to understand what's going on inside her mind.  I'm not getting into that.  It's too complicated.  Perhaps a Psychologist can write a book about her.

The next problem is getting her through the other defensive mechanisms that are listed here.  Scroll down to "Vaillant's Categorization of Defense Mechanisms.  Amy will likely seek out other defenses if (a big IF) she works past the narcissism.  This is the way personalities work.  She won't immediately become mature.  Small parts of Amy will continually seek any approval and react badly to any criticism; probably for many years.  And again, the codependent husband will make that process much more difficult.

Another viewpoint:  Mindset

Another way to view Amy is through Carol S. Dweck's incredible book, Mindset:  the New Psychology of Success.  According to her research, people have one of two mindsets that determine their views and actions in life:  Growth and Fixed.

As you read the book (or the Wikipedia article), it is obvious that Amy possesses a Fixed Mindset.  From this perspective, it may be easier for her to adapt to the Restaurant Biz with this system than through the challenges listed above.

On a tangent, I highly recommend Mindset.  It's easy to understand.  It gets an entire chapter in SuperFreakonomics (or Freakonomics ... can't remember which).  Read for yourself how college researchers turned Fifth Graders into a bunch of helpless liars by telling them they are smart.  Very enlightening.  By the way, they do go back and fix the kids.


It may be hard to believe, but I hope the best for Amy and Samy B.  They make a few good desserts.  They keep a really clean restaurant (I'm not being sarcastic here).  They are not career criminals or hopeless drug addicts.  They have invested their (or his) own money in the restaurant. 

And I hope the best for them because their path will be full of brutal work.  Any and all progress they make will have to begin with the phrase, "We are doing this wrong."  That's a huge pill to swallow - even for a horse.  But, the rewards will be worth it.

Good luck Amy and Samy B.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Bleeping Bleep Report Ep 11

The Bleeping Bleep Report
for Hell's Kitchen - Episode 11
first aired 05/13/2013 at 8:00pm EDT

Good evening:

First, we must correct an error from last week.  Cyndi was NOT ELIMINATED at the end of Episode 10.  It was Amanda who was let go on that show.  Good luck to you Amanda.

Second,  Chef Ramsay left us with a cliffhanger ending from last episode.  It concluded at the beginning of this episode with the elimination of Barrett from the competition.  Farewell Barrett.  You did make it into the last half of the season.

And now, for the Bleeping Bleep Count.

Chef Gordon Ramsay:  10
Susan:  1
Nedra:  4
Ray:  11
Zach:  17
Anthony:  3
Cyndi:  0
Jon:  10
Mary:  0
Ja'nel:  2
Michael:  2
Unknown:  3
Total:  63
for an average of 1.5 bleeps per minute or one bleep every 40 seconds based on an air time of 42 minutes.

Chef's Surprise:
Besides terminating Barrett at the beginning of the episode, there were two other surprises in this episode.
  1. Ja'nel got bleeped twice.  To this point, she had never been bleeped for anything.
  2. During the dinner service, each of the contestants were given the leadership role of their particular course.  This is an important event, since the ultimate winner will be in charge of Ramsay's newest restaurant.
Have you noticed?  That the chefs who get bleeped the most are also the worst performers.  I suggest to all you Psych Majors out there that this is an opportunity to get to the root of this correlation.  Are they bad chefs because they curse?  Or do they curse because they are bad chefs.  Are they just frustrated?  Is cursing a way to confront the issue without actually dealing with it?

At the Episode's conclusion three chefs were up for elimination:  Zach, Ray, and Nedra.  For better or worse ... for right or for wrong ... all three of these contestants have been up in front of Gordon Ramsay many times.  I'm sure he's getting tired of seeing their faces. 

In the end, Chef Gordon Ramsay eliminated Ray.  Ta ta for now Ray.  If you have been in the food biz this many years, your future looks bright.  BTW Ray:  Semper Fi!

The rest of you ... bleep off.


P.S.  My magic recording device didn't pick up the second hour of this show.  It contained Episode 12 (9 Chefs competing).  If it is re-aired, I'll create a report for it.  Until then, just assume that we'll omit it.  After all, I'm doing this for fun, not for posterity.  R.B.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Bleeping Bleep Report #10

The Bleeping Bleep Report
fort Hell's Kitchen Episode 10
first aired 05/07/2013

Well, everyone seems to be leveling off.  To a certain degree, the bleep count goes down as we approach the season finale.  However, it doesn't usually drop off this soon.  Perhaps next week will show a rebound. 

Special notes about the Daily Challenge after the bleep count.  So, here we go ...

Chef Gordon Ramsay:  32
Barrett:  9
Susan:  0
Nedra:  10
Ray:  5
Zach:  5
Anthony:  2
Amanda:  5
Cyndi:  1
Jon:  2
Mary:  0
Ja'nel:  1
Michael:  2
Unknown:  2
Total:  76
for an average of 1.81 per minute or one bleep every 33 seconds based on a 42 minute air time.

And now a special note regarding the Service Challenge at the beginning of the episode.  Each team had to prepare five dishes for three people heavily involved with a debutant's ball:  the debutant herself, the debutant's mother, and the debutant's god-mother (who was also the party planner).

The women were very clear.  The young deb did not like really spicy food.  The family wanted big food portions.  Any and all steak dishes had to be medium to well done.

THE MEN'S TEAM IMMEDIATELY DISREGARDED THESE INSTRUCTIONS!!!  Zach said, "What does a fifteen year old (meaning the deb) know about chicken?"  Anthony made a similar comment.  Michael just didn't hear or care about the steak request.

And sure enough ... THE MEN'S TEAM LOST.  Why?  (you're not going to believe this)  because Jon made a really spicy macaroni & cheese stick and then Michael created a great NY Strip steak that was MEDIUM RARE.  And so the men spent the day decorating the dining room for the debutant ball - all according to the very nit-picky instructions of the god mother.

Salt in the wound ... the Men's team could have been excluded from the elimination round if it weren't for two men.  Barrett (who got lost in the service) and Zach who could not get it through his head that hey had to double the portions according to the instructions in the morning challenge.

LESSON:  Cooking great food doesn't make you a great chef.  Cooking food that other people think is great makes you a great chef.

Four people were up for elimination:  Zach Barrett, Amanda, and Cyndi.

Cyndi was eliminated.  Farewell Cyndi.  Take solace knowing that you made it into the top half of the class.

Everyone else .... bleep off.


Kitchen Nightmares: Amy's Baking Co.

Kitchen Nightmares
Episode:  6.16
Amy's Baking Company & Bistro
a.k.a. ABC Bistro
Scottsdale, AZ
first aired on 05/10/2013

Did you see Friday's episode of Kitchen Nightmares?  Although I frequently cite this show and others as examples of poor restaurant management, I don't usually discuss a single episode at length.  This restaurant is an exception.

Any and all viewers should watch reality shows with some skepticism.  Most shows in this genre up the drama a bit and work to make the host a little more heroic.  There are also cultural differences that might not translate well.  For example, the British culture avoids humiliating or shameful situations at all costs.  Finally, the limits of TV time require quick editing to get as much of the story in as possible.

And so it goes with Chef Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.  Most of the owners on his show are completely incompetent.  They can't even keep a refrigerator clean or their equipment maintained.  How hard is that?  So the Owner's humiliation begins with a dressing down from Ramsay about the simplest things.

But not so with Amy & Samy (husband and wife), the owners of Amy's Baking Company & Bistro (heretofore:  ABC Bistro).  They keep their restaurant immaculate, have a passion for food, and sincerely desire a well-run restaurant.  Chef Ramsay complemented the pair on the kitchen (a floor cleaner than most kitchen tables) and the cakes in the display case (made fresh from scratch).

Key phrase from Gordon Ramsay:  "If the food here is as good as this cake, then why is there a problem at this restaurant?"

And that's where the fun begins.  Good heavens.  I hope I'm not being snarky.  Let me check the dictionary ... Nope.  I'm not being snarky, yet.  But I am doing my best Gregory House, M.D. impression.

First Red Flag: Amy & Samy met in Las Vegas where, according to both of them, Samy was a real playboy - surrounded by beautiful women every night.  But Amy put a stop to that and said (paraphrasing), "It's either me or the playboy lifestyle.  You can't have both."  And so Samy (btw, I am spelling the name correctly) gave up chasing women and married Amy.  She was all smiles.  What a powerful moment.  She was so good that he gave up several women to be with her.  This is an enormous ego stroke.

Second Red Flag: Samy retired from building custom-made homes when the housing market crashed.  He then spent $1,000,000, $1 million ... One million dollars .... wwwooonnnn mmilllllliiioonnn dollllarrrs) to open ABC Bistro.  Another ego stroke for Amy.

Third Red Flag:  Amy's bakes several desserts well (that's good).  She then develops a passion for cooking other things (that's good).  She believes that this passion makes here a good chef (that's a logical fallacy).  Cake cookers work under a different set of constraints from Restaurant Chefs.  This becomes evident later.

Fourth Red Flag:  Amy & Samy are both very defensive regarding their work.  Specifically, Amy said there was a drop in business when ABC Bistro received a bad review on the internet.  They retaliated against the vicious lies spread about them (their words, not mine).  Since then, they have spent a lot of time fighting the "haters" in the internet.  This is defending the ego.  Or should I say, "She can't stand having her reality challenged."

In Amy's defense, she did say that ABC Bistro had received many positive and glowing reviews.  And you can find those reviews on several web sites.  One good source is  BEWARE:  This episode has generated a lot of feedback on yelp.  You'll need to dig to the back to find those positive reviews.

Fifth Red Flag:  Samy keeps the waiter's tips and pays them an hourly wage.  This is contrary to every restaurant in America.  Chef Ramsay understands this.  Samy (being defensive) claims that he'll let the waiters keep their tips when they demonstrate skill at their jobs.

Sixth Red Flag:  Samy won't let the waiters use the Point of Sale System until they can demonstrate skill at their jobs.  This means that the staff has to write down their orders and hand them to Samy so that he can enter the order in the P.O.S. machine.  An unnecessary step in the process.

Seventh Red Flag:  Samy also handles all the sales transactions.  All cash and credit card sales must be brought to Samy to process .... until the waiters can prove they're skilled at their jobs.

If you confront Samy, "It's your job to train them.", you'll get a sharp rebuke.  What do you know about restaurants?  Samy actually owns one.

Eighth Red Flag:  Amy believes that God himself has given her this talent and purpose in life.  That's an incredible leap of faith.  Unfortunately, it's not born out by the way she treats the staff, her customers, or Samy.

Ninth Red Flag:  She & Samy have called upon Chef Ramsay for the wrong reasons.  They have both seen Kitchen Nightmares.  They know he is respected.  Amy quite naively stated, "I wanted you to come here to tell people that our food is really good."  Amy & Samy should know better.  Their restaurant is failing, it is getting poor reviews (despite the good reviews from 2010 and 2011), and other businesses in the area are doing well.  Ramsay's M. O. is to ferret out the problems and correct them.  That usually involves major changes on the part of the owners.

But it keeps getting better (he said sarcastically).

This is the only episode where the first fifteen minutes is nothing but cuts from the day before Chef Ramsay shows up to meet the owners.  They are both shown screaming and yelling at customers and employees.

Amy called the police when someone didn't pay for a pizza that was never served!  Yes, the guest ordered a pizza.  Over an hour later, the pizza had still not been delivered.  The customer said, "We don't have any more time to wait.  Just cancel the pizza.

Samy flew into a rage.  "No, you pay for the pizza you ordered.  Then you can go."  There was a confrontation.  They actually ended up paying for a pizza he didn't eat just to get away from these two people.

Chef Ramsay learned that 50 employees had been fired or left ABC Bistro in the previous year.  Samy corrected him.  There had actually been over 100 employees who quit or were fired the previous year.

I'll have to stop here.  There are several other details.  I highly recommend finding a repeat of this episode somewhere out there.

Two last things though:

One:  This episode enraged so many people that the yelp web page for ABC Bistro has over 500 reviews dated from Friday, May 10th and Saturday, May 11th from people who witnessed these two owners be cruel and unusual to almost everybody.

Two:  Chef Ramsay walked out.  He couldn't help them.

The restaurant is still open and running losses.  It will continue to be open until Samy runs out of money.

What a train wreck.  Really, it should be researched by psychology majors.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Rules for Coupons

Well, I'm on a roll regarding Food Service.  Coupons have been mentioned many times.  If you're a restaurateur or want to be one, here are a few things to consider IF, AND ONLY IF, you decide to have coupons.

Coupons can bring in more business

Electronic media coupons (including internet coupons) seem to do a better job than the print media coupons (Newspaper ads, door hangers, etc.).  People using the internet are able to quickly target the type of restaurant they want to dine at.  However, keep this deeply in mind ... the interweb people fall into three groups:  1) people looking for porn (55%), 2) people looking for free stuff (44.885%), and 3) people researching topics for their own edification (0.115%).  Guess which group will buy your electronic coupon.

Don't give away the store

You can give away profit, but don't be the one paying the costs of the meal or the restaurant's  overhead.  You have a right to remain in business and are absolutely under no obligation to go broke paying for any portion of a diner's meal.  Here's what I mean.  Let's say your average meal price (a.k.a. PPA) is $12.  For the typical restaurant, 25% of that $12 pays for the food; 25% for Labor, 25% for overhead (e.g. rent, utilities, etc.), and 25% is your profit.  So any coupons you offer should not be worth more than $3 per meal purchased.

How bad can this situation get?  I just saw an episode of Restaurant:  Impossible where the restaurant owners were paying off $10 coupons on $13 meals.  That means they were losing $6.75 off of every meal.  And there was a large stack of coupons.

Here are a few examples.

  1. O'Charley's coupons are almost universally "Get $5 off your meal if you spend $20 or more on dinner." The emphasis on 'or more' is mine.  It also emphasizes the 25% profit margin.  Also notice, that the diner must spend at least $20.  It's almost impossible to spend exactly $20; so O'Charley's is almost guaranteed to receive some amount of profit.
  2. "Buy one meal, get the next meal half off."  This is very popular.  50% of the equal or lesser valued meal will never be more than your profit margin.
  3. "Get an extra side item (usually a vegetable) if you purchase a dinner with a salad."

Don't forget any restrictions.

This is typically forgotten or glossed over.  Don't forget that YOUR COUPON IS A DEFACTO PUBLIC CONTRACT !!!!  Whatever it says and/or doesn't say is enforceable under the law.  So, any expectations you have of the guest must be included on that coupon.

I promise and swear that the diner will work around any coupon or try to maximize the benefits of any coupon.  For example, about a week ago, I detailed a guest who expected to use three coupons to get 9 meals for free.  And I mean she was REALLY hoping for free food.  Here are a few restrictions typical to the industry.
  1. ... of equal or lesser value ... :  as in "Buy one meal get the next meal of equal or lesser value for half off."  That's important.  Many (although not all) clients will order a meal for $30 and order a $7 appetizer as a meal, then expect you to comp $15 off the bill for the entrée.  Don't argue with me about the general goodness of mankind ... they will do this.  If you don't have this restriction, you'll be paying for lots of salmon and crab legs.
  2. Only one coupon per visit / alternately Not valid with any other offer:  Back to the lady with three coupons.  Our coupon clearly said "One coupon per visit."  This had to be pointed out to her over the phone.  Please note that, despite the plain English, she was still upset with us for the restriction.  What does that say about some peoples' character.
  3. ... when you purchase a drink or when you purchase two drinks:  as in, "Buy one meal get the next meal of equal or lesser value half off when you purchase two beverages."  Almost all guests will order water if this restriction is not listed.  But why does this limitation exist at all?  The not so little secret in the Food Biz is ... non-alcoholic beverages cost about $0.25 to $0.50 per glass depending on a few factors that I refuse to list here.  So, with this restriction, the restaurant can regain almost all the profit it lost giving you the discount on food.
  4. Does not include... :  This could be any exclusion although typical items on this list are taxes, gratuities, and alcohol.  In fact, you should probably have a reminder to tip the waiter based on the gross amount of the bill before the coupon is applied to the meal.  Alcohol is typically excluded because restaurants don't want to deal with someone who comes in just to drink booze (or get plastered).  That's a lawsuit waiting to happen.  And taxes?  The local mafia state always wants its cut (didn't Al Capone say that?).
  5. The expiration datefor the love of all that is holy in the universe, do not forget the expiration date.  A coupon without an expiration date can live on forever; even if you sell the restaurant.  On a more subtle point, an expiration date creates a small sense of urgency that will hopefully bring the guest in sooner - and sooner is always better.
  6. Get $5 off if you purchase $20 or more:  OK, it doesn't have to be $5 and $20.  You can pick any dollar amounts you like, just so long as the discount is not greater than your profit margin.  Out of all the coupons I've ever seen, I like this one the best - no holds barred.  As the owner, you make sure that you're at least breaking even.  And the customer is free to order anything he wants ... and can even come in by himself.

An alternative to Coupons:

Coupons cost money (even if it's just your profit).  But, some marketing beyond word-of-mouth is almost always necessary.  What to do?  Give this a shot:  don't print/offer coupons.  Instead, advertise regular deals.  My BBQ place did just that on at least one item.  If you purchased a full rack of ribs, you also got two pints of vegetables for free.  And yes, it brought in a lot of customers.  And yes, we still made a profit.

Your restaurant may need coupons for a variety of reasons:  it's the slow time of year, competition is fierce, you're new in town, or you're in a small town.  The list goes on.  But you can't let your marketing campaign drive you under.  No one wants to be a busy failure.  If you fallow the items listed above, you will be a busy success.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Coupons Trending

Coupon Trends Over the Past Few Years

Coupons are the double-edged sword of the restaurant biz.  They steal your profits (which you have a complete right to) but they can bring in new customers.  Many people won't try a new restaurant without a coupon.  Some of those won't go to a restaurant at all without one,

As you can imagine, a delicate balance has been struck by restaurateurs who offer coupons.


Section I:  Who Offers Coupons?

It used to be that only Mom & Pop proprietors and fast food joints offered coupons.  Their Restaurants sat in locations that had little or no auto traffic.  Or perhaps they needed to sell more product to meet sales goals.

Now, just about everyone - big & small - offers coupons.  First out of a sense of community.  Non-profit fund raisers (e.g. school booster groups) are able to sell more coupon books when big names are available.  And the big names earn a "sense of belonging" in the surrounding neighborhoods.  Second: fierce competition.  The proprietors start to get more business from the people looking to get a good deal.

Section II:  Coupon Venues

Originally, customers dutifully sat around their dining tables with Sunday editions of their newspapers as well as the weekly load of print ads delivered by mail and door hangers.  They would spend two or three hours flipping page after page; scanning for coupons based on restaurant genre, location, and known reputation.

It should be no surprise, however, that coupons are now widely available online.  Internet coupon websites like,, and have been around for several years.  These internet coupon companies are very popular with shoppers.

And there are a few reasons for this.  First, customers can narrow their search for a restaurant by several factors such as: location, food type (BBQ, Mexican, etc.), and type of coupon.  This in turn reduces the amount of time they spend looking for coupons.  Second, they can also compare coupons between restaurants.  Third, using a computer (especially in this type of application) makes the shopper feel smarter and more powerful.  Who knew couponing online could produce megalomania?

But couponing online produces one more magical effect.  The internet shopper pays for the coupon they print off.  Even if the amount is miniscule, paying for it heightens the value of the coupon and keeps it at the forefront of the customer's mind.  So they are much more likely to come to your establishment than those who still flip through direct mail packages.

Section III:  Coupon Values

The value of coupons has been getting lower over the years.  Driven by competition, increased quality of home-cooked meals, and the economy, restaurant profit margins have been hit hard.  Consequently, the discounts available on coupons have dropped sharply.

Early coupons were for 50% off your meal.  Then, 25%.  Then 10%.

Then came "Buy one, Get  one free".  The free meal is always of equal or lesser value.

Then came "Buy one, Get one free ... when both diners purchase a beverage of any kind".

Also popular beginning in the early 2000's:  "Buy $20 or more and get $5 off."

Then, whatever coupon you used came with the stipulation: "Not valid with any other offer."  and "Only one per party."

Over the last five yeas, "Buy one, get one free" became "By one, get one half off."

Most internet coupons require you to purchase $xx amount to get $xx amount off.  For example, issued a $16 coupon on our behalf; BUT YOU HAD TO PURCHASE $16 of food before the coupon could be used.


I don't see the value of coupons returning to their glory days.  First, restaurants simply cannot afford to feed people for free or to even pay for part of the meal.  Second, restaurant organizations are helping their clients overcome this type of obstacle (and yes, coupons are an impediment to business).  And third, even TV shows such as Kitchen Nightmares and Restaurant: Impossible are directly telling their clients to dump coupons in general.

Good luck diners!
Good luck restaurateurs!


Friday, May 3, 2013

My Trail of Tears

Consider this before you open a restaurant.

The restaurant history of Russell Britt.

1980 to 1983:  Six Flags Over Texas
A) There were 13 Pink Thing Carts; now there's just two.
B) Rose's Cantina served nachos and foot-long hot dogs.  Now it's just snow cones.
C) Colonel's Café served Chicken Fried Steak.  Now it's one of five pizza places.
D) Southern Plantation Chicken served Fried Chicken.  Now it's an Alligator place.
E) The Alligator Place, Casa de las Banderas (Mexican food), and Dry Hole Charlie's are now open only between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  They are closed during weekend-only operations.

1984:  El Chico in the Golden Triangle Mall in Denton, TX is now closed

1984:  Bonanza on I-35E in Denton, TX is closed and the building is now a feed store.  It's sister restaurant on I-35E in Lewisville, TX is also closed.

1985:  El Chico on I-35E in Lewisville, TX.  I opened the restaurant in 1985.  It was new, clean, had great access to the interstate freeway and was substantially renovated in 1995.  Business was booming!  It is now closed.

1985:  Tio's Mexican Restaurant (not to be confused with Tia's Mexican Food Restaurant) located in Highland Village, TX.  It was closed by the Sheriff's Office - probably for falling behind on the lease payments.

1986 to 1990:  Steak & Ale at 10909 Composite Drive near the intersection of Walnut Hill and I-35E in Dallas, TX.  This was part of Dallas' well-known Restaurant Row which included Bennigan's, Old San Francisco Steak House, Tony Roma's Ribs, Red Lobster, TGI Friday's, Chili's, and Trail Dust Steak House.  This particular Steak & Ale was closed in 1999 or 2000.  At last visit, all restaurants (except for the TGI Friday's and the Chili's) are closed.  The Steak & Ale and Tony Roma's were razed and a Car Dealership now occupies that location.  The Bennigan's was razed and two gas stations now occupy the that location.  The Red Lobster was also razed.  I don't know what occupies that address now.

2003 to 2006:  O'Charley's in Florence, KY.  This restaurant used to pull in $95 to 100k per week.  There's more competition in the area now and an O'Charley's was opened in Campbell County, KY.  Since then, sales for my former employer have dropped.  But it is still there and it is still profitable.

2008:  The entire Steak and Ale Corporation closes.  The Bennigan's and Bay Street restaurants (which operated under the Steak & Ale banner) are also closed.  I wasn't working there at the time (so it's not my fault).

Oct. 2012 to May 3, 2013:  H & D BBQ & Grill.  Open for approximately six months.  It closed it's doors permanently today.

The moral of the story?  (If there is one).  All but two of the restaurants/locations are closed permanently.  The other locations are substantially changed and not performing as well as they had in the past - regardless of the reasons. 

If you are considering opening a business (and especially if it's a restaurant), prepare a detailed exit plan in the event things don't work out.  Some items (but not all) to consider in the plan are:
  1. How will you sell the business and its assets?
  2. How much monetary loss can you handle?  Can you handle 1 month?  Are you willing to take out a second mortgage?  If things do get better, how long will it take to get into the black?
  3. Are you networked into another job if the restaurant closes?

Update 5/03/13 @ 8:45pm CDT
The owners of H & D BBQ & Grill will continue to run a catering only business from a location in Allen, TX (North of Plano, TX).  If that succeeds, they will try to open a Take Out only storefront in Allen. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Coupon Delirium

Alternate Title:  "Why I Hate Coupons"

1. A temporary state of mental confusion and fluctuating consciousness resulting from high fever, intoxication, shock, or other causes. It is characterized by anxiety, disorientation, hallucinations, delusions, and incoherent speech.  [emphasis - mine]
2. A state of uncontrolled excitement or emotion: e.g.  this lady walks into a restaurant with three coupons.

Over the past few years, some people have become really cheap. 

Here's what happened yesterday at lunch:

A woman calls in a large order.  "I have a coupon." she says rather simply.  The Owner/Manager and I are both on the phone.  He's letting me take the order and explain the limitations on this particular coupon.

"Of course ma'am." I say.  "There are a few conditions regarding this coupon.  You must spend $37.50 on food.  It does not include our lunch specials.  The coupon does not cover beverages.  It does not cover Sales Taxes.  It does not cover gratuity.  It can be used for Take Out orders.  If all this is done, $25 will be deducted from your bill."

(By the way, this list of "conditions" is one reason I hate coupons; especially internet coupons.)

"That's fine," says the mystery woman.  "We'll be ordering a lot of food." 

"We need," she continues ...
1) Grilled Chicken Breast dinner
2) Grilled Shrimp Dinner
3) Two stuffed Baked Potatoes.
4) Three-meat combination dinner
5) Two-meat combination dinner.
6) Grilled Salmon dinner
7) Rib Dinner, and
8) Sliced brisket dinner.

"Yes ma'am."  I say.  "and your total before taxes is ... $75.86"

"Fantastic." says the woman.  "I have three coupons."  That's right!  She expects us to deduct $75 from the check so that her friends only have to pay a combined $0.86 plus tax on their food!

Now, there are two things a waiter never wants to say: "No" and "Sorry."

"I'm sorry ma'am."  I say.  "I can only take one coupon per order."

"But I spent more than $37.50.  And using one coupon per visit isn't part of the conditions you listed before."

At this point, the Owner takes over the phone call.  Thank you Big D.  I really owe you one.

"Yes ma'am."  Says the Owner.  "If you'll look in the left column in the second to last paragraph, you'll see the line about one coupon per visit."

"Well, can I divide up the bill into two parts and then use two coupons?"

"Not likely ma'am.  Since the current food cost is $75.86, it's more probable that one order will be over $37.50 and the other order will be below $37.50.  And you'd only be able to use one coupon."

"OK.  Hold on a moment."  She puts us on hold while I continue to get seated.  Yep, there's at least six people I haven't helped yet just because of this order.  The Owner let's me off the phone call so I can wait on the new customers.  Thanks Big D.  I now owe you two.

While I'm filling the new guests drink orders, I can hear the owner, "Yes ma'am.  You'd like to delete the Grilled Shrimp dinner, one of the stuffed baked potatoes, the grilled chicken dinner (yada yada yada).  Your new food total is $40.55.  Your total after the sales taxes and the $25 discount is $19.10.  Your meals should be ready in about 7 minutes."

She comes in to pick up the Take Out orders and hands me a twenty.  While I'm getting the change (all ninety cents), she says to the owner, "We really were expecting a free meal today."  And by that, she expressed self-righteous  indignation that we (i.e. the Restaurant) ruined her lunch and her friend's lunches.  Well, who were we that we weren't willing to pick up the cost of someone's meal.

Hello ... McFly!  When customers use a coupon, the restaurant is foregoing its profit to give that person an opportunity to try something new.  The restaurant does not have the money to PAY FOR OTHER PEOPLE'S MEALS!!!  Hell !!  If this woman thought she could steal a meal by using three coupons, why shouldn't the two bit granny go all the way and use 200 coupons?  That way, the restaurant could pay for her food AND HER MORTGAGE!!!

Please, please, please ... if you use a coupon, do not even ask if you can use two coupons at one time.  And for the sake of all that is good and right, tip your waiter on the total bill before the check is discounted.

You may now commence with comments ... both constructive and unconstructive.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Bleeping Bleep Report (Ep 9)

The Bleeping Bleep Report
for Hell's Kitchen - Episode 9
first aired 04/30/2013

After some very tepid bleeping from last week, things seem to be back to normal for the crew at Hell's Kitchen.  Here are the numbers:

Chef Gordon Ramsay:  31
Barrett:  10
Susan:  0
Nedra:  15
Ray:  14
Zach:  4
Anthony:  2
Jacqueline:  8
Amanda:  13
Cyndi:  4
Jon:  8
Mary:  0
Ja'nel:  1
Michael:  2
Unknown:  6
Total:  108
An average of 2.57 per minute or one bleep every 23 seconds based on a 42 minute air time.

One other notable item:  At the end of the episode, Chef Ramsay didn't say "Piss off" or "Bleep off".  He said, "Leave me alone."  Very Garbo-esque.

The Red Team lost and put up Amanda and Jacqueline for elimination.  After a commercial break's deliberation, Chef Ramsay booted Jacqueline. 

Ta ta Jacqueline.  May you go on to be the chef we all know you can be. 

Every one else can bleep off.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Bleeping Bleep Report (Ep 8)

The Bleeping Bleep Report
for Hell's Kitchen - Episode 8
First Aired 04/23/2013
Shocking:  Chef Gordon Ramsay DID NOT have the most number of bleeps today.
Chef Gordon Ramsay:  12
Barrett:  10
Susan:  0
Nedra:  8
Ray:  2
Zach:  7
Anthony:  0
Dan:  17
Jacqueline:  1
Amanda:  3
Cyndi:  1
Jon:  10
Mary:  0
Ja'nel:  0
Michael:  12
Unknown:  3
Total:  86
That is approximately 2 per minute or 1 bleep every 29.3 seconds based on a 42 minute air time.
Special mentions:
  1. These numbers are down again.  It would seem the dinner services are getting better.
  2. Dan had three "silent bleeps" when the editors blurred out his universal fowl symbold for [bleep] off.
  3. Mary - Mary? - Mary!  Miss mary whispered "Oh, my gosh!" when barrett served up raw chicken.  I almost counted that as a bleep.
Released:  Dan and Barrett were selected for elimination.  Dan was punted.  Good bye Dan.  May you put this fiasco behind you and succeed in your future endeavors.
Everyone else can bleep off.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Who Saved the Beluga Whale

The Beluga Whale - Delphinapterus leucas - is an Arctic and sub-Arctic cetacean.  It is also known as the White Whale;  although the term Whale is not completely accurate as "whale" usually denotes a baleen dental structure.  The Beluga is really a member of the suborder Odenticeti, or toothed cetaceans (including dolphins and porpoises).

The beluga is listed as "nearly threatened" by the Endangered Species Act.  But that is slightly misleading as its population has been growing, albeit slowly, since the early 1930's.  The worldwide population is now estimated to be 150,000.  The main threats to the beluga population are 1) hunting (by humans), 2) predation (by killer whales and polar bears), 3) habitat contamination (especially in rivers), and 4) disease.

But this is background information only.  I am focusing on the "threat" that no longer exists.  The unlisted threat that (shamefully) nearly drove the beluga into extinction in the 1920's.  But at the same time, this threat also deserves credit for saving the beluga.
I am, of course, speaking of the Automobile industry.

It was the Gilded Age.  Although humbled by the sinking of the Titanic, it had found new life in flight and in the burgeoning automotive industry.  The internal combustion engine had been invented almost twenty five years earlier.  But, due to costs, almost nobody could afford a car until mass pruduction techniques lowered the car's price substantially.

But technology and the law would collide to create the unintended consequence of the beluga's near-demise.  Relevant to this was inter-vehicle communications.  Today, we mearly honk our horns.  But early motorists, when coming to an intersection, were required by law to disembark from their vehicle, look both ways, fire a gun (preferably a shotgun) in the air warning other motorists in the area, and look both ways down the intersection again before re-entering their vehicles and continuing through the crossroads.

Of course, when there were only a few thousand cars nationwide, this was not a material problem.  But, with Ford's Model T, the resulting mass of automobiles required new laws for the new-fangled machines.  It took hours for lines of cars to get through intersections and the constant gunfire was scaring the horses and wounding pedestrians.  A new law limiting the number of vehicles on the roads to three was proposed but later killed in committee when politicians realized how much tax revenue would be lost.

So, what to do about the literal, legal, and metaphorical roadblock?  Some new method was needed to allow drivers to communicate with each other without getting out of their cars, without scaring horses (still prevalent on the streets), and without injuring pedestrians.

Enter the beluga whale.  They produced a high-pitched tweeting sound that was audible for several city blocks.  They were plentiful.  But most of all, they were small enough to cram into an automobile's engine compartment.  After pushing and pulling the cetacean into place, it was a simple matter of attaching electrical wires to the pectoral and dorsal fins and then manage the electrical discharges via a simple switch in the passenger compartment.

And viola!  The automobile horn was born!

At this point, most readers will be completely incredulous at the very idea that Belugas could be used in this manner.  But collective memories are short.  So let us review a few historical facts.
  1. As seen above, a new inter-automotive communication system was needed.
  2. The Beluga Whale emits a strong, audible sound.
  3. The Beluga Whales (especially infants and pups) are relatively small.
  4. Early automobile engines were also relatively small.
  5. Man's superiority over nature was unquestioned.
  6. Electricity was widely accepted as a way to produce involuntary reactions (which contunues to this day).
Visit any substantially large vintage automobile show and closely evaluate any antique motor car from the 1910's and 1920's.  Notce that the engine cover (or hood - as it is known today) is much larger than the engine it covers.  It had bo be.  The extra room in the engine compartment was necessary to accomodate the beluga whale, which would have been a standard safety feature of any car during the Roaring Twenties.

For two or three years (depending upon the automotive historian you interview), all was well.  However, severe drawbacks became very apparent.
  1. The electrical jolt necessary to get the beluga to wail often shorted out the electrical system.
  2. Motorists had to stop every two miles to wet the white whale down.  By the way, this is the original reason for water being available with air at filling stations.
  3. The beluga consumes approximately 800 poinds of food per day.
  4. It poops about 600 pounds per day.
  5. The dwindling infrastructure of the Whaling Industry could not keep up with demand.
  6. The beluga (a tooth-baring cetacean) frequently bit the very people who were trying to care for it.  Side note:  "Biting the hand that feeds you." refers to the Beluga Whale, not to dogs.
  7. At unpredictable intervals, the Beluga would try to escape - producing cataclysmic results to the automobile's suspension at the very least and in other cases forcing the horseless carriage into buildings or oncoming traffic.  Although, Laurel and Hardy did have two scenes in separate films where such incidences produced hysterical results.
This situation was dire.  Purchases of Shotguns escalated.  Pedestrians purchased surplus World War One helmits.  Stock prices of buggy whip companies rose sharply.  City and State legislatures were once again considering the limit of 3 cars per city block.  All of these were in anticipation of the demise of the Beluga.

Enter DELCO (Dayton Engineering Laboritories Company) of Dayton, OH,  Already a prestigious firm for creating an electic motor for NCR's cash registers in 1906 and inventing the electric car starter in 1911, DELCO set out to conquer the daunting task of saving both the auto industry and the Beluga Whales.

AND SO THEY DID!!  In just 42 working days from concept to prototype, DELCO created the first ELECTRIC car horn.  There was a small delay, as they tried to copy the high-ptiched tweet of the whale.  But they settled on a sound reminiscent of the noble beasts name:  "Ba-looo-gah!"  Tears of joy filled the streets of every city from Boston to New York.  Rehabitated whales were released into the wild where they were preyed upon by the inuit tribes and killer whales.

Today, antique car horns are still made by companies such as Assured Automotive Products - who sells an antique "Ah-hoo-ga" horn to avoid copyright infringement lawsuites.  But everyone knows they are flattering the original.

And so, with the help of the very industry that would have destroyed them, the Beluga Whale was saved. 

Long live Detroit!
Long live the Beluga Whale!  (which is realy an odenticeti)

And now you know ... the rest of the story.  (um ... I'm still trying to get this cleared by my attorney)


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Barbeque Snobs

I have worked in several restaurants: Steack pleces, Mexican Food, Fast Food, Carnival Food, and Bar & Grill food. 

But never, ever in my life have I witnessed the nearly insance commitment to a certain food as displayed by BBQ Snobs.

I'm really serious here.

Let me be very clear.  A BBQ Snob IS NOT THE SAME AS a BBQ Enthusiast.  

Enthusiasts enjoy their food.  They seek out new experiences.  They are willing to try something different.  It may not be to their liking, but they'll still enjoy the day.  And they may even give you a few hints on what needs changing.  But an enthusiast will never - ever - under any circumstances - hate you personally just because the food you offer isn't precisely what they expect.

Watch the Food Network's TV show "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives".  The host for this show is an Enthusiast (a "devotee" at the very worst).

BBQ Snobs, on the other hand, won't even give you the time of day.  In December of 2012, a Snob walked into my BBQ establishment and asked, "Where's your peht (sic)?" -- by "peht", he meant "pit", ss in "Where's your BBQ Pit?"  I tried to explain that local city ordinances forbade open flames in buildings where multiple businesses share the same walls.  But he left when I said, "Local city ordinances".  His lips pruned up and his nostrils flared.  Did I say something wrong?

He immediately left in a litteral huff.  Yes, the 'huffing' was audible as he departed the building and got into his automobile.

If you are a BBQ Enthusiast, please come in.  I'd love to meet you - even if you don't like our BBQ.  But if you are a Snot - ah ,,, I mean ... uh ... snob - go back to your favorite place and leave us alone.

Thank you,
Russell Britt

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Bleeping Bleep Report (Ep 7)

The Bleeping Bleep Report for ...
Hell's Kitchen:  Episode 7
First aired 04/16/2013

Old Business:  When last we left our merry band, four chefs were up for elimination: Mary, Nedra, Ray, and Dan.  Chef Ramsay did something he's never done before.  My guess was that he'd switch the contestants to the opposite teams.  And again, I was wrong. 

Instead, Chef Ramsay placed all four competing chefs on probation.  They either had to earn their respective Team Jackets back or they would be eliminated.

Good news!  They all earned their jackets back before the end of the episode. 

And now back to the Bleeping Bleep counts ,,,

Chef Gordon Ramsay:  14
Barrett:  3
Susan:  3
Nedra:  4
Ray:  2
Zach:  3
Anthony:  5
Jessica:  2
Dan:  10
Jacqueline:  0
Amanda:  0
Cyndi:  1
Jon:  0
Mary:  0
Danielle:  0
Ja'nel:  0
Michael:  5
Unknown:  3
Total:  55
Or ... 1.31 per minute or one bleep every 45 seconds based on a 42 minute air time.

This total is way down from any average.  The gang was either tired or on prozac tonight. 

Based on the dinner performance, both teams lost.  Each was tasked with selecting two chefs for eliminations.  They chose: Jessica, Susan, Ray, and Dan.

Ray had a bad night.  He couldn't keep up with a Chef's Table service.  Susan didn't communicate - at all.  And Jessica looked like she was asleep through the whole service.

Dan's selection for elimination was based on his prior performances.  Chef Ramsay chastised the Men's Team for choosing Dan because he did a really good job working his station this evening.  Dan was sent back to the Men's Team immediately.

This brings up a general point of curiosity for me regarding the contest.  Not everything done by the contestants gets aired and it's difficult to pick up the more subtle points of service on the television.  I wonder what the competing chefs see that we done't notice as audience members?

In the end, Jessica was eliminated from the competition.  Farewell Jessica.  May your future be bright.

As for everyone else, "Bleep off".

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Five Ways to Slow Down Your Waiter

Speed is the key to the restaurant business.  (OK, speed is the key to almost everything).  Many waiters will do what they can to show you the love and patience demonstrated by saints.  But the bottom line is ... turning those tables!  All other things being equal, getting 20% tips on eight tables will not bring as much money as earning 15% tips on 12 tables.  Thus, any delays in service can mean the difference between a good night and a great night; between paying the utilites and paying the rent.

So this could really be called "The List of Things that will Slow Your Waiter Down and thus piss him off."  Why?  Again ... speed.  Everything in the restaurant is subconsciously organized around making orders fast and expediting a quick exit for the guest.  Any extraneous issues require extra time - and probably lots of it.

So, here is a list of things that will slow your waiter down.
  1. You have a coupon: The waiter's world will come to a dead stop while he looks for a manager to redeem your coupon.  He has to search the entire restaurant, including the kitchen and the office, then pray the manager isn't busy doing something else.  Elapsed time:  5 to 10 minutes in real life.  A cumulative 20 to 40 minutes when you realize he's serving four tables.
  2. Lots of Separate Checks:  two friends with separate chacks?  No problem.   Four co-workers on separate checks?  Um ... OK.  A party of twelve with 9 separate checks?  You've got to be kidding.  The waiter will need to be extra careful when taking the order, extra careful entering the order in the Point of Sale system, and his world will come to a crashing halt when the checks are presented and paid out.  Elapsed time:  onother 10 to 12 minutes in real time with the same impact as the coupon listed above.  What happens when the waiter has to deal with coupons and separate checks?  Please consult your Time and Space Theoretician.
  3. You order desserts that have to be made:  no waiter minds reaching in the fridge for a dessert (e.g. cheesecake, carrot cake, etc.).  But if the dessert must be assembled ... he screams like Charlie Brown.  Examples include the Caramel Pecan Sundae at O'Charley's, the fudge brownie sundae at any restaurant, and any ice cream drink that has to be made by the bartender.  What's wrong with the Ice Cream Drink?  The Bartender doesn't like to make them, so they tend to come out after the Barkeep pours out several beers.
  4. Birthdays:  As I told a friend who quit O'Charley's, "Ally, you're going to miss this place.  You're going to miss the mayhem on Saturday nights and holidays.  You're going to miss the Managers ... all of them.  You're going to miss the grumpy cook behind the sautee station.  You're even going to miss me.  But you will never, ever in a million years miss dropping everything you're doing during the utterly insane dinner rush to sing Happy Birthday."  Yep, another 2 to 5 minutes multiplied by every waiter in the restaurant.
  5. Asking for samples:  Over the last 30 years, restaurant-goers have become more sophisticated and more demanding.  Asking for samples is an excellent example of that evolution.  And it makes sense.  Dining out has become much more expensive over the last 30 years.  The risk of getting something you don't like is a real possibility.  So what's the issue?  It's not the same thing as getting a tast of fancy ice cream at Baskin Robbins.  The waiter has to completely dedicate the time to getting the sample from the (most likely very busy) cook.  And by the way, you'll never ever get a sample of any entree item (e.g. steak, fish, chicken, etc.).  That and it will keep the guest at the table for another 5 to 10 minutes total.  This could prevent the waiter from turning the table one last time that evening.
And so you ask, "Russell, do you hate people?  Do you not understand the hospitality industry?"

"No, I don't hate people.  Yes, I understand the industry."

I will never, ever let you know that any of these things sets me back financially.  In fact, if the restaurant is slow, I have everything to gain by pampering you.  These five things really only upset the cart when the restaurant is full and busy ... when there is a 30 minute wait at the door.  Your waiter has to make money, too.  And serving more tables is the only sure way to achieve that goal.

This has been a public service announcement from Russell Britt.
"Thank you for patronizing me."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Bleeping Bleep Report (Ep. 6)

The "Bleeping Bleep Report"

for Hell's Kitchen (Episode 6) on April 9th, 2013.

At the end of Episode 5, Ramsay told the two weakest links on the women's team to get back in line and then kept us guessing who would be eliminated from the competition.  My guess was that, since Gina had quit back in Episode 3 or 4, he was going to take this opportunity to let the group off with a pass for one week.

I was wrong.  Really wrong.

Chef Ramsay said, "There's one person here who is in way over their head."  And then he eliminated Jeremy.  Well, Gordon made a legitimate call.  Jeremy had served one of the sample dishes that had been sitting out at room temperature for over an hour.  It was only a matter of time before this young man would be tossed.  Good luck to you in the future Jeremy.

Last week, the bleep count was way, way down.  I surmised that doing a breakfast service on very little sleep had something to do with it.  And I think I was onto something because this week's bleep count is back to normal -- with five outstanding performances.  Here's the raw bleep count:

Chef Gordon Ramsay:  45
Jean Phillipe Susilovic (Maitre D'):  1  (what?  The Maitre D; got one in?  That's a first!)
James Avery (Sous Chef for the men's team):  2
Barrett:  2
Susan:  2
Nedra:  23
Ray:  26
Zach:  4
Anthony:  3
Jessica:  1
Dan:  14
Jacqueline:  4
Amanda:  3
Cyndi:  0
Jon:  0
Mary:  0
Danielle:  0
Ja'nel:  0
Michael:  1
Jeremy:  0
Unknown:  9
Total Bleeps:  131
That's approxiately 3.12 per minute or one bleep every 19 seconds based on a 42 minute air time.

The big surprises:
  1. Chef Ramsay really outdid himself.  His average bleep count this year has been around 27 to 30 per episode.
  2. Jean Phillipe:  He hardly ever gets to talk to anybody.  And when he does, it's usually just advice.  But when Barrett screwed up in the Dining Area, Jean just couldn't help himself.
  3. James Avery:  The Sous Chefs on Hell's Kitchen almost never get heard.  But James was more than a little disappointed with the men's team and let them know about it.
  4. Nedra:  She has been the lead epithet hurler of all the contestants this year.  But today, Nedra outdid herself.  She went on two tirades today.
  5. Ray:  He's the oldest contestant and usually assumes a laid-back demeanor.  But something about Dan got under Ray's skin and he let his whistle blow.
Special Mention goes to Dan.  In a tiff with Ray, Dan shot back that he was ready to tangle and said, "Bring it on like Donkey Kong."  REALLY ??!!  Like Donkey Kong?  I wonder how much of the viewing audience was old enough to understand that reference?

On a side note .... I'm predicting that Anthony and Ja'nel will be among the final four contestants.  They seem to do the best job staying in control (for now).

The episode ended with 4 chefs up for elimination: Mary, Nedra, Ray, and Dan.  Chef Ramsay pulled a cliff-hanger again,.  We don't officially know who, if anybody, will be eliminated at the beginning of next week's episode.  The editiing certainly did point toward tossing all four chefs mentioned.

However, it is a cliffhanger and so we can speculate.  Here's my guess ...The four chefs up for elimination can be viewed as two pairs of chefs who have trouble working as a team member of their respective kitchens.  Chef Ramsay will pull a fast one and switch the chefs in question to the other team.

But I could be wrong.  After all, I botched the last guess pretty badly.

See you next week.  Until then, bleep off.

Hermeneutics: The Art of Interpretation

You've done it.  You've all done it.  You've been doing it since sixth grade whether you knew it or not.  Don't bother denying it.   Hermeneutics is the "art of interpreting texts".  This usually involves ancient texts.  However, almost all literary analysis involves elements of this art.

The etymology of hermeneutics goes back to the Greek god Hermes; known mainly as the messenger of the gods.  In his role as messenger, Hermes frequently thwarted plans by the other Greek deities and humans by omitting critical information in messages or just plain lying.  Thus, he becomes an excellent icon for interpreting texts, since the reader must constantly be aware that some information is not known or must be derived from other sources.

Here are six things to consider when reading any ancient text:
  1. Language to Language translation issues: this is so obvious, most people never think about it.  But idioms never translate well and footnotes can greatly help.  Remember that when you're reading assembly instructions for your new Ikea furniture.
  2. Language Over Time issues:  languages change.  English in the 1920's was different than English today.  Yes, if you could travel back to 1920 Boston you would still survive.  But you would also have to learn new language skills.
  3. Language Over Geography issues:  This could be divided by Rural/Urban, East/West, North/South, etc.  It happens to this day.  In Minnesota, you order a soda.  In the Midwest, you get a pop.  In Texas, you get a Coke; as in ... Waiter: "Would you like a Coke?"  Customer:  "Yes."  Waiter: "What kind?".  Customer: "Dr. Pepper."
  4. Cultural issues:  many ancient cultural issues are lost on pragmatic Americans.  What are a culture's rules regarding:  marriage, sex, trading, animal husbandry, praying, idols, revenge. belching after dinner?  Misunderstanding these social cues could easily lead to family feuds or boiled lambs head for lunch ... it just depends.
  5. Legal Differences:  knowing the law can make or break your understanding of a particular situation.  In the Book of Genesis, Jacob is tricked into marrying Laban's oldest daughter, Leah (not Carrie Fisher).  When Jacob confronted him the next morning, Laban agreed to let Jacob marry the younger daughter, Rachel, if he first remained married to Leah for seven days.  Why is this seven-day period important?  According laws in the ancient mid-east, a husband could divorce his wife during the first seven days of their marriage for any reason.  After that, the husband must have a valid reason to claim a divorce.  So, in this case, Laban is leveraging the legal situation against Jacob's romantic interest in order to keep both daughters married.
  6. Technological issues:  understanding technological limitations and advances can help you understand the struggles of ancient peoples.  Again in Genesis, The Servant of Abraham is seeking a wife for Abraham's son, Isaac.  When the Servant arrives in the land of Haran, he meets Rebekah at the city's water well.  Rebekah offers water to the Servant's entire caravan consising of at least 5 men and 10 camels.  This is something most readers gloss over; especially in light of the drama and excitement immediately following Rebekah's watering of the caravan.  That's because almost no one stops to consider a) thirsty men can drink 1 gallon of water, b) thirsty camels can drink 50 gallons of water, and c) the truly ancient technology of water wells.
Water wells of the 1800's used pumps (either hand powered or windmill powered).  Before then, water wells used buckets lowered via rope - ala a Thomas Kincaid painting.  But ancient water wells are dug out of the sand in an upside down cone formation until water is found.  And then steps are laid down in a large spiral to the bottom of the water well.  The typical ancient water well descends approximately one-and-a-half to two stories when compared to modern buildings.
The water must be retrieved using a large, clay urn.  Rebekah was probably using a 4-gaillon urn.  So, five men times one gallon each plus ten camels times 50 gallons each divided by one, 4 gallon clay urn gives us (tap tap tap ... cha chug ... tap tap tap ... cha chug ... ) 126 TRIPS UP AND DOWN THE STAIRS .... or ... 250 FLIGHTS OF STAIRS (UP AND DOWN) !!!  
In the morning heat no less!!  And she offered to water the caravan without being asked.  Do they make anyone like that today?  (that's a rhetorical question)
Classes in hermeneutics are available from most seminaries.  They are as entertaining as they are enlightening.  And they will give you a lifetime of powerful reading skills.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Five Reasons to Study the Bible

Yesterday, I posted "Five Reasons to Read The Bible."  Reading The Bible will be a richly rewarding experience.  However, after you read it, I highly recommend studying The Bible.

What's the difference?  Reading will expose you to a great deal of information as well as answer major questions.  Reading as fast as good comprehension allows will give you the broadest picture of the entire collection of events.  But proper studying will increase your depth of understanding.

And so, here are five reasons to study The Bible:

  1. Character's motives and methods will be revealed:  In many Bible stories, the characters come across as rather stilted or two-dimensional.  But that's not the case.  The problem is that there wasn't a whole lot of writing paper in ancient times.  So, most stories are whittled down to "He said, She said" dialogue.  Motives must then be derived from your knowledge of general human nature and the culture of the day.  Studying on these things will bring a clearer picture to biblical passages.
  2. Even Symbolic words will have more meaning:  Isaac is drieved from the phrase, "He makes me laugh."  Moses is derived from the phrase, "I drew him out of the water."  But there is more to it than that.  Once you know what "Isaac" means, you will begin to see the word "laughter" throughout that section of Genesis.  Once you study a little more about Egipt, you discover that "Moses" is also Egyptian for "son of" and you begin to wonder if Pharoah's Daughter didn't have a double meaning to her new son's name.
  3. Small things will take on enormous significance:  Here are a few questions to highlight this point.  Why does Eve tell the serpent, "If we touch that tree (of the knowledge of good and evil), we'll die?  Is that what God told Adam?  Why does Cain hate Abel?  Why does God get upset when Israel makes treaties with other nations?
  4. You'll learn more about cultures:  If you learn a little about ancient cultures, some differences are magnified.  Ancient Egyptians were very racist, that's why they put the Hebrews in the land of Goshen.  And this was a good thing.  But why?  You'll need to pay close attention to the lives of Isaac and Jacob to get your best clues.
  5. You'll wind up with more questions:  Jewish rabbis are almost famous for telling their students, "It's good to have the right answers.  But it's better to have the right questions."  If you study The Bible, your answers will lead to more and better questions.
There are several study guides and materials available online and at Christian bookstores.  Many commentaries merely regurgitate the stories and events you've just read.  You need to search for ones that explain background material such as a) how the passages were translated, b) what the cultural/legal influences were, and c) what the commentary author thinks about the passage.  My suggestions are Exposition of Genesis, by H. C. Leupold and commentaries written by Orthodox Rabbi David Fohrman.  Both men offer excellent insight to passages.  You might disagree here and there, but you'll still wind up with better questions of your own.

Tomorrow, I'll discuss Hermeneutics.  And no, Hermeneutics is not the study of Herman Munster.  I don't care what psych's Shawn Spencer says.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Five Reasons to Read The Bible

Many people read from The Bible.  Many Bible Study Classes and teachers spend an entire hour discussing just one passage.  Serveral organizations publish weekly or quarterly bible Study manuals.  Howerver, reading from The Bible is not the same as reading the entire Bible.  And that's important, because reading the entire Bible provides a perspective that reading passages can never accomplish.

Here are five reasons to read the entire Bible from front to back:

  1. Get your questions answered:  OK.  Reading the Bible might not answer every question you have.  However, biblical issues you do have - no matter how deep in the subconscious - will be expressed in some way during your reading.  Is money the root of all evil?  You'll find that answer in the Bible.  Hint:  money is not the root of all evil.
  2. General Biblical Knowledge:  Are you confused when you look at The Bible's table of contents?  There seems to be no coherent organization to the list of books.  As you read The Bible - especially a good Study Version - The organization will begin to flow and you will be able to discuss different books in The Bible with greater confidence.
  3. Specific Biblical Knowledge:  The Bible is constantly part of public discourse.  Getting your facts straight will allow you to challenge idiots and keep from being fooled by con artists.  And you'll become a better Theologian.  C. I. Scolfield commented that, "Everyone is a theologian because everyone has an opinion about God."  Having specific knowledge will improve your theological skill.
  4. Come closer to understanding God:  Sure, no one ever knows completely what God is planning or thinking.  But you will begin to see storylines and recurring themes played out over generations - even hundreds of years.  Viewing history on this scale will change your views on some topics and help you understand your place in God's universe.
  5. Chellenge your faith:  This is where your friends might try to stop you.  Strange as it seems, atheists are afraid you'll convert and church-goers are afraid you'll run away.  Why?  Most people's view of The Bible is really very shallow.  If you are an atheist, you will be confronted with moments of unbelievable compassion that will only be explained by the existence of a loving, active God.  If you are a believer, you'll be confronted by serveral shocking incidences where it appears that God could not possibly exist.
Reading the entire Bible is not so daunting a task.  It can be done in one year.  Any Christian bookstore (or the internet) should have a reading schedule so that you can pace yourself.  My personal note is, once you get past Leviticus, Numbers, and Deutoronomy, it's all downhill from there.

Please let me know if you decide to read the entire Bible.  I'd be interested to hear your thoughts regarding issues as you meet them.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Misunderstood: The Code of Hammurabi

How often have we heard the words, "So, I guess it's an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." uttered with a disdainful sneer?  The Code of Hammurabi is recognized by many modern people as a template for revenge - the Code of Tit-for-Tat.  But you would be wrong - for the most part.

Here are a few things you might not know about the Code of Hammurabi:

  • The Code of Hammurabi is not the oldest (or only) ancient code of laws.  The oldest known code of laws is the Code of Urukagina.  Other contemporary legal statutes include the Code of the Assura, and the Code of Ur-Nammu.  A more complete list of ancient legal codes can be found here.
  • The Code has 282 laws covering topics such as: Religion, Military Service, Trade, Slavery, the duty of workers, and the Law.
  • It is a significant advancement in justice.  It provided for widows and orphans and protected the week from the wealthy and powerful.
  • Despite its reputation for bloody revenge, the eye for an eye theme was designed to prevent people from over-reacting.  No more would anyone be allowed to kill someone over an insult.
  • It separated the victim/accuser from the perpetrator/accused via a judicial system.  Thus, the continuous cycle of retribution is stopped; similar to the system we now employ.
  • The C of H carried over into the Old Testament:  see Exodus Ch. 21, Leviticus Ch. 24, and Deuteronomy Ch. 19,  The Israelites expanded the protection of widows, orphans, slaves, and the weak.  They also added 351 more laws.
  • It also has elements of hypothetical (what if?) legal scenarios.  These items consider legal issues that had not necessarily been encountered.

Yep, I learn something new almost every day.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Farewell Roger Ebert

The Balcony is Now Closed.

Rober Ebert (1942 - 2013) has passed on from cancer.  Every major news outlet has an obituary dedicated to his career that began in 1966 and ended yesterday.  Here's the one from Fox News.

It's difficult to describe to any younger generation how much someone like Roger Ebert and his partner Gene Siskel can mean to you.  This, of course, won't stop me from trying.

Roger begain as a part-time film critic with the Chicago Sun-Times in 1966 and became a full-time film critc the following year (after he graduated from college).  I entered first grade in 1969.  To the best of my knowledge, Roger was - and still is - the only man in history to obtain a PhD in Film Criticism.  His intelectual discipline showed through in his critiques.

He wrote several books.  My college roommate, Steve Vaught, had one of his earliest works, an encyclopedia of almost every film ever made; including Plan Nine from Outer Space.

He began Siskel & Ebert: At the Movies in 1986 with Gene Siskel, a film Critic from the Chicago Tribune.  When Gene died of brain cancer in 1999, he continued the show with fellow Chicago Sun-Times film critic Richard Roeper.  The show finally ended in 2010.

At the Movies was more than just film criticism.  Siskel & Ebert dedicated entire shows to certain themes.  I learned a great deal from these particular episodes.  They regarded Humphrey Bogart and Jack Nicholson to be the two greatest Actors in American history.  They detailed the technical differences between "Black & White" films and "Color" films and why colorizing a black & white film can never work.  And they spent an entire episode on silent films and how some directors made their silent films unforgetable.

I was unaware Roger had surgery in 2006.  Enough of his jaw was removed that he could no longer speak, eat, or drink after that.  But you can see in his pictures that Roger was still happy.  And had a full head of hair.  How did he do that?

When Roger Ebert's career bagan in 1966, newspaper ariticles were still written with typewriters - computers would not be readily available for 15 years.  But he progressed through television, the computer revolution, and into social media seemlessly.

There are a few good film critics working today.  But there will never be another Siskel and Ebert.  That's why the balcony is closed for good.  The doors are boarded-up and I don't believe the building can be renovated.

Please leave any fond memories in the comments section.

Adieu, Roger Ebert.

The Bleeping Bleep Report: Episode 5

The Bleeping Bleep Report for Hell's Kitchen: Epside 5.

Whoa, the numbers are way below average.  In this installment, the "Dinner Service" was breakfast at 6:30am for Emergency Room workers:  Doctors, Nurses, and Paramedics.  Was the reduction in bleeps because the competing chefs were tired or because breakfast foods are simpler than Chef Ramsay's ordinary dinner fare?  We may never know for sure.  But even Gordon Ramsay's bleep count was down.

Here are the numbers:

Chef Gordon Ramsay:  12
Amanda:  1
Nedra:  14
Cyndi:  3
Zach:  3
Jon:  3
Dan:  2
Barrett:  4
Jacqueline:  5
Mary:  0
Anthony:  0
Raymond:  4
Ja'nel:  0
Michael:  3
Jessica:  0
Jeremy:  1
Susan:  0
Unknown:  9
TOTAL:  64
That's about 1.33 bleeps per minute or one bleep every 43 seconds assuming an air time of 46 minutes.

Special note:  The women lost the Breakfast Service and were required to choose two people for elimination.  Nedra went on a bleeping rampage when her name was mentioned ... 9 bleeps in less than 20 seconds.  This is a little over two thirds of over total bleep count for the episode.

Who was let go?  Jacqueline and Mary were eventually chosen to go up for elimnation.  But Chef Ramsay created a cliff-hanger episode by not eliminating either until next episode.

My guess?  He's not letting anyone go this time because Gina voluntarily left at the beginning of Episode 3.  So the contest has been short one chef.  Giving everyone a break will bring us back to a 20 episode season.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Bible - Episode 5

Episode 5 of The Bible mini-series aired Sunday night on the History Channel.  Here are some notes on that episode and the series as a whole.

The set designers did a good job.  I never felt like I wasn't watching a series set in the ancient mid-East.  There are probably a few anachronisms in the series  -- it's almost impossible to avoid them in any period piece.  However, I was not destracted by any such items if they existed.

As I suspected in the first post, most of the Bible was held back for this last episode.  Consequently, this was the most emotionally dramatic episode; especially for those familiar with the Gospels.

Special applause for the actor Greg Hicks who played Pontius Pilate, the Roman Prefect who oversaw the trial of Jesus.  He looked like a man who had struggled to succeed in the Roman Empire and then he acted like it.  Greg was clearly the best actor for this role and the best actor in the entire series.  By comparison, every other actor was just saying their lines.

Did you notice Satan walking among the various crowds - especially during the trial and the crucifixion?  This is not in any biblical passage I remember.  But it is a metaphorical device used by Mel Gibson in The Passion of the Christ.  He should probably get credit for it.

There are several flaws with the mini-series.  These were mainly story-line omissions driven by time constraints.  Perhaps this should have been a two or three year limited-run series.  Then, the writers would have had 50 to 78 hours (instead of 10) to give the Judeo-Christian history the attention it really deserves.  Then again, maybe the success of this series can give that larger project an opportunity it didn't have before.

But the biggest, happiest surprise of all?  The writers and directors managet to literally get in the last word.  Those familiar with the Revalations of St. John the Divine know what I mean.


The last episode of The Bible re-airs tonight, Wednesday, April 3rd at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central Time.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Ishtar & Easter


For the past few days, friends have been sharing the following post provided by the facebook page for The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (Original).  It shows a wonderful picture of the Assyrian/Babylonian goddess Ishtar standing upright as a relief on a wall.  Don't know excactly what the wall is part of, but it appears to be outside in the sun.  She holds a religious symbol in each hand.

The individual who posted the item has written the following text over the photograph:
"This is Ishtar:  prounounced "Easter"."
"Easter was originally the celebration of Ishtar, the Assyrian and Babylonion goddess of fertility and sex.  Her symbols (like the egg and the bunny) were and still are fertility and sex symbols (or did you actually think that eggs and bunnies had anything to do with the resurrection?).  After Constantine decided to Christianize the Empire, Easter was changed to represent Jesus.  But at its roots, Easter (which is how you pronounce Ishtar) is all about worshipping fertility and sex."

 Notes on the passage:
  • Constantine (also known as Constantine I and Constantine the Great) was the first Christian Emperor of the Roman Empire. 
  • He is most famous for the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 AD where he witnessed a sign from God and for the Edict of Milan in 313AD.
  • The Edict of Milan legalized Christianity but did not make Christianity the official state religion.
  • Theodosius delcared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire during his reign - specifically in the year 380 AD.
I scrolled through the Richard Dawkins facebook page going back to January 1st, 2011, but could not find this particular posting.  However, since it has been shared via facebook, I have confidence that it is there somewhere.  But since I still cant find the original post, the author remains anonymous.  The only thing I know for certain is that he has permission to post on the Richard Dawkins Foundation page. 

Some of the premises of this posting are true, but others are false.  The conclusion is most definitely false.  Let's go through them one at a time.


  • Ishtar is indeed a goddess of sex, love, fertility, and war in the following cultures:  Eastern Semitic, Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian.
  • In the Akkadian language, Ishtar is pronounced Istar.  I am not familar with Akkadian proununciations.  The "I" may be pronounced as a long e.  Even then, the "a" would likely be a dull "a" as in, "say, ah."  So the name would phonetically be ee-star - not ee-ster.
  • I was unable to find phonetic spellings in the other languages.  But that will prove irrelevant as you read on.
  • Her symbols are listed on wikipedia as a lion and an eight-pointed star.
  • Although there is no direct mention of eggs or bunnies in relation to Ishtar, it is not a stretch for these to be related to fertility goddesses.  Howerver, I find that enlarged (or multiple) breasts or large, pregnant bellies are more commonly associated with fertility/sex/love goddesses.


A simple timeline reveals a few incongruities:
  1. By 141 BC, Babylon was in complete devistation and obscurity.  Obscurity is pertinent here.  It is common for ancient civiizations to be completely forgotten.  A notable example is the Hittites.  For 2,000 years, any and all mention of the Hittites was found only in The Bible.  Many concluded that they were a fictitions civilization until 1906 AD, when confirmation of their existence was finally discovered at an independent excavation site.  It is therefor unlikely that the cult of Ishtar (or even the memory of it) would have survived for tho following 170 years when Christ was crucified.
  2. Approx. 30 AD:  Christ's curcifixion and resurrection.
  3. 295 to 305 AD:  Constantine lives in Syria.  Even though he lived in the neighborhood of the now completely disintigrated Babylonian/Assyrian empire, the cult of Ishtar would have been unknown for about 440 years.  How pwerful is obscurity?  What was going on in the year 1570 AD?
  4. 306 to 312 AD:  Constantine becomes Agustus Emporor over Britain, Gaul, and Spain.
  5. 312 to 324 AD:  Constantine is sole Emporor over all of the Roman Empire.
  6. 313 AD:  Constantine issues the Edict of Milan, legalizing Christianity (and all other religions as well).  This puts an end to oppression.  But the Edict of Milan does not make Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.  This still misses the point.  Even if Christians in Rome converted a "fertility/sex goddess" into an Easter celebration, they would have choosen such a goddess from the Roman mythologies.  And then, according to the anonymous poster, Easter would be pronounced "Venus"
  7. 380 AD:  Theodosius I makes Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.
  8. 900 AD (approx.):  the author, Bede, shows that the earliest use of the word Easter begins sometime during the 9th century AD.  This plays out in the etymology of the word "Easter" described below.

Roots of Easter (in name and act):

  • The roots of the Easter celabration are not from Assyria/Babylon - they're Jewish.  The original term for Easter is "Pasch" or "Pascha".  These words - Pasch & Pascha - are etymologically related to the Jewish "Passover" or "Pesach" in Hebrew.  To this day, many non-English speaking nations still refer to Easter as the "Pashca".
  • The Passover is not related to the Spring Equinox as many fertility festivals are.  Instead Passover is related to the 10 Curses on Egypt and the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt to Israel.
  • In addition, the Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar.  Fertility festivals (such as those for Ishtar) are usually held at the Spring Equinox making them based on a solar calendar.
  • Why is Easter tied to Passover?  Jesus' last meal was the Passover sedar with the Apostles.  It was that evening when He was arrested and - over the next three days - tried, crucified, and resurrected.
  • The origin of the word "Easter" is just a little unclear (and I do mean just a little).  Most evidence points to the Old English word "Eastre" or "Eostre".  Many believe that this is dreived from Eostre, the goddess of the dawn (not a fertility/sex goddess).  However, others believe that "Eostre" as a word or phrase meaning "the month of opening" (as in a tomb?).
  • Continuing the Eostre theme.  Bede says that cult of the goddess Eostre had disappeared long before the Christians began using the word Eastre; indicating that they were not referencing the dawn goddess.  See Ishtar's "obscurity" above.
More on this history of Eostre, the dawn goddess, can be found on wikipedia.  Read it.  READ IT !.

Easter Eggs:

Symbolism is a tricky thing.  Imagine any otherwise inocuous object and connect it to semi-emotinal words.  For example, a door can be a symbol of what?  Opportunity, obstacle, change, passage, option, transition, uncertainty, mangled thumbs - the list can go on and on.  But does this mean that the cult of Monty Hall (Let's Make a Deal) believes that doors represent transitions because the god Janus guards the doorway between the old and the new year?  Survey says: "buuuzzzz".

Thsi is an excellent example of the logical fallacy Post hoc ergo propter hoc (after the fact therefore because of the fact).

So we get this from the anonymous poster: eggs and bunnies are symbols of the fertility goddess Ishtar, Ishtar came before Easter, and Ishtar sounds llike "Easter", therefore the eggs and bunnies of Easter are symbols of sex and fertility.  (I'll explain my faint trace of contempt at the end).

So, how or why did the earlty Christians associate an egg with the resurrection?  Several objects are associated with Jesus:  bread, wine, fish, the cross, and the tomb. 

Take the tomb.  To symbolize it, you want something that is common, represents a space, represents a rock/bolder, and represents life.  You could spend years digging holes into rocks or you can use the ubiquitous egg.  The egg represents the empty tomb, the boulder that was rolled away, and represents life (not sex or fertility) that springs from the tomb.

There are several Ester Egg origin stories shown here.  Enjoy them.

The Easter Bunny:

Again with symbolism and the "Post hoc" fallacy.

In this case, you need to know that the Easter Bunny is not a rabbit.  It's a HARE.  Hares are larger and usually have a murkish brown hue that approximates the color of nests made by ground-dwelling birds.  Hares also live above ground in nests - not in burrows as rabbits are wont to do.

Next, early historians and philosophers (including Pliney, Plutarch, Philostratus, and Aelian) believed that hares were hermaphrodites and could reproduce asexually - not needing to have a mate.  This biological error carried over for hundreds of years and Christians adopted it as a symbol of the Virgin Birth (yes a form of fertility, but not the form represented by Ishtar - who by the wasy was also goddess of prostitutes).

Then add in a few German Folklore stories.  In these tales there is a little confusion between bird's nests found on the ground and the color of a hare - or even between a bird's nest and a hare's nest.  This is one possible explanation of how the Easter Bunny and Easter Eggs became connected.

Fianally, and almost completely different than the first three possibilities, some folklore tales see a rabbit in the moon - as opposed to a man's face.  And since Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the Spring Equinox ... you fill in the rest. 

More on the Easter Bunny here.

My Conclusion and extraneous comments:

I have researched and compared Ishtar with Easter and found the Anonymous Poster's text misleading and derisive towards Christians.  You may find fault with my conclusions, but you must first tell me how I'm wrong on the facts.

The author sounds like he is (or has talked to) an archeologist or anthropologist who studied ancient mid-Eastern civilizatoins.  In order to connect Ishtar to Easter by way of homonym, you have to know a little about the culture's language and its deities.

Ironically, it's his assumed credentials that make his statements abusive.  He has studied ancient civilizations, but then connects them with the shallowest knowledge of Christianity.  Re-read his post.  He knows a bit about Ishtar, but all he knows about Easter is Eggs and Bunnies.  Ergo: we continue to woship pagan gods - especially those contrary to Christian beliefs.

He has a disdain for his reader that springs from a superior than thou (because of my obviously advanced intellect) attitude.  The phrase, "or did you actually think that eggs and bunnies had anything to do with the resurrection?" sticks out like a sore thumb - in your eye.  "did you actually think" presumes that you did indeed think that.  It also presumes that he has gently mocked you for believing such a thing.  It drums up those who believe as he believes and automatically pits you (singular) against them (plural).  The phrase is insidiously designed to goad you into moving you closer to his opinion or risk being ostracized from the club.  Finally, it denotes that everyone knows about this - except for you.  Don't beleive me?  Try it this way:  "or did you actually think the world was flat?".

Bty the way, I never connected the egg with the resurrection before researching this topic.  But I do believe that I've shown EXACTLY how it fits in.

And the bunny?  He got that right, it's not about the resurrection - it's about the Virgin Birth.  Whether you believe in the Virgiin Birth or not, Mr. Anon's point was that the bunny is a pagan fertility symbol in a Christian celebration.  And I've shown it is not.

These kinds of statements and mockeries are why people believe a war exists against Christianity.  The author did not post any links to anything supporting his position.  Like a drive by shooting, he makes his comment (as erroneous as it is) and moves on into the darkness.

Even more mind-numbing:  An ameteur theologian such as myself shouldn't have been able to thrash a man of "reason and science" like this.  It only took a half-day for me to research these items and a half day to assemble them into a cohesive outline.  My typing is a bit slower.  Mr. Anon could and should have done the resarch and then should have had the intellectual capacity to compare the items in his own head.  That could have saved him an embarrasing post on facebook.

The Anonymous Poster is at least Friends with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (Original).

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (Original) has a mission statment at the top of its facebook page.  It reads:  "This foundation supports reason and science.  We organize to overcome the suffering and intolerance that springs from religious fundamentalism."

Reason?  Science?  Both were missing from this post.

Shame on you Anonymous Poster.
Shame on you R.D Foundation.

Russell Britt
In hoc signo winces