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I am Mad as Hell and I am Not Going to Take it Anymore

Scene Shutters! Alessio’s closes! Grotto is fin-o! As Timmy mentioned on FrontBurner, Scene was going to be our “newcomer” spotlight review in the August issue of D. We also ran a full-page picture of Scene in our already-to-the-press publication Dine In Dallas. I spoke with writer Teresa Gubbins yesterday about Scene and Alessio’s. She told me she’d called Alessio Franceschetti on Friday to confirm the rumor and he told her to call back on Monday. He closed the restaurant on Saturday night. Teresa was also the author of the Scene dining review and last week spoke with both chef Blaine Staniford and manager Michael Bratcher. Afterward, we sent a photographer to shoot pictures for the upcoming review.

OK, so here is my gripe. (And Timmy doesn’t agree with me.) Why can’t restaurateurs play fair. Alessio, when a reporter calls you and asks you if you are going to close and you know you are, why can’t you admit it and ask the reporter to hold off until the day after. That enables us to help you get the word out to customers who may be planning on driving to your restaurant. I’d love to hear your reasoning.

You see, from where I sit, when a restaurant opens, most have no problem asking this magazine for reviews or posts on the blog or any “help” they can get to attract people to their business. So my question to restaurateurs is this: after we have covered your business, why can’t you be courteous enough to let us know when you close it. We are a business too and our readers want up-to-the-date information. We try to serve our readers as hard as you try to serve your customers.

Which brings me to you, Scene. I’m sorry that your restaurant closed. I really am. I hate to hear about any restaurant in Dallas going under. Especially locally owned and cheffed spots like yours. But hear our side: we spend a lot of money in the process of reviewing your restaurant and we spend a lot of money photographing it. Why would you not let us know that you are closing? The Scene review was set to go to print TODAY. If it had, the review of your closed restaurant would be on the newsstands six weeks from today. Nobody wins. Readers and customers lose, big time. Which leads me to my last question: If you choose to open another restaurant, what would motivate me to pay attention to you? My phone line and e-mail lines are open. As are the comments. Somebody give me an Alka Seltzer.

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17 comments on “I am Mad as Hell and I am Not Going to Take it Anymore

  1. I have been trying to make a comment on this all day and couldn’t get it to work. Restaurant people are rude. Sure they work hard but what they did is plain rude. especially since that owner has another restuarant, Fuse.

  2. maybe their lack of communication with the press and customers was a reflection on management’s ability, as was their closings. although, I am also empathetic with the emotion and flurry of activity that would serve as a tremendous disruptive force when implementing a closing.

  3. This is where a pr flak could have been a big help. Of course, the magazine should have been told and as you say, all they needed to do is tell you and ask you to hold it till the closing day. At least that wouldn’t put you behind the 8-ball. It doesn’t bode well for the future relationships this chef/owner will have with the press.

  4. Since when do business’s call the press before closing? Sorry, I don’t get it. How many “spoiler alerts” go out? I have met Michael and he is a pretty bright guy, instead of bitching on a blog and harming Fuse in the process why not give him a call and give him a chance to make it right? I do agree that knowing you have spent the time and money on them with a review and pics (we know it ain’t cheap), they should have given you a heads up, but it may have been out of his control. It may have been the investors saying pull the plug.

  5. To succeed in this fickle dining town, Dallas restaurants need the support of the media and the smart thing to do would have been to ask D to hold on for another few days until Scene knew for sure what would happen. Had they done that, maybe D would have had a little time to figure out what to do with the pages. At least if they hadn’t closed, D would still have the review and photos in the can for a future issue.

  6. Having had to close my own food business earlier this year I know there are a lot of hail marys going on during the last few weeks. If by chance the pass is caught then it’s still game on. No one wants to lose their business so please see it from their side of things i.e. not to be deceptive but to be hopeful.

  7. If it’s announced, you can bet that you’ll have one of your busiest nights – everyone with a gift certificate will show up to cash it in while it still has value. Conversely you won’t have the staff to cook the food or serve them, once that news gets out people get new jobs – immediately.

    It’s a delicate dance, the hardest thing to do is to decide to close up your dreams.

  8. “Jack” is wrong. Businesses “work” with the press all the time in announcing closings, layoffs, changes in business.

    In this case and during the short period of time immediately preceding the publishing of a review, D’s relationship with Scene is akin to that of a business partner. You can’t forget that it’s never just a business-to-business relationship; it’s a people-to-people relationship. The end of a business venture isn’t the end of the relationship between people, and in this case the Scene crew damaged that relationship. People seldom forget those occasions when you’ve shafted them.

    I don’t know the circumstances in this particular example, e.g. did D talk to Michael himself or someone else from the Scene crew who might not have known what was coming? I’ve worked with Michael and don’t consider him lacking integrity. But the buck does stop with him, and there was a fumble here, in any event.

  9. TLS:
    “No one wants to lose their business so please see it from their side of things i.e. not to be deceptive but to be hopeful.”

    I’m all about hope. And I understand what it’s like to hold on. I was in the business for years. That doesn’t mean you can’t pick up the phone when the plug is pulled. We are all going through hard economic times and good information will always prevail over poor communication.

  10. I agree with Nancy that their silence was unprofessional and perhaps shortsighted, especially in a town where restaurateurs tend to rise, phoenix-like, back into the business (not to mention when they still have a viable restaurant around the corner). When the business is going down, however, there isn’t much thought beyond complete and total up-to-the-minute damage control. AmyS is dead right about the gift certificate and staffing problems, though I also suspect Scene’s silence was carefully orchestrated to give them one more Saturday night in the till while preventing the booze and equipment suppliers from swooping in and reposessing their stuff before the place actually shut down. Remember Luqa? (http://frontburner.dmagazine.com/2007/08/22/creditors-descend-on-dallas-roof-gardens).

  11. DTD
    Your post raises the question I avoided hinting at–what about the vendor-stiff syndrome. I’m not saying either of the above mentioned spots are guilty of not paying their bills, but it certainly does happen.

  12. It’s easy to see a lot of different points of view here. Overall, everyone suffers in this kind of climate. Maybe there is no answer that could satify those involved when a restaurant finds itself unable to survive. I tend to think that it’s unwise to burn a bridge with D Magazine, though. Unless, of course, you’re leaving the business for good.

  13. This is a tough one. My perception is that if my restaurant was closing, the press would be the last people I would call. No offense, SideDish, but how humiliating it must be to have a failed business, trying to take care of the faithful customers, staff and balance the chaos. I know that the press can be advantageous in helping these restaurants, but to have this ‘air of entitlement’ about not getting the insider scoop seems silly. I know, I know- you will come back with the old, ‘But I am doing the public a service and they need to know, and “Who Is Going To Help That Poor Restaurant?’ But nobody wants to be fodder for foodie gossip under the title, ‘Another Restaurant Bites It’. On the other side of the crepe…restaurants in Dallas need to realize that we diners are very passionate about our food and dining. We are very supportive of the restaurants and it is a very small culinary world in Dallas. Nobody in our community likes to see a restaurant fail. Regardless of how good it looks on a blog.

  14. Thanks George W Bush for creating this stupid, economy draining war, so your cronies can get non-bid contracts that drain our reserves further. Now we can pay $4-$5 per gallon of gas and not afford to eat out. Oh, and thanks for the subprime mortgage lending crisis too.

    The bottom line, if our country was not in the business of screwing middle-class American citizens, restaurants and businesses would not be closing left and right.

    So, don’t blame the restaurant owners. Put the blame where it belongs. Squarely on the shoulders of George W Bush!!!

  15. After a long vacation, I returned to discover that sadly, Scene had closed its doors. However, knowing Michael and Blaine, both personally and professionally, I feel that all of their intentions and focus are based on what is best for the business. Fuse is successful because the two of them made it a success. Perhaps Dallas did not embrace Scene as much as it could have…..for me personally, I thought it was a great addition to our dining scene. We are fortunate as a city to have such great business partners as Michael and Blaine and look forward to their future endeavors. I will anxiously await their next venture and concept.