Food For Thought

When I was considerably younger, my parents had a favorite restaurant we visited on a regular basis. Sure, we tried other eating establishments from time to time, but like the bird which flies south for the winter, only to fly thousands of miles back north to the very same tree the next spring, we always gravitated back to the same place eventually. (Feel free to insert "family of bird-brains" joke here).

For the record, the restaurant no longer exists, but for all I know there may still be relatives in the area, so in the interest of not wanting to offend anyone, nor possibly having my legs broken, I shall defer to not mentioning the name of the eatery in question. Just for giggles and grins, let’s call it “The Wigwam.”

There were many reasons we enjoyed The Wigwam. For one thing, the prices were affordable. My dad didn’t bring home a particularly huge paycheck, so reasonable pricing was actually more of a prerequisite than an option. They also had a pretty decent kids menu. Now, I don’t remember exactly what the cutoff age was for the kids menu, but I do know that my dad had instructed my brother and I to speak in falsetto to keep us in the discount range as long as possible. And as I recall, the whole scam came to a screeching halt when I had enough facial hair that I could answer to the name "Yoder."

But that’s not why it all changed for the worse at The Wigwam. You see, for many years The Wigwam was family owned and run by people my family knew and trusted. Then, one day we waltzed in for dinner and were told by management that their family was selling the restaurant to another family – but not to worry – as the new family had pledged to continue running The Wigwam the very same way their predecessors did.

And that was indeed the case – at least for a little while. Before long, however, the portions started to get smaller and the prices got pricier. The new owner – Larry, I believe his name was – would come around once in a while and apologize for the portion size.  What also bothered us, however, was the fact that he had let go of some of our favorite waiters: guys named Cliff, C.C. and Victor, to name a few.

The last straw was when my favorite dish, prime rib, was replaced with something which tasted like anything but. When I tried to complain to the maître d’ – I think his name was Paul – he tried to assure me that I was indeed eating prime rib, but I swear it reminded me more of something like a hot dog you’d get at the ballpark. What are the odds?

Anyway, after a couple of more unsatisfactory visits to The Wigwam, we finally gave up and stopped going there for dinner. Broke our hearts, as a matter of fact, but we felt like we’d been betrayed one too many times.

Then one year, we heard all kinds of promos and advertisements about how they were doing things differently, how the product was much better, and how much we’d enjoy our visit – if only we just gave them a chance to prove it.

It made us wonder why, if they had the best interests of the customers from the start, they waited so long to get their act together, and why the very same people who let the business fall into disarray – we heard the place was nearly vacant most nights – simply assumed folks would come flocking (note the clever bird tie-in) back for finally doing it the "right" way.

The sad thing is, it’s my understanding that the product WAS better, and really WAS deserving of more attention, but the owners had done such a thorough job of alienating their customers that by the time the customers returned, the business had failed.

Good thing that kind of stuff doesn’t happen today.

Jeff Bing

Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!

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Volume 5, Issue 10, Posted 10:12 AM, 05.14.2013