The Drake Hotel Chicago
140 East Walton St.
Chicago IL 60611
Dear Mr. Menkes,
On February 16th, 2013, we attempted to dine at Cape Cod Room. Since my partner worked on Valentine’s Day, we were going to use this as our date-night. It was not to be.
It’s not a crime for a restaurant to be busy. Indeed, there is a fine balance between traffic and desirability. But there is a big difference between organic crowdedness and the false pretense of exclusivity. Think the velvet ropes in LA nightclubs as compared to the healthy bar scene at a well-managed restaurant like Roy’s or anything by Gibson’s group.
Working the host stand was Theodore Daskalopoulos, who, I have since learned, is the general manager of the restaurant. I suppose the only way such a person can remain employed in the business of service is by being boss. He should not be allowed near customers.
Upon arrival, our customary 10 minutes in advance, Mr. Daskalopoulos advised us with dismissiveness: “We’re running a little behind. Have a seat.” Now, I don’t need massaging or false pretenses to niceness. But I still regarded the completely cavalier instruction to “have a seat” as, perhaps, not in the spirit of the service level to which a hotel like The Drake aspires. To say nothing of the fact that “a little behind” is absolutely meaningless. Quantify it and let us decide if we’re staying.
One other couple was already seated. We were the second. There was no more room to sit but Mr. Daskalopoulos proceeded to dismiss 3 additional parties with the same instructions. Sit where? I thought. No one had the courage to enter the completely empty dining area to the immediate right of entry and grab one of those seats. Had this been a regular Saturday, I would have and kicked my feet up. Maybe called Domino’s as obnoxiously as possible – asked the other victims of Mr. Daskalopoulos’ disdain if they wanted anything while they waited. But this was our Valentine’s Day. I had to be nice which I regret exceedingly because few things on this planet are less pleasurable than being on the receiving end of my rude-restaurant cross-examination. Especially when I have an audience in a similar predicament.
Now Mr. Menkes, I understand fully well that a restaurant like Cape Cod Room is a rounding error on the books of a giant hotel like The Drake. This difference in scale is also why hotel management is almost always professionally trained and why restaurant management so rarely is. It is probably for this reason that the management charged with the hotel sometimes treats the restaurants’ as beneath them. Certainly Mr. Daskalopoulos’ attitude would imply that he is looked down upon by someone in your executive corridors and he takes out his resentment on his customers; who are also your customers. This affects you for two reasons.
First, most interactions between the hotel’s guests and its staff is through the dining establishments. There is little distinction drawn between the experiences in restaurants, especially when exceedingly negative and the overarching impression of the host organism, which is your Hotel. Secondly, by denying guests a viable place to spend their money inside the hotel, you’re just guaranteeing that what little benefit a restaurant does provide will be evaporate to nothing. Look to NoMi for a perfect example of a decade-long march into irrelevance until finally management was kicked out along with the nightclub attitude. Now, it is Michigan Avenue’s most improved player. Don’t you want to be? The solution begins with Mr. Daskalopoulos’ dismissal. And that of his attitude.
We went inland and had a lovely meal at Le Colonial where, even at their busiest, they have treated us better than Mr. Daskalopoulos treated anyone that night. Just thought you should know.