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October 11, 2010

Zippy wraps it up

zippyHere is the conclusion of Zippy Tips for arranging group tours. Some of them are applicable for the consumer. I love what she says about insisting that the manager, or owner, BE there, and VISIBLY so.


Step # 7

After I pay the bill, and if the restaurant is generally acceptable, I ask to speak with the owner. If he isn't there, I want to see the manager or the chef. If the chef comes out of the kitchen wearing a filthy apron, note that.Say, Please sit down. I want to bring a group to your restaurant. hen shut up and note his reaction. Continue making notes. Say little. Listen a lot. Can he handle a group? Wheredoes he usually seat them? He will want to know the day and time, is that manageable for him or will the kitchen be so busy with regular guests? I need for my group to be in and out in 90 minutes, will that work? Any longer and it disturbs the rhythm of the tour I'm doing.  More than 90 minutes is too long for people to sit and they will eat too much and be uncomfortable for the afternoon part of the tour.

Step # 8

I don't like what I call "pushed together" tables. I want the tables to be left alone, in configurations of 4 or perhaps 6 but no more to a table.Conversations flow better with small tables. It's more likely that everyone will get a chance to talk.  At long tables the loud-mouth generally takes over and shy people are unable to speak. I like a service where there is a salad in the middle of the table when we arrive and people help themselves. If you do not eat tomatoes, someone else will. By encouraging this sharing of food, it prompts casual conversation. So I like my first course to be a help yourself course. A bread tray goes along with the salad and butter or at Ikaros a good olive oil with their warm bread.  Does it seem okay with him for me to specify what I want and why I want it?  I'm willing to listen to him but he's got to be responsive to me as well. I know how to handle groups in restaurants  


Step # 9


I tell him that I need for him to be in the restaurant, visible to me, during the 90 minutes that we are there. Can I count on this? I know things will go smoothly if he is visible, because if something should go wrong, HE will fix it and make it right and if that happens before I am even aware of it, so much the better.  I tell him that I will call him several times to confirm our reservation.  I call a week before, and several days before, and the morning of the day we will be there. I let him know whether my bus is on time at our prior stops on the tour. I aim to be at the restaurant within 5 or 10 minutes of the time of the reservation. And I often ask that he be outside to greet us with a smile and a "So glad you are here!" I also want him to be available as we are leaving, and saying something like: "You're leaving?  So soon?"  I want a smile, a sincere smile.


Step # 10 

I need to know, if I have never taken a group to this restaurant, how long they have been in business.  Something about its history.  Reviews and where published, although I will go to a restaurant without hesitation even if it has never or rarely been reviewed. I make my own decisions.  Restaurants start up and go out of business all the time, and I want to try to get a feel for their plans.  I know why restaurants fail.  Are there long term employees?  Who runs the back of the house? Who runs the front?


I tell my people on the bus that if they taste one morsel of food and it is not to their liking, tell me or the owner immediately and we will change it. 


Well done, Zippy Larson -- thank you!


Baltimore Sun Staff/Jed Kirschbaum

Posted by Richard Gorelick at 5:55 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Group Dining


I'm sure Zippy is charming, but holy lord is this some extensive criteria. If someone is put off by such things as a dirty apron and more than one earring an ear than I don't think I would want them at my restaurant. But, she does her homework and knows her tastes, so more power to her.

She might know her tastes but doubt she knows much about good food. This whole thing is to weird.

This was fascinating. I admire someone who can break down into discreet steps a process that probably unfolds more or less automatically when she does it.

I'm always amazed at people who wrap themselves in the ego apparel of religion and behave like they are better than us because they play a socially acceptable con game called religious charlatan.

She's certainly thorough, almost frighteningly so, but can anyone think of a better person to plan your tour?

Sounds like a tour with Zippy would be akin to a day on the job with a health inspector. Lighten up lady.

Groups are different. They are really hard to plan for, and the restaurant needs to have experience with them. Otherwise, things get ugly fast.

So, I understand why Ziggy is so picky. She must be, because it is her reputation on the line. I hate arranging for large groups to eat, and have done it a number of times, with varying results. She's reducing the opportunity for a mean, drunk Murphy to visit.

One person called her quirky; I don't think so at all. What I think she is , is on the ball! She is obviously in a way a stickler, but what she is most of all is sane! If everyone were like this, we wouldn't have the mediocre food and lousy service and poor management that we are now accustomed to.

the opportunity for a mean, drunk Murphy to visit.

What kind of racist crap is that?

It was a play on Murphy's Law. Insensitive towards the Irish, perhaps, but unless you think I hate white people or that the Irish are their own race, hardly racist.

When I began creating tours in Baltimore, I had no clue that I'd be responsible for meals for groups. My focus was on history, places to go that I'd discovered that fascinated me, people I'd met who had stories to tell, that hardly anyone knew. When I took groups with me to see and learn about a neighborhood, first on walking tours, I was asked for restaurant recommendations. Early on I realized that when participants invited me to lunch after the tour, they figured I would choose a good spot to eat. After all, I knew the city, I lived here and so my choice was bound to be a good one. That was how it began.

Semantics saves not hate speech that divides us all. The Creator knows your heart. Bitter words on race, gender, creed, ethnicity, et al has no place in the joyful union of strangers. Division under any name subtracts from our Joyful purpose. Calm yourself sister, find the peace inside and share the joy of all. Thank you.

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About this blog

You are reading the archives. For updated blog posts about the Maryland food scene, see Richard Gorelick's new Baltimore Diner blog.
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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