Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Excerpts From the Book "You Can't Make This Shit Up" - Business Sense

This installment doesn't have any photos which kind of goes along with the whole gist of the chapter anyway. This chapter is about how businesses are run in Puerto Rico. I could go on and on about, well, almost every place we have been in (or tried to go into) but I will instead focus on a few comical examples to make my point.

Ode to the Elephant is a restaurant in Rincon that we have heard has Thai food of varying quality depending on when you visit. We have never looked too hard for the place for numerous reasons. We are told it is kind of like 110 Thai (but maybe not at "good") and that isn't reason enough for us to drive there. We did hear from a friend who drove from Mayaguez to Rincon with her husband for dinner. The address on their signs is incorrect, there aren't signs once you get close to the area and when you do get there...on a SATURDAY night....they aren't open. That's right. CERRADO. Closed. A restaurant that is closed on a Saturday. Why not call ahead you ask? Come on, it is Puerto Rico and no one answers phones. You should use telepathy to figure out where and when it is open.

During the week I found myself in the Aguadilla Mall (oh the horror) for some reason or another. I was there around lunch and everyone was lined up at the entrance waiting for fried mashed potato balls and empanadas and stuff. Lots of shoppers around. Out of the corner of my eye I spy Baskin Robbins!!! Hallelujah...the thought of maybe Jamoca Almond Fudge...Nutty Coconut (you know there is no way Fudge Brownie will be there) was dancing on my lips. I haven't had ice cream in a few years. I get to the door and guess what? CERRADO. Closed. Captive people shopping at the mall around lunch and ice cream is closed. They open AFTER 1pm. Makes good business sense.

We finally found good tasting (not exactly healthy) bread at the Aguadilla Farmer's Market. Unfortunately it was a one time thing since he is always out of bread (you know, the only thing he is selling) when we get there an hour or two before it closes. How many hours is it open you ask? Only 4 but apparently he just wants to sit there for the final two hours and watch other vender's (the other 3 tables) sell things. Maybe he can hold some? Nope. Maybe he can bring some next week and hold it? "email me" I email and guess what? No response and no bread. Week after week I try to explain that if he would take orders and have people pre-pay he could make a whole lot of sales since there are always people there looking for the bread that isn't there.  Nope. Apparently he thinks "volume" is selling 8 loaves or so.

Another mystery was solved on Jeff's birthday. After driving by this place for a year now we decided to stop in. We have looked at this place and never seen cars there, but it looked new and we thought maybe it wasn't open yet. After diving a little later than usual we were passing by and saw cars parked behind The Cheesecake Shoppe! Jeff thought it had cheesecake. I thought it looked too large to have only cheesecake. We parked after being guided into a patch of dirt by the watch-the-car guy. We went in and at that moment saw the big sign that the building blocks so you can't see it from the road. You know, the one that says what the business is. We walk in and see glorious cheesecakes in a case. Someone comes up right away. I ask to see a menu. The guy looks at us and says "there is no menu." We stand there. "Is there food other than cheesecake" we ask? "Yes," he says. "Can you tell us what there is?"  You get the gist. It turns out that they have about 8 tables, have been there for years (like more than 8 or something) and have people waiting outside for hours on the weekend. Unfortunately there isn't anywhere to officially wait except inside your car or standing in the dirt. There is one chair inside and that is it. No awning, no benches, nothing. We returned in the later afternoon and there was an open table. What do they have? "Over 50 types of Imported Beers Imported Wines" - just not the one beer I wanted (they probably had one of each kind at some point). They have "Old Fashion Pizzas" made with "potato cheese" (which is code for cheddar). They have a cheese plate, and a wad of bread (that looked good) with a pot of oily chorizo. There are also 8 or so cheesecakes which are all super-duper sweet. Their motto is "just say cheese,,," It is actually a super thin-crust pizza that is good if you are in the mood, but who can eat a wad of bread with oily meat followed by flat bread with oily cheese followed by a cheese plate followed by cheesecake? Every diabetic and obese person in Puerto Rico apparently. Just a side story about the "potato cheese" - if you are getting an omelette or something here in PR and don't want american or liquid cheese, ask for "potato cheese" and you just might get cheddar! Really! Hours for the Cheesecake Shoppe are Thursday and Sunday 12 - 9 and Friday and Saturday 12 - 10. Doesn't that make sense? As a side note, there are plenty of people working there - each waiter has only 2 tables maybe so service is (for here) acceptable.

So I guess the point of this is to point out that people here just don't get it. People want your product but you don't open, bring it or increase your restaurant hours? What kind of businesses are these? I guess they are the ones that are missing opportunities... here in the land of missed opportunities.


Anonymous said...

Yes, one problem (that supports your missed opportunities blog) is that Ode to the Elephant runs ads in the local magazine that have a mis-labeled map of their location. It shows Rt 413 (in their version) detouring down past Tamboo, Casa Islena and Sandy Beach. That is NOT Rt 413. So people can't find the place. Things that make us unemployed detailed types go Hummm. Wil

Fran and Steve said...

I've found that many restaurants only open Thursday through Sunday because they don't get too much business the rest of the time. So you have to go on those very crowded days. We've come across the same WTF business practices here on the east coast too. The one that kills me is the realtors that don't want to work weekends (so they can do things with their families). Wait, aren't weekends the only time prospective (employed) buyers can see houses???
Here in the east, there are always crowds buying and eating. They wait in long lines tolerating -- no, expecting-- horrible service and bad food. Really, anyone with a decent business model and attention to detail could make a mint in Puerto Rico. -- Fran

Summer said...

The only constant in Puerto Rico is inconsistency. The last 4 out of 5 times I tried to go to Cocina Creativa in Aguadilla, it was closed. Most recently was last Saturday at noon. On the positive side, we have become way better chefs because of it. Things are slowly changing though. Let me know if you need some food recommendations in Rincon, there are 3 new restaurants that I think you should try :).

Linda said...

You know, all my utility bills say 413. My house is in Puntas on Bummer Hill aka Miramar aka Alfonso Arezmende, but that road is also the 413. Strange huh.
It goes down our hill and beachfront and up Puntas Bakery Hill, but it also goes across the ridge line were everyone knows it to be the 413. Your right.. you can't make this shit up.

Anonymous said...

ohh, would love to know your restaurant recommendations. We arrive Feb 1st.

Jeff and Katrina Kruse said...

Anonymous - sorry about recommendations, I have a very low opinion of food quality and service here. The only 2 places I can think of sending anyone to are L'Auxierre in San German and Villa Montana in Isabella. For pizza and beer the Cheesecake Shoppe in Aguadilla on highway 2 is good for thin crust and that is it! If you are into rice and beans or a hacked up chicken cafeteria style you are in heaven.