Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Who Knew So Much Went Into Olive Garden?

When You're Here, You're Family.

Read this article on Fast Company today: Why America Is Addicted To Olive Garden. Now, I don't own a major company, but if I did, I could certainly learn a few lessons from the people behind endless salad and breadsticks. The company, Darden, also owns Red Lobster.

Some fascinating tidbits:

The President of Olive Garden started out there as a line cook:
David Pickens, 53, the president of Olive Garden, knows firsthand how grueling -- and how fulfilling -- restaurant work can be. At 17, he started as a line cook at a Red Lobster in Nashville. The pace was relentless, the pay wasn't great, and he never saw the people he cooked for. It was just a job. Then he became a waiter, interacting with customers, shaping their dining experience, and getting rewarded for it. He set his sights on becoming a restaurant manager, got the job at 21, and never looked back, opening and overseeing restaurants for Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and the short-lived China Coast.

"I went from Nashville to Memphis to St. Louis to Evansville, Indiana, back to Nashville and Memphis and then to Little Rock to Houston to Philadelphia to New York and finally here to Orlando," says Pickens. "Got all that?"
Olive Garden sends its staff to Italy:
Eleven times a year, the company sends 14 top employees, many of whom have never set foot in Italy, to spend a week in an 11th-century village in Tuscany and learn from Sergio and Daniela Zingarelli, a husband and wife who operate a restaurant, winery, and inn. The couple and other local experts expose the Americans to everything from how olive oil gets pressed to how to layer flavors in a Bolognese sauce. The Olive Garden employees buy fresh vegetables at a market in Florence and prepare a multicourse Italian meal.
Red Lobster goes the extra mile:
"Is there Red Lobster without lobster?" is not an existential question for this company. The North American lobster harvest fluctuates every year, but demand continues to grow. So two years ago, Darden began sponsoring an experiment to boost the population. Scientists working with the government of New Brunswick, in Canada, catch pregnant lobsters and care for their offspring until they're mature enough to burrow into the ocean's sandy bottom, then release the tiny animals into the wild. Then Darden waits and hopes -- for six years or more. So far, says Bill Herzig, Darden's senior vice president of supply-chain innovation, "it looks like good science."
Yes, Red Lobster actually raises baby lobsters, then releases them into the wild, and years later, captures them to put on your plate. That's commitment.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Brief Rant About Tattoos

So I've been seeing this story for the past week or so: An 18-year-old girl went into a tattoo parlor in Belgium and requested some tattoos of stars on her face. The tattoo artist obliged. But there's just one tiny issue: The girl said she requested 3 stars. The artist claims... well:

That's The Whole Milky Way Right There
56 Stars, One For Each Braincell

The girl claimed to have fallen asleep... the only explanation for how she could have possibly allowed the tattooing if she didn't want it. The artist says the girl was pleased as punch... until her daddy found out. Then she was all like, "Daddy, it's the tattoo artist's fault!"

It seemed like the classic "he said, she said." So other than glance at the photo above, I didn't really delve into the story. Until today, when I saw the picture of the tattoo artist:

Hi, I'm Your Blind Date

Now I know the girl was totally lying. If you go to this guy for a face tattoo, you're staying awake. In fact, if you go to this guy for a tattoo at all, you're not just getting some dainty unicorn tattooed on your shoulder. You go to a guy who looks like this, you're looking for something a bit more on the extreme side.

I never got the whole tattoo thing. A girl I once knew had a hummingbird tattooed perilously close to a delicate place of her anatomy. It was gross... it looked like the bird was fluttering around a feeder, waiting to take a slurp. Then there's that whole "tramp stamp" thing. Why get a tattoo in a place that will immediately make everybody think you like to take it doggystyle? Is that something you want to advertise around the office?

I'm all for a tattoo that means something (one friend I had in college got his late father's initials tattooed over his heart). And for all I know, this chick could have had 56 good reasons to get those stars. But if you're just getting a tattoo because it "looks good" or "it's cool," you might as well just put on clown makeup and a big bright red nose, because chances are what you think is totally awesome today will later seem to everyone else like a joke.

Here's what I propose. Tattoo parlors should require a 24-hour waiting period before they proceed with a tattoo. This would probably eliminate the 20% or so who stumble in drunk and get My Little Pony on their thigh. It'll probably get rid of the other 30% who habitually make spontaneous decisions and regret them moments later.

My Little Pony
Actually, I'm Sort Of Into This. Do They Ink Tex?

But until Congress passes my bill, the Defense of Skin Act, just follow this advice. If you're going to let a guy who looks like the above tattoo your face, make sure you're wide awake the whole damn time.

P.S. I don't even want to imagine what this guy goes through every time he sneezes.

[UPDATE: Well, it didn't take long for the truth to come out: Starface admits to lying.]

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