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Boating: Where's the key to the suggestion box?

August 14, 2012
by boatguy Ed , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

"Opinions are like noses; everyone has one but not everyone can smell the roses!" I can't claim authorship of that brilliant observation because it is a compilation of several more graphic witticisms.

One of the easiest opinions to have is about restaurants or, to be more succinct, the operation thereof. I've listened to thousands of gripe sessions from club members and friends concerning most but not all local restaurants. The bottom line is they tell friends and complete strangers but won't tell the management. I've never had that problem. I am a vocal individual who often speaks when silence is more appropriate. I have ruffled a few feathers but I try to point out real problems before I leave angry. I don't know the overall picture of those restaurants' circumstance but somethings are quite evident like poor service and lousy food.

A wise man once said, "A happy diner tells five people, an unhappy one tells 25." They have to advertise but also have to back it up with good products. Half of all advertising is a waste but does anyone know which half? I believe in television like the TV6 morning show, because the small viewership is loyal and younger. Next is radio and this may surprise some but I believe that National Public Radio is a great place for upscale advertising because their listeners are way smart.

Probably the best is local newspapers like the FMB Observer or Beach Bulletin because they are target specific. Then there are other newspapers and their fliers, Billboards, Facebook or Twitter but the very best advertising is word of mouth. That is why the chain restauranrts poll their customers so often. They want to know what people are saying: good, bad or indifferent.

Since the Food Channel began, popular restaurant rescue shows like 'Restaurant Impossible' are huge. One would assume that every owner of every struggling restaurant would TiVo every episode to watch after their 20 hour shifts. It takes dedication, hard work and a touch of delusion to own a restaurant.

Take the 'Pukin Pelican' for an example. A terrible name, small parking lot, rickety docks and an interior right out of the depression. The new owner did paint the place a few years ago, but he/she changes managers so often that none of the staff dare to be promoted. Yet they are moderately successful in a market saturated with waterfront restaurants.

I like the place. Yes, my taste does lean towards the unusual. I've grown accustomed to the idiosyncrasies. I come up with a lot of very 'usual' suggestions because I want them to succeed. None of which are taken seriously. If this place wasn't located on an offshoot of our dead end canal, I might not go there either. I never go there on Sundays because every Dentist and Anesthesiologist who owns a Harley wants to show off his or her macho side. Too loud!

Not many of the "Dead End Canal Yacht Club" go there either. 'Captain Crunch' gouged his boat's gel coat on a large nail that protruded from a loose dock board; 'Mrs. Boston Bob' saw a Palmetto Bug and 'Run-aground Ralph' couldn't remember how to get home.

Now to the good points of the 'Pukin' Pelican': cheap, cheap and cheap. Possibly too inexpensive because it attracts a few of those hard working commercial watermen types who the tourists complain about. The 'straight lace' patrons would like to see the happy hour draft beer go up by a quarter but management doesn't like to change. They're afraid to offend the regulars even though most of the regulars are up in Ohio or wherever.

The food is also inexpensive, good and plain. Nothing extraordinary here. The kitchen is spotless but the kitchen managers revolve as often as the other managers. At first they try real hard but eventually slip into the rut of their predecessors. It's the owner's fault and he/she admits to a lack of management skills. He/she really isn't a people person so neither is his/her staff.

The last suggestion I gave nearly got me barred. "You know the 'Restaurant Impossible' show is always looking for restaurants to turn around. Maybe you don't think you need it, but it would be great to see what they'd do here!" BOOM! Like I said restaurant owners don't take constructive criticism well.

I stayed away for a week to let things cool off, and I was surprised at the friendliness upon my return. He/she even asked me why I thought the place was in trouble. "Your employees aren't happy, and they should be." He/she demanded to know which ones. "All of them at one time or another. You are the happiest person in the place, God knows why but it doesn't transfer to your employees. I understand they all have problems outside of work but a low-cut blouse doesn't count for much when the gloom and doom is all over the face." He/she told me that his/her first inclination to bar me had been correct but since he/she had asked, it wouldn't happen. It's hard to get barred in the summertime on Fort Myers Beach.

I've actually been thinking of becoming a restaurant consultant in my next career. Like most of that trade I've been a patron and bartender and an owner, off and on all my life, so I qualify, right? I also have one other attribute that is absolutely necessary, a small pry bar capable of pulling off the lock with the long-lost missing key on the suggestion box. That's the only thing that could put consultants out of business, finding the key to that darned box!

Boatguy Ed is the manufacturer of the best hard ablative anti-fouling bottom paint made in Fort Myers, an avid boater, past Commodore of the 'Dead End Canal Yacht Club and a swell guy! Send questions and comments to;, or see him at the Pukin Pelican in a few weeks.



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