Saturday, February 10, 2007

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

This weekend I went to a local BBQ restaurant for dinner, Demo's. Despite the widely varying tastes and types of BBQ, I've found the restaurants seem to have a few commonalities.

Let's start with the menu. In most southern style BBQ eateries, the menu includes two or maybe three types of meat and the same standard list of side items. The standard included add-ons to a dinner plate includes baked beans, slaw and either Texas toast or rolls. Don't forget that little pepper; in all my meals of BBQ, I've yet to dine with someone who failed to set it aside as though it's merely there for colorful decoration. Usually there's the option for a potato, fried or baked. Is there a BBQ menu rule that says "You must not serve macaroni and cheese"? Sometimes you find a restaurant like Corky's that goes out on a limb and serves *gasp* BBQ nachos or BBQ pizza. The one Southern Style BBQ restaurant I've found that steps out of this set formula for success is The Rib Crib. While they don't stray wildly off course on the side items, they do offer a broad range of meats.

The one really noticeable common feature I've found is the signs. It's more the propensity to have a great overabundance of them that I see often. If it's a chain of some sort, the quantities aren't so large. Next time you visit a local small BBQ joint, take a look around. How many signs do you see in clear view? This weekend, the place I visited started at the door. The first sign admonishes customers in line not to spend their time on a cell phone. After you step inside, another sign repeats the same message. It continues four times before you can place your order; apparently someone thinks it's not acceptable to have the social hour in line. While I understand the courtesy of not yapping into a cell phone while placing your order, is it necessary to berate the customer into submission? On the menu, two more signs in very large letters warn of the slaw that comes on all sandwiches unless you present your request in writing, signed and notarized. Even a placard mounted atop the cash register reminds you to make your slaw preferences clear. Another local BBQ establishment had a nice big notice on the door announcing a new law that went into effect last summer. "No Smoking by order of your Arkansas Governor." A clearly disgruntled smoker posted this message in place of the cheerful note stating "A Smoke-free environment for all our customers. We use Alpine air filters!" Yes, because you have a small box "filtering" the air in one corner of your restaurant, those twenty guys lighting one smoke after another two tables away from me aren't doing any damage to my lungs. Right. I also have an interest in a great new mountain resort in the Arkansas Delta that I'm sure you'd just love.

Do they find that every time one person makes some sort of fuss over the most minute little detail, they must shelter themselves from any further possible confrontation and put up another sign? Having that sign posted is a way they can say "Ha! See, I told you that's the rules" to that one ungrateful customer who has dared to cross their way of thinking. It's such an inviting touch to the decor.

Here's some I've seen over the years:

No checks below number #300.
No out of town checks.
No substitutions.
Do not use your cell phone while waiting in line.
(Directed to employees) No using cell phones or Ipods while on the clock!
Notice! All sandwiches served with slaw unless told otherwise.

My favorite is shown here at left. It was above by my seat at Cafe Klaser.
I know all about this rule, it comes "by order of your Arkansas Governor." I'm part of the informed public, thanks to the numerous signs at local BBQ restaurants.

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