September 2023 Ruminations & Ronnifications

As summer fades and the next season befalls us, I am thinking how quickly time flies.

When I was a kid in New York City (Queens to be more exact), I played stickball, shot marbles, and flipped baseball cards in the summer … no country clubs, pool clubs, yacht clubs, tennis nor golf for me. Times have certainly changed … and I sometimes wonder if we have lost our moral compass. What do we think is important or unimportant in the grand scheme of things? What are we teaching our kids and what are they learning?

As the Fiddler laments while situated on a roof, it is no shame to be poor but it’s no great honor either, I think of all of life’s lessons over the years, personally and professionally … and what’s important and what’s not. My thoughts and values have clearly changed as I’ve aged but my core values remain the same.

Some things however don’t change as Rosh Hashanah is upon us. It is amazing to think we have catered holiday dinners for three generations on Long Island, in Boca, Manhattan and Westchester. (This year Manhattan orders will be delivered through our flagship Greenvale store and Westchester  orders can be ordered and will be delivered through Bayside.)  Please call the respective Ben’s location for details and delivery arrangements. Deliveries will be limited so order early.

So as we lose our tans, go back to school, and see swimming pools being closed, we will soon be celebrating  the changing colors of leaves and clothing. And as I have heard many Floridians lament, the changing of the seasons is what is most missed about not being up north. So let’s enjoy all that stays the same, Ben food adorning our table with wonderful friends and family, and  embrace the changing seasons. (Hopefully we will have another mild winter.)

Have a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.

See ya at the deli,
Simply, Ronnie

August 2023 Ruminations & Ronnifications

If you’re like me, you’ll find certain behaviors and protocols odd.

For example, my home office has a view of our front door so when I saw a package left at our front door and the courier took a cell phone picture of the item, I asked myself for what purpose. He or she could take a picture and then walk away with the package. Am I being too cynical?

One time a package was left at foot of the mailbox at the entrance of my driveway. I called Amazon and told them that I never ordered the hats that were in the package. They told me it was a mistaken delivery and I should keep them. So what did I do, I gave them out to friends and acquaintances. What did the hats say? Do Not Disturb!

One time a patron complained bitterly about the service he received … ranting on and on how he would never patronize our restaurant again. With that, he asked for change of a twenty dollar bill and then proceeded to hand the server (the same server who provided the worst service ever) an extremely generous gratuity! Go figure.

Recently, a man who received a $100 gift card complained about every single item that was ordered.   The one and only thing he raved about was the exceptional service he received from the waitress.  Beyond the service he said Not a single thing was good, the soup, the matzoh ball, the Cole slaw (a freebie), the hot dog, the sauerkraut, the hot open roast beef sandwich or mashed potatoes, etc. Four things were taken off the gentlemen’s bill when he was in the restaurant. But that wasn’t good enough. He wrote a review and wanted his money back. For the sake of peace and harmony we offered to refund the amount of his bill that was already discounted. But woe … that wasn’t enough. Not only did he want his bill refunded but he wanted his tip back. He wanted to be assured the server would get her tip but he didn’t want to pay for it.   Having heard enough, the Vice President of the company told him she would refund the entire $100 gift card and send him a check … if and only if he never stepped foot in any Ben’s location. This man was a first class schnorrer.

These vignettes taught me one very important lesson, that is, you never stop learning and seeing quirks in our world no matter one’s age. At the ripe old age of 75 people don’t cease to amaze me.

Oh, and don’t forget to order a self-service BBQ for ten people or more and, remember, that Rosh Hashanah orders are now being taken … Thank you.

See ya at the Deli,

July 2023 Ruminations & Ronnifications

Do any of our patrons remember S & H green stamps? I still remember my mom’s infatuation with these little stamps (emulating the U.S. postage stamp); she couldn’t wait until she got home from the grocery store to put the stamps in her S & H book so she could redeem them for what she thought were wonderful gifts.

I guess that’s why many years ago, before loyalty programs were even popular, I opted to start my very own loyalty program. Instead of stamps I opted for loyalty  cards, and instead of gifts we give money. I love listening to the excitement of our customers when they learn at the register they they have a $3.00 coupon, earned $7.50 … or hit the jackpot with a buy one get one free coupon. And we make sure to always see our customers on their birthday month because of the monetary birthday gift we bestow.

It incentivizes the customers to buy, spend and save more. And they come back … luckily the program works.

I still remember E.J. Korvettes and Robert Hall and more recently, the venerable supermarket Waldbaum’s. I hope – after almost 51 years in business – Ben’s continues well after I am gone. I know that every generation removed from the immigrant experience, loyalty wanes and thus it is incumbent on Ben’s to change with the times. Kosher Delicatessen Restaurant is past the glory days where there were two and three kosher delis in the neighborhood so I am trying my very best to keep this tradition alive. Whoever thought that Ben’s would have wraps on the menu, paninis, or our latest addition – new  fresh salads with new and exciting ingredients that our customers are raving about.

I know that I have tried my very best to change with the times, and pass on my knowledge and passion to those who are younger, and will continue the Ben’s tradition and that of the kosher delicatessen restaurant genre. It is so rewarding when I hear from a 45 year old that we catered their bris, or their bar or bat mitzvah, their holiday gatherings, or their engagement parties and the many stories how Ben’s participated in their family’s rites of passage. As I approach my 75th birthday, I want all of my patrons, friends, vendors and employees to know how appreciative I am for their support through the years; may we continue for another 50 years rewarding each other!

With best regards,
Ronnie Dragoon

June 2023 Ruminations & Ronnifications

When I was growing up, I witnessed many historical events that shaped the world.

I saw Khrushchev’s shoe-banging stunt at the UN, and the assassinations of JFK, MLK, and RFK. I lived through the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, and the war in Afghanistan.

Nowadays, I feel like I’m in a cowboy movie. Violence and chaos everywhere. Putin invading Ukraine. Polarization and conflict everywhere.

But in my little corner of kosher deli heaven, I find some peace and joy in what I do. I keep working hard as I approach my 75th birthday and hoping for a better future for everyone.

But enough about me and my thoughts (not that you could stop me anyway).

Let me tell you some exciting news about Ben’s in Manhattan. We have merged that location with Mr. Broadway, an OU Glatt Kosher Deli-Restaurant this past month. Right now, we are only open for delivery and pick up, but we will let you know when we are ready to welcome you in person. Ben’s is an equal partner in this new venture, which will give you another option when you visit the Big Apple.

And with that, I must go and prepare a catering tray!

See ya at the deli.


May 2023 Ruminations & Ronnifications

Ben’s has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. When  our family moved to Long Island and my mother opened her bookstore a few doors down from the original Baldwin Harbor location, our family became instant regulars at Ben’s. Dine-in, take-out, and holidays were all Ben’s. If my mother wasn’t in the bookstore after school, she might have been sitting in Ben’s having a brisket sandwich or split pea soup served by Betty or Mike.

The workers and extended Dragoon family became the cast to the movie of my life, including characters that are still remembered by many of the long-time employees and customers. As a shopping center kid I was treated to VIP status. Manny & Tex let me come behind the counter & make my own frank with ketchup, very exciting to a 7-year-old! Sometimes I was sent over to ask for some change, and it was Dottie who taught me how to count the change back from a broken $20 bill. Of course, the young counter guys like the Judge were early crushes for me & my friends.

Cindy & Ronnie were the celebrities, always running around, engaged with customers, and building the company brand. My father talked books and history with Ronnie while he sliced away, never missing a beat. And Cindy, well, she was then and is still now the coolest! Over the years their generosity and loyal friendship has been unmatched. I am extremely lucky to have made a second family out of my employers.

I could never have known then that Ben’s and these fabulous people would play such a huge part in my life. From a 19-year-old cashier and hostess to floor supervisor, assistant manager, general manager, and catering director I worked and learned our best practices from my manager, Todd (now the COO), in 6 locations in New York & Florida. When I moved back north 5 years ago, Ronnie created a new role for me in several areas of the business to assist him directly. I am happy and grateful to have such a long career where I am so valued and appreciated.

Each week I visit the stores, and a few times a year I visit Boca Raton. Each time I am thrilled to see our regular customers, my coworkers and smell those delicious Ben’s  Foods. Maybe next time, I will see you there at the deli!

See you at the deli!

Rachel Stone
Ben’s Foundation Coordinator

April 2023 Ruminations & Ronnifications

What shall I write about for the April Newsletter?

Shall I make a daring statement and then follow that up by saying it was an April Fool’s Joke?

Shall I say that I wish I could do even only a scant of what I could do ten years ago?

Shall I open with a larger than life, Breaking News story which I see on every news program? Isn’t the word news in and of itself breaking?

Shall I write about my experiences with some in the legal profession who are  actually modern day ambulance chasers? Now ask me how I truly feel.

Shall I write about patrons who abuse our hard working staff members?

Shall I write about how the pandemic almost put us and many other businesses out of business?

Shall I write about customers who actually stop ordering to answer their phones, and have a personal phone conversation while the counter person waits until they finish?

Shall I write about the landlords who worked with their tenants during the Pandemic and other landlords who cared less of the impact on our business and future? They know who they are …

Shall I write the immense appreciation I have for the members of the Ben’s Executive Team? And the many employees who strive to make happy customers?

Ah heck, I’ll take this opportunity to wish all our friends and patrons a very happy and sweet Passover and a Happy Easter; To  our employees a well deserved break from work.

As we do every year, we will be closed for the eight days of Passover so, hopefully, when the holidays are over, there will be a pent up demand for our house made corned beef, our double steamed pastrami, fresh cut French Fries, Matzoh Ball Soup … and all the other goodies that one expects from Ben’s Kosher Restaurant-Delicatessen and Caterers.

Thank you all and …

See you at the deli!

March 2023 Ruminations & Ronnifications

As Ben’s just completed our 50thAnniversary in business, I have to say that the customer’s responses have been heartwarming. Given the Pandemic, the turbulent world in which we now find ourselves, the supply chain shortages and the escalating cost of goods, I believe the worst is behind us; I am looking forward with a renewed sense of optimism on the future of Ben’s. Not that we went unscathed by the events of the past three years or so but we survived and I believe will be stronger as a result.

We continue to tweak our menu dispensing with those food items that are no longer in demand and introducing new menu items to our staff and patrons. Our supervising chef, Atilio Celis and his respective staffs along with my daughter Jaime Passy, COO Todd Silverstein and Vice President Gilah Salzano are looking and tasting various menu offerings to possibly incorporate onto our menus.

We are also testing bringing back dinner specials, on weekends, which we abandoned during the Pandemic while expanding our delivery services knowing that the market place has changed along with patrons dining habits and expectations.

Many years ago I remember a fellow named Bob Dylan who said the times they are a changin’. Well, they are still changing and evolving and  Ben’s will continue to change with the times to keep the great kosher deli tradition alive and well for many years into the future. Please March to a different drummer and come to Ben’s and celebrate with our St. Patrick’s specials that are available from March 1stthrough St. Patrick’s day March 17th. Thank you all. WE APPRECIATE YOU!

See you at the deli!

February 2023 Ruminations & Ronnifications

Some of you may be familiar with me as I have helped lots of our loyal customers with questions regarding our Ben’s Friends’ Rewards program. My name is Al Olle and I oversee all things marketing and loyalty.  I have been with Ben’s for 12 years; I started my path here as a server, shortly thereafter I became assistant to the president of Ben’s and eventually took over responsibility of Ben’s marketing. In the years since, I have revamped our website, created all our social media accounts, slowly but surely moved us away from traditional heavy print advertising which is what we mostly did and moved to more targeted digital solution. The idea is to reach our customers where they are,  be it a newspaper, email, social media or while browsing their favorite websites.

As if things weren’t already challenging in the restaurant space, Covid 19 happened, dine in was not an option for most of us and Ben’s was going to be in a tough spot, as we did not have a reliable online ordering system. Without one, our phones and cashiers would not have been able to handle the large volume of orders, so we got to work and swiftly launched Ben’s Order & Delivery, our own platform that’s integrated with our Ben’s Rewards Program.  I am happy to say that the timing was perfect, and we were able to keep you fed while allowing you to continue to earn points and redeeming your hard-earned rewards.

In retrospect, the impact covid had on the restaurant industry is incredible,  it changed the way you shop and the way we as restaurant folks look at hospitality. We have learned that we must leverage technology and evolve beyond the four walls of our stores.

So, what’s next? I would love to say drinks by the beach in Hawaii, but we are busy working on some new and exciting changes to our Ben’s Friends Rewards program to keep you better engaged and more informed about your accounts. We are also working on a simpler and cleaner look for our website which is something I will be working on with Ronnie’s daughter Jaime who has some really fresh ideas and our webmaster/graphic designer Debi who will help us put it all together nicely.

I couldn’t do what I do for Ben’s without the full support and trust of one of the funniest and hardest working people in the kosher deli game, Mr. Ronnie Dragoon.  His love for deli has fueled my passion for this job so I will continue to do my best for him and to help Keep The Kosher Deli Tradition Alive.

As Ronnie loves to say,
See you at the deli!

Ps. Don’t forget to order one of catering packages for the Superbowl, it looks to be an exciting game!

January 2023 Ruminations & Ronnifications

If the President of the United States can give a State of the Union speech, and the Governor of New York State can give a State of the State address, so, too, can I give the State of Ben’s in far fewer words than the President and/or the Governor.

So let’s get right to it:

Ben’s has experienced the unprecedented emergence of Covid (at least in my lifetime), and was able to navigate through all the vitriol and divisiveness in the country, and the rampant inflation that all of us have experienced as consumers and vendors. So after all this, where are we now and where are we headed in 2023? Ben’s through the years has had its share of ups and downs but never were we so threatened as we have been … but we emerged, and I think stronger than we have been in some time.

My goal has been to maintain the restaurant locations we now have and increase our sales by expanding our delivery areas as well as our offerings. We have an amazing amount of dedicated and caring workers who know the mission and the goal in the coming years of being the preeminent kosher caterer and restaurant in the United States. It is not an easy business and never was but as we overcame the high interest rates in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the financial crisis in 2008, we, too, shall overcome all the issues I have raised. How do we do this?

We do this by having an evolving menu with more food options, maintaining the cleanliness and good looks of the respective Ben’s locations and seeking out superior management talent.

We look forward to 2023 with optimism and with the hope that our vendors, patrons, and employees face the future with the same optimism. And I must thank all the patrons who have written me, called the “hot line,” made suggestions, criticized or complimented on what they saw and experienced.

May you all have a resurgence of optimism, health and good fortune in 2023.

See you all at the Deli,

December 2022 Ruminations & Ronnifications

What an exciting and busy year it has been! Not only are we on our last leg of 2022 but we just completed yearlong 50th anniversary celebrations. As a member of the Executive team and Vice President of Ben’s, it was both a privilege and honor to be a part of the planning and execution of many events and festivities orchestrated for this milestone.

Whether you took advantage of the specials we promoted each month, read one of the many articles written in our regional newspapers, participated in the 50% off your entire dining room check day, or joined us for our party, we were thrilled to celebrate with you.

And speaking of celebrating, it was our pleasure to help once again create new Thanksgiving memories, as you filled our dining rooms or arranged for delivery or picked-up catering orders, large and small.

As Hanukkah approaches, we look forward to continuing to serve all your dining room and catering needs.  Our Hannukah menu is available, so you can start placing your orders and take advantage of our delicious flavored mini latkes offer.  We carry plain potato, zucchini, spinach and my absolute favorite, sweet potato. These special flavors will be available beginning December 17th and continue for the eight days of Hanukkah. Additionally, we are having a kids latkes demonstration on Sunday, December 11th at 10:30.  Don’t forget we are open on Christmas Eve, Day and New Years Eve and Day as well!

I would be remiss, if I passed this season without giving thanks to the customers that patronize us, our management team, and all the rest of the hardworking employees that make all this possible. I promise you our gratitude is boundless as we know this business would not prevail and thrive without every one of you.

It is bittersweet as we say goodbye to an amazing 2022, but we welcome 2023 with open arms and many new and exciting plans to keep the tradition alive as we embrace our 51st year in business. Stay tuned!

See ya at the deli,
Gilah Salzano
Vice President

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