November 2018 Ruminations & Ronnifications

What is the single most important quality and characteristic of a Kosher Deli Owner? In my 46 years on the job, many qualities come to mind, but I have determined that one cannot survive this business without having a sense of humor and the ability to laugh…at everything.

Here are a few musings:

Doctor calls up, is irate and disputes the Amex Charge for a catering order.

I tell the good Doctor that I took the order from his nurse.

Without apology, he abruptly hangs up the phone.

Customer comes to the register and says he never received such awful service from the rude and arrogant waiter, though the steak was delicious… but still he states, he is never coming back. With that, he asks for change of $20.00 and then hands the awful waiter with the awful service a $5.00 tip. He had me scratching my head (Is that why I am bald?). Incredulous.

Just opened my first deli on the south shore of Long Island (after it had gone bankrupt twice) and a customer tells me I will be going broke. Puzzled, I asked myself why? Later in my conversation with the customer, the customer was annoyed with me that I wouldn’t give out free cookies with his coffee. I said but Joey (the previous owner) went bankrupt… how can you be annoyed with me?

Very recently married, a woman comes to the counter and asks if that is my bride who is

working the hot dog grill. With pride, I say yes. She then says that she was never coming in again. I was startled, especially since my goal was to keep every customer who dined or took out with us (never lose a patron) and only make additional patrons. What was my wife’s transgression? The woman purchased a hot dog and went to sit at a table. My wife told this woman that the tables were reserved for wait service. I didn’t talk to my wife for a full thirty minutes.

I am embarrassed by an incident which took place when I was about 25 years of age (45 years ago). A street hustler and garmento type (actually he was in the garment business), he chiseled me on an order and he was relentless in getting this for free and that for free, I told him—quite cowardly—the next day that I had a fire in my kitchen and couldn’t do the order. I never forgave myself for not being upfront and saying this is what I need to make you happy and Ben’s happy (but I didn’t).

I just opened the Ben’s in Manhattan and we were crazy busy when we opened. I told the front of the house staff that I was working behind the counter and to please not disturb me and not to direct customers to me since I had more than adequate staff to take care of all issues. Nobody could handle this irate customer, so I had to intervene. So what did the customer want? He wanted to cash a $100 check and was furious that my staff refused. I said, as a businessman, why would I want to take cash money out of my register and hope that all is good with the check? After cursing me up and down, I said to him that I had an agreement with the bank—-Ben’s doesn’t cash checks and they don’t sell pastrami.

All in a day’s work (or lifetime of work).

Let’s keep laughing together,


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