Mouthing Off

The CRA prez has faith that the independent restaurants will survive the labor crunch. "If the chains don't meet their projections," he explains, "they're going to close, because the rest of the chain can support their doing so. Whereas the indies--not only will they compete with the chains head-to-head, they generally will be less likely to close the doors."

Nicole Cochard isn't so sure about that. "I know of several places that are this close to closing," she says. "It's getting to the point where we're all bailing our chefs out of jail or loaning money to staffers with financial problems. And then there's the fact that they all know it's incredibly easy to find a job elsewhere, so they don't care if they're late or if they give bad service. Why should they care?"

That attitude must be what prompted Joe Sullivan to e-mail me recently. "Is it just me," Sullivan wondered, "or is the quality of service in most Denver restaurants pathetic? I'm talking scratch-the-armpit bad. I could give you twenty examples in a minute of truly awful performances in Denver's 'upscale' establishments. I've had better service at the Department of Motor Vehicles." Sullivan went on to describe a few sorry incidents, to which I could add several dozen more from the past five months alone. In fact, the service situation has gotten so bad that I hardly mention service in a review unless it's stellar, because it's become obvious that the fault isn't with the restaurant but with employees who couldn't care less.

The situation has Nicole Cochard at wit's end. "Every day," she says, "Maurice and I come into work and wonder, 'Who's going to show up for work today?'"


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