George Eder, exec chef of Pizza Republica, on grubs, Groupons and the guest who was aghast
Food trend you'd like to see disappear in 2013: Groupons -- and all the rest of those daily deals that can really kill a small business. The discounts on those Groupons are steeper than the cost that goes into the coupon, and restaurants usually suffer and lose a bunch of money because of it. The model for Groupon is really flawed -- they'll tell you that it creates brand loyalty for the restaurant, but it really just creates brand loyalty for Groupon. For the last two and a half years, we've been doing two-for-one Tuesdays, where you buy one pizza and get one free. We much prefer to offer value-driven deals for our guests without compromising our business.
What's never in your kitchen? Egos or lofty attitudes. Cooking should be fun. And there's no rap music, pre-processed ingredients -- that drives me nuts -- or clutter. Clutter drives me out of my mind. If someone asks, "Where's the olive oil?" I can say second shelf up, third item over on the right.
What's always in your kitchen? A sense of learning, coaching and teaching. We can all learn something new every day, from everyone we meet. Our goal is to make each day better than the last.
Weirdest customer request: Chips and salsa. Really? At an Italian pizza place? The guy who ordered them was completely beside himself when we told him that we didn't have them. He wondered how on earth we could be a restaurant that didn't serve chips and salsa. I initially thought they were kidding, but, no, they were 100 percent serious and absolutely aghast that we didn't have them.
Weirdest thing you've ever put in your mouth: Grubs, and they were gross. If you're faced with a bet, just pass on this one.
Favorite dish on your menu: Nona's stuffed shells, which is my grandmother's recipe. She only made them once a year on Christmas Eve -- that was it -- and they were the first item I put on the menu, not to mention a top seller since day one when we opened. Grandma nailed it.
Biggest menu bomb: It's crazy, but anything we do with steak. We've tried to do countless steak dishes at our restaurant, and they're just not what people look for when they visit us. It's the craziest thing. We can blow through seafood and just about everything else in a heartbeat, but steak just doesn't sell. We did bone-in Kansas City strips on New Year's Eve, and we sold two. Steak is our nemesis.
What's one thing that people would be surprised to know about you? I'm an ocean spirit at heart who fell in love with the mountains, but I still have to make it to the water every year to recharge: diving, surfing -- anything in salt water. Oh, and I have five tattoos, all of which are ocean-themed and represent the qualities I look for in myself and in others.