Posts Tagged potato skins


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A Tale of Two Friday’s

Once upon a time in land far, far away an errant lord named Alan discovered a magical forest. This forest was filled with bluebirds, flowers, rainbows, fun and laughter. There was happiness aplenty and people far and wide came to visit. In time, Lord Alan’s magical forest grew by leaps and bounds. Fair maidens and brave knights gathered in large numbers from all over the kingdom to visit the forest. Soon a young enterprising prince named Dan was drawn into the forest. He was delighted and said to Lord Alan, “This is much more than a magical forest; it is an enchanted forest.” Upon closer examination, Lord Alan agreed and joined Prince Dan on his quest to captivate the entire world with the forest. The people were pleased. After many years happily living in the forest, Prince Dan was called to navigate the oceans of the world. He left the care of the enchanted forest to another.  

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Years later, upon Prince Dan’s return from the sea, he was saddened to find the forest quiet. All the laughter was gone. The fair maidens and brave knights were nowhere to be found. Determined to repair these injustices and return laughter to this enchanted land, Prince Dan began writing a manuscript which set forth all of the keys to the kingdom. He diligently explained his philosophies and theories of how to make this land the best in the world. But still, he was saddened because there was no happy ending to his story. Then a miracle occurred. Fair Princess Karen appeared from out of nowhere as if a gift from above and said, “Oh no, the enchanted forest is not gone.  It may still be found in the United Kingdom.” Much to Prince Dan’s delight he found this to be true. Princess Karen had discovered the forest and understood it’s magic. Because she was wise and fair, she surrounded herself with noble and just knights at her red and white round table. Together, they worked diligently to make the forest enchanted once again. When they were done, they were delighted to find they had discovered the Holy Grail. With all their efforts, the fair ladies and brave knights came back in droves to enjoy the bluebirds, flowers and rainbows once again. Even better, they all ordered potato skins.



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As we were launching Friday’s nationally, in the late 60′ and early 70’s, we were creating casual dining and most importantly casual dining food. Restaurant food had primarily been fast food, coffee shops, diners or up scale white table cloth. Casual dining brought innovation, cross overs and FUN. My job was much like Triple D (DINERS – DRIVE-INS & DIVES) on the food network. I searched out the best of the best. I went anywhere there was a line in front of the door. As my friend Mariano (of restaurant fame in Dallas) reminded me recently, Friday’s was the first to blur the lines, serving  ethnic, bar-b-que or ‘whatever’. Our rule was to improve the products we ‘discovered’ with EXCELLENCE and innovation, never directly copying someone.

Our most famous innovation was the potato skin. While entertaining a girl friend’s brother in Dallas who was from Coral Gables, Florida, he mentioned an interesting potato product he had seen at the Mariner Hotel in Coral Gables. Fascinated and always searching for new innovative products I flew to Florida. The product was an embryo of what we eventually made famous but it got us started. Everyone except Joe Snouffer, who was in charge of product development, thought I was crazy. After six months of many variations Joe nailed it. It took another six months for the product to capture the public’s attention but then WOW! Many fun problems ensued, like what do you do with the potato insides we scooped everyday. A cleaver kitchen employe solved that by inventing a peace symbol looking knife that scooped three wedge fries, creating a new product. Ooops, wedge fries became so popular we had excess skins but that’s another story. (We paid the cook $5,000 for his invention). The funniest business problem with potato skins was the pricing.  There didn’t seem to be any limit to the  elasticity of demand, charge what we may,  demand remained unchanged! Nice problem to have.

We introduced many products to many parts of the country for the first time. In Boston we got funny comments about the ‘hot okra’ on the nachos and in the mid-west had to work hard to keep patrons from trying to eat artichoke leaves and choke. I guess we were little responsible for today’s over sized portions. One of our first entries was an ice cream sundae served in the large dimpled goblet in which we served our outrageous martinis on “Friday’s nights”! We prided ourselves on being the leaders of both innovation and quality, making everything from scratch. Our core values were based on EXCELLENCE so our 100% menu philosophy meant every menu item must be best of kind. So even normal items like a grilled cheese or onion soup must be the best of kind. (Our onion soup recipe exceeded the specs at the Ritz-Carlton and the bowl was the classic French crockery.)

Sadly, today the majority of  casual dining has abandoned fresh food and innovation in favor of supply line efficiencies for ease of  preparation. Look for their labels in the frozen food counters at your local grocery store! Happily, this has spawned a delightful new industry, Food Trucks! Fresh food and innovation abound. We go every chance we get!

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