David Burke Fromagerie: Frugal to a Fault

by artfuldiner on January 22, 2009

in Culinary Criticism, Opinion

You must understand, my wife and I have dined at Fromagerie for years, and in every conceivable circumstance – with friends, with relatives, wine fromageriedinners, anniversaries, New Year’s Eve, etc., etc. – and have always enjoyed both the cuisine and Marcus & Hubert Peter’s gracious hospitality. I also reviewed the restaurant in 2002, giving it exceedingly high marks.


However, we had not visited since David Burke took over the operation and were certainly looking forward to doing so – for pleasurable as well as reviewing purposes. So members of our family, as they are often prone to do, given my rather unique vocation as a restaurant critic, presented me with a $150.00 gift certificate for my birthday.


But as is often the case in my curious profession, time passed quickly, other restaurant commitments intervened, and slightly over two years passed. And even though most restaurants stipulate that gift certificates must be used within one year of issuance, I was still hopeful.


I called and spoke with the general manager, John by name, who was absolutely adamant that he could not honor the certificate. I purposely did not identify myself as the Artful Diner, but simply mentioned that my wife and I had been dining at the restaurant for years and that various work and other related responsibilities had prevented us from making a return visit as soon as we would have liked. He still refused.


Interestingly enough, a similar incident had occurred at Restaurant Nicholas in nearby Middletown the year before: a gift certificate had been given, and a similar length of time had passed (approximately 2 years) before we were able to consider stopping in for dinner. When I called (and, once again, I did not identify myself as a restaurant critic), I was aware that Nicholas also stipulated that gift certificates should be redeemed within a year of purchase. However, the person to whom I spoke could not have been more gracious and told me that, no matter how much time had passed, the certificate would be honored.


When I related this incident to General Manager John, he immediately became exceedingly defensive and argumentative, finally offering to honor HALF the amount of the gift certificate – which I thought was incredibly tacky and inappropriate, and which I promptly refused.


The question that remains, of course: Was General Manager John there to make policy or simply to carry out policy? If the former, he should definitely consider a line of work other than that of a customer-oriented nature; if the latter, things have obviously changed at Fromagerie since Marcus and Hubert’s departure… and not for the better.


We had planned to bring a friend who would be visiting from Florida, a gentleman who enjoys excellent food and wine. And there is absolutely no question that we would have spent infinitely more than the $150.00 gift certificate… And since his daughter and her family still live in NJ, it is quite certain that all of them would have returned to dine at some future date. Unfortunately, instead of gaining several new patrons, General Manager John succeeded in alienating two of the restaurant’s long-standing friends and supporters. Needless to say, my wife and I will not be returning to the restaurant for reviewing purposes – or any other purposes, for that matter.


A paraphrase of a famous line from the film Casablanca surely comes to mind: “How extravagant you are, throwing away customers that way… Some day they may be scarce.”


Bon Appétit!



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