30 November 2014

The difficulties of operating an Olive Garden on the moon

(This is satire, fan mail, and a get-well card for Maureen Johnson. Here is some context for this nonsense.)

Maureen Johnson,

It is my displeasure to report that--at least temporarily--I've been forced to close my Olive Garden franchise on the moon. As you've always been such a strong supporter, I felt I owed you an explanation.

As the owner of many fine dining establishments in a variety of locales, I've found that running a restaurant has many challenges under the very best of circumstances. Running a restaurant on the moon has a few extra difficulties, and it goes far beyond the gravity problem (although breadsticks are notorious for floating right off the table).

There's only one health inspector on the moon (which caused plenty of scheduling problems), and he is MONSTROUSLY corrupt. When I refused to pay his "protection" fee, I found myself featured prominently in the "health inspection failures" report of the local newspaper. When I asked a fellow lunar restaurant owner how she dealt with the inspector, she (the restauranteur) said that she would just pay him. She regarded it simply as a business expense. I won't reveal which restaurant, but let's just say that I often imagined the inspector leaving that establishment, gleefully counting his money on his way out the door, saying "I'm loving it."

(This particular problem--the health inspection racket--seems quite specific to the moon. For example, even when the health inspector [DIFFERENT inspector] found at my Red Lobster restaurant in Atlantis that the kitchen, bathrooms, maitre D' station, bar, and dining area were LITERALLY CRAWLING with shrimp that weren't on the menu, he was entirely professional about the whole thing.)

(I had to close the Atlantean Red Lobster as well, but that's a different story. In retrospect, a seafood restaurant in Atlantis may have been a poor choice. Those folks prefer barbecue.)

Rampant smash-and-grab theft caused a problem with parking at the lunar Olive Garden. I've seen this problem at my Chili's restaurant on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, but it's far worse on the moon, where that nice little Philae lander would likely have been relieved of its harpoons before the driver even got his or her drink order. (There's a nearby pawn shop whose owner doesn't ask a lot of questions.)

Getting a liquor license on the moon is tough. All applications have to be approved by a council whose members are primarily other restaurant owners who don't want any new competition. Also, in a place where one day is nearly thirty times longer than on Earth, "Happy Hour" can result in some awfully thin margins. I thought serving cold beer at an Applebee's on Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf would be difficult, but that's a cake walk (turns out that penguins are quite fond of Guinness).

And just try getting anything other than blue cheese on the moon. I mean I love blue cheese, but some of my customers prefer Parmesan on their salads. For someone who managed to find inexpensive chopsticks for a P.F. Chang's in freaking Asgard, you'd think cheese wouldn't be that big a deal, but it's a supply problem I still haven't solved.

So I'm hoping that this is a temporary setback. I've got a lead on a fromager somewhere in Mare Frigoris, I'm investing in some security cameras for the parking lot, and I'm sure the other problems will sort themselves out one way or another. I hope to reopen soon and that you'll honor us with your patronage. Thanks for all your support.

Management, Olive Garden on the moon

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