Bothell Chef Responds Perfectly to Customer Complaining About $14 Burger

Beardslee Public House owner John Howie was surprisingly forthright in his rebuttal.

By John Levesque

john-howie-crop

September 13, 2017

This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Seattle Magazine.

We’ve all been there. We see an item listed on a restaurant menu and wonder how in heaven’s name it can charge that much for a hamburger. Or some mac ’n’ cheese. Or a simple Caesar salad.

One woman who dined recently at Beardslee Public House in Bothell wondered as much, and she posted this rant on Google Reviews: “I’m sitting here at Beardslee disgusted with their current price hike. I have one question for the owner: Do you want to alienate your faithful customers that come here two to three times a week? Charging $14 for a basic burger and fries is crazy. … Your disregard for your community and clients in an effort to make a buck because you are now popular won’t fly. I’m 100 percent sure that others will take my stance, based on your food and beer items that are overpriced.”

Owner/chef John Howie, who also operates Sport Restaurant & Bar in Seattle and John Howie Steak and the Seastar Restaurant & Raw Bar, both in Bellevue, replied to the disgruntled diner in such a measured, diplomatic way that someone ought to buy him a steak dinner.

“I’m sorry you feel this way,” Howie says on his website (chefjohnhowie.com). “I’m also concerned that you attacked me by stating that I had no regard for my community or clients in an effort to make a buck. I have yet to make a buck on the Beardslee Public House; I hope to someday be able to repay myself for all of the expenses to open a restaurant like the Beardslee Public House. But I do have a question for you … what is a fair profit for an owner of an establishment like Beardslee Public House? 15%, 10%, 5%?”

Howie proceeds to disclose, in astonishingly forthright detail, the annual cost of running his 10,000-square-foot operation, including debt service ($260,000), rent ($600,000), utilities ($150,000), wages/benefits/payroll taxes ($2 million), and so on. Bottom line: Before paying off creditors, Howie expects to turn a profit of just under 2 percent this year on sales of $4.5 million. After debt service, he’s looking at “negative cash flow” of about $150,000.

Howie admits he could skimp here and there to cut costs. But he won’t. “This is not the greedy owner trying to fleece the college student,” he declares. “It is a legitimate business that employs 92 people in the Bothell community. … We use USDA Prime for our regular burgers; no one else uses USDA Prime for burgers. We bake our own buns. We make almost everything we do in house from scratch. That takes time and effort, and we pay our crewmembers a fair and living wage.”

If Howie ran a French restaurant, he might want to add fillet of touché to the menu. The Google Reviews rant has since been removed and Howie says he hasn’t heard anything more from the customer. To see Howie’s rejoinder in its entirety, visit chefjohnhowie.com/blog and scroll to the March 23 entry.

So You Want To Open a Restaurant?

Here’s some of what the Washington Hospitality Association suggests you will need to start one in Seattle.

$70K-$90K: Annual rent ($35 to $45 per square foot)
$364K: Annual labor cost (based on $1 million in annual sales)
$100K: Major equipment (refrigerator, stove, exhaust system, walk-in cooler)
$200-$2,000: Annual liquor license
$380-$1,158: Annual health permit
$700K: Food and beverage costs (based on $1 million in annual sales)
$10K-$15K: Dishes and silverware
$24K: Tables and chairs (based on 2,000-square-foot restaurant)

Photography by Peachy Juban-Notter

Pastry: An Affair to Remember

Chef Ewald Notter of Dote Coffee Bar makes it easy to fall in love with pastry and chocolate

Most romances unfold in predictable ways. An invitation for lunch, where you share sandwiches in a loud café, silently wishing your bread was crisper, but never giving up on the idea that one day it might be. An awkward laugh as your fingers touch while you both reach across the table for sugar in that…

TRU2814675 homepage-min

Mix It Up. Try old-school cocktails this holiday season

These 10 drinks may not be on the menu at your local bar, but all pack a punch as well as some colorful history

Editor’s note: A version of this story previously appeared in “Seattle” magazine. Impress your guests this holiday season with these 10 concoctions from a vintage bar guide from Glenn Shaw Creations – supposedly from the 1950s – found in an antique shop in Olympia a few years back. Keep in mind that these drinks may…

image0 square-min

Sip, Slurp, Celebrate at Frank’s Oyster House

Let’s be Frank about Champagne

The best bubbles in Washington state may very well be found at an East Coast-style restaurant in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood. That, at least, is the opinion of The Champagne Bureau, USA, which has named Frank’s Oyster House and Champagne Parlor as one of the top 10 bars and restaurants in the nation for the quality…

The apiary at The Lodge at St. Edward State Park.

Seattle Buildings Just Let It Bee

There’s a buzz happening throughout the region

You know the Smith Tower as Seattle’s original skyscraper. You know that the 108-year-old, 38-floor tower was once the tallest building west of the Mississippi.   You may not be aware that the 22nd floor is now home to an apiary containing a thriving colony of thousands of honeybees. It is one of several apiaries located…