Restaurant burned by no-smoking policyWhat's healthy for...

CONSUMER MARKETPLACE

July 27, 1993|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Staff Writer

Restaurant burned by no-smoking policy

What's healthy for the lungs might not be so healthy for the bottom line, restaurateur Lenny Kaplan has discovered.

The owner of the Polo Grill, the upscale restaurant at The Colonnade across from Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus, says his restaurant has lost business since he instituted a no-smoking policy in the dining room three months ago.

One competitor, The Prime Rib, responded by advertising that smoking is welcome in its cozy confines.

Mr. Kaplan, a nonsmoker, says smokers have not accepted the policy with equanimity. "They think it's an insult. They have to get up from the table and go to the bar and smoke."

The restaurateur is getting a bit concerned about the lost customers, but the reasons behind his original decision still stand.

Without separate rooms or levels, it's impossible to keep smoke from wafting over into the no-smoking section, he says.

It's also difficult to predict what percentage of diners will be smokers on any given night. While his core customer base was 10 percent to 15 percent smokers, as many as 40 percent showed up some nights, he says.

Mr. Kaplan is examining alternatives and has commissioned a clever advertisement, designed by Chuck Thompson of Profiles Inc., showing a fish with the message: "From Now On This Will Be The Only Thing Smoked In Our Dining Room."

He's been "on the fence" about running the ad, but yesterday he sounded ready to hop off and stick by his policy.

"I'm relatively sure we're going to run the ad and test it out for another three to six months," he said.

The question now is whether Baltimore's nonsmokers will give the Polo Grill enough support to make up for the lost business.

L. L. Bean ready to outfit youngsters

L. L. Bean is getting into sprouts.

The venerable catalog company from Freeport, Maine, will add a children's clothing department starting with its fall 1993 issue.

According to Bean, the merchandise will be scaled-down versions of the company's traditional adult offerings, redesigned for children age 6 to 12.

Products include pullovers, warm-up jackets, rain gear, turtleneck shirts and footwear.

But so far there's no Maine Hunting Shoe for youngsters. There have to be some perks for grown-ups.

McDonald's testing fried chicken in Va.

Ronald McDonald is looking to eat the Colonel's lunch.

McDonald's Corp. has begun the first advertised test of its new fried chicken dinners at 88 restaurants in the Norfolk-Hampton Roads area of Virginia.

The company says it chose the area because of its diverse population and strong tourist industry.

More designers focus on televised shopping

Will the last designer to jump into televised shopping please turn out the lights?

Everybody's doing it, according to RTW Review, a trade publication for the ready-to-wear apparel industry.

Following on the heels of Saks Fifth Avenue's $570,000 debut on the QVC Network this spring, Liz Claiborne Inc. sold about $38,000 of clothing on the much smaller QVC Fashion Channel, RTW reported.

Meanwhile, designer Arnold Scassi sold more than $400,000 of dresses at an average $200 a pop during his maiden appearance on QVC. And BusinessWeek reports that executives of the upscale Donna Karan line are no longer turning up their noses at the medium.

The designers' interest in the tube is matched by that of retailers.

New ventures by Nordstrom Inc. and R. H. Macy & Co. have been well-publicized, and RTW reports that the Forgotten Woman is talking with QVC about bringing its large-size clothing to the air.

Spiegel Inc., the giant catalog house, also is interested in using cable TV to add an electronic dimension to its home-shopping business.

According to RTW, "TV shopping has gone beyond trend status; has become a major force in its own right."

The publication reports that even consumers who would never dream of buying by television are affected. Many of them watch the home-shopping shows, and head for the stores to buy what they saw on the screen, RTW says.

The lesson, RTW says, is that smart retailers will watch QVC and make sure they're well-stocked with the items that appear on the programs.

Firm offers novel idea for stamping out deficit

As if the federal budget debate wasn't gummed up enough, The Travers Group of St. Louis is trying to put its own stamp on President Clinton's deficit-reduction efforts.

The market-development company wants the government to let advertisers put their logos on U.S. postage stamps in return for a fee payable to the Treasury.

Travers suggests that a company would pay $1 million for the right to design and issue a stamp and 1 cent for every stamp sold. Renewal fees would be charged each year.

Travers estimates the federal government could raise $500 million to $1 billion per year over five years.

Unfortunately, when you're scratching around for $500 billion in cuts, that's still a drop in the bucket.

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