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Thread: Evaluation of Hotels, Airlines, and other Travel Businesses

  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedy1 View Post
    I think that's just the circle of life. After I'm out of the biz for a few years, I'm sure that it will be completely different.


    I always find it interesting what venue owners say is their busiest time of year. You're the first person that I've ever heard say Labor Day weekend. I suppose it just depends upon the clientele that you attract. I know one restaurant/bar owner -- right here in Costa Rica -- who told me that Thanksgiving weekend (USA) is his busiest weekend of the year.
    We are a summer destination. Summer population about 25,000. Winter population 2,200. Labor Day Weekend is the "last great hurrah" of the summer people. Gross sales at dinner this weekend more than double any other weekend of the summer. I served 122 lobsters this weekend along with over 70 steaks and a variety of other things.

    Many restaurants in some areas do great around Thanksgiving and Christmas but I have to resort to all kinds of crazy promotions just to get 15 people a night in the door then.

    It's a crazy area. 7 competing restaurants within 3 miles all fighting for a minuscule population in winter. We all do fine in summer but we fight each other like rabid rats from late October to the start of May.

  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by hunter1 View Post
    We are a summer destination. Summer population about 25,000. Winter population 2,200. Labor Day Weekend is the "last great hurrah" of the summer people. Gross sales at dinner this weekend more than double any other weekend of the summer. I served 122 lobsters this weekend along with over 70 steaks and a variety of other things.

    Many restaurants in some areas do great around Thanksgiving and Christmas but I have to resort to all kinds of crazy promotions just to get 15 people a night in the door then.

    It's a crazy area. 7 competing restaurants within 3 miles all fighting for a minuscule population in winter. We all do fine in summer but we fight each other like rabid rats from late October to the start of May.

    It's amazing how much different the different parts of Costa Rica can be, for such a small country. I find it extremely difficult to convince people to visit during what would be considered the very heart of summer in the USA. I should wear knee-high rubber boots from July - October, due to the "flood" of tears that I get from all of the business owners in the areas which my clients usually visit. I do have clients that visit during the U.S. summer, but they visit during that time because it's so quiet in those areas. In the Central Valley and Puntarenas Province, "summer" is December through Easter (mid-April), to most Ticos. If you ask my girlfriend or any other Josefino when "winter" is, they'll usually answer "April through October", or something similar. During a year like 2016, when Semana Santa arrives ultra-early, they'll give a little leeway through mid-April to finish up the season. We did have a busy 2 or 3 weeks this year after Easter, but that was about it.

    You're smart... you know your area, your business, and your clients... and you've adapted to that.

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedy1 View Post
    It's amazing how much different the different parts of Costa Rica can be, for such a small country. I find it extremely difficult to convince people to visit during what would be considered the very heart of summer in the USA. I should wear knee-high rubber boots from July - October, due to the "flood" of tears that I get from all of the business owners in the areas which my clients usually visit. I do have clients that visit during the U.S. summer, but they visit during that time because it's so quiet in those areas. In the Central Valley and Puntarenas Province, "summer" is December through Easter (mid-April), to most Ticos. If you ask my girlfriend or any other Josefino when "winter" is, they'll usually answer "April through October", or something similar. During a year like 2016, when Semana Santa arrives ultra-early, they'll give a little leeway through mid-April to finish up the season. We did have a busy 2 or 3 weeks this year after Easter, but that was about it.

    You're smart... you know your area, your business, and your clients... and you've adapted to that.
    Speedy1....Business is all about adapt, learn or die. I wound up owning a restaurant up here by complete mistake. Long story involving my 2cond ex-wife.

    Smart??? I like to think I'm a little better than stupid. But I'm just a salesman and always have been. Any fool can open a restaurant up here and make money in summer. You could serve bacon-wrapped dog turds and make money in summer. The trick is not losing more money in winter than you make in summer. I've figured out how to do it. I actually even make a little money in winter. But I am talking beer money. But that protects the summer profits and allows me to keep my core staff year round.

    The restaurant business here is sorta-kinda fun. And sorta-kinda sucks. Like ANY business challenge. But in the end it is just sales and problem-solving. And that is really what makes the world go 'round.

    If I won the powerball tomorrow I would still take one last stab at the tour operator/wholesaler business to the Caribbean but if that happened (which it won't) first thing I would do is put you on a retainer as a consultant. You know so much more about the airline business than I do. All I know how to do is talk....so all my life I have been a salesman. Been pretty good at that though.

  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by hunter1 View Post
    The restaurant business here is sorta-kinda fun. And sorta-kinda sucks. Like ANY business challenge. But in the end it is just sales and problem-solving. And that is really what makes the world go 'round.
    "Sorta-kinda fun" DOES suck. I say, find something you love. But, in the end, you gotta pay the bills, too.


    If I won the powerball tomorrow I would still take one last stab at the tour operator/wholesaler business to the Caribbean but if that happened (which it won't) first thing I would do is put you on a retainer as a consultant.
    If I won the Powerball tomorrow, my face would be on the back of a milk carton.


    You know so much more about the airline business than I do.
    The airline business, and many other areas of the travel business, are not that difficult to understand. The main problem is the amount of misinformation that is out there. The airlines have convinced the public that they know all they need to know about booking their own airline tickets. It's a thing of beauty... a brilliant marketing strategy. I love listening to the airline "experts" on CNN and the morning news shows... they make me laugh. You'll notice that the airlines NEVER respond to the "buy tickets 25 days in advance" and similar stuff that you see on TV. The airlines love that stuff and want everyone to believe it, so they say nothing.


    The trick is not losing more money in winter than you make in summer.
    This concept is something that a lot of folks don't get. It doesn't help that the "busy season" in Costa Rica leans toward the first part of the year, for most tourism-related businesses. As the end-of-year taxman and Christmas bonuses approach, many business owners realize that they haven't planned ahead... yet again...

  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by hunter1 View Post
    The trick is not losing more money in winter than you make in summer. I've figured out how to do it. I actually even make a little money in winter. But I am talking beer money. But that protects the summer profits and allows me to keep my core staff year round.

    More on this...


    1) Keeping your core staff year round is an awesome thing to do. I know several venue owners who do this, and many more who do not. In the end, I believe that it benefits the venue owner as much or more than it benefits his employees. This is especially true of venues which are not low-priced "bargain" venues, as their customers are far more likely to appreciate excellent service and seeing the same employees when they return.

    2) I do my best to sell the winter or "off-season" by highlighting its advantages... Less traffic, better service, more privacy, lower prices, etc. Even my richest clients perk up when I mention lower prices. As I've said many times before, the rich don't mind paying high prices, but they positively hate getting ripped off. If I have a client with a net worth over $100 Million, there's one thing that's almost certain... People, organizations, and businesses try to rip him off every day. They also constantly hound him, begging for donations and investments. It's a lot harder to know who your true friends are and which businesses are truly honest, when you're that rich.

    That's why I don't hide any of my charges from my clients. I don't take commissions or ask for discounts from venue owners for the purpose of "padding" the charges. I just tell my clients, right up front, that I charge a flat fee, plus a certain percentage, for my services. Not all people appreciate that, but many do. Personally, I'd rather pay $100 for a room and a $10 service fee, than pay $110 for a room and then find out that my concierge/agent was taking $10 without disclosing that.


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    So... when I tell my clients that the resort that sells a room/suite for $399 per night in March sells the same room/suite for $129 per night in September, I can see it in their eyes... "Freakin' SCAMMERS!"

    Of course, that's not always true. It's just smart business to charge $399 when the hotel is still full, and to charge $129 when the hotel is less than half full... Supply and Demand. On the other hand, it's still the same product that's being sold.

    I just put it to my clients this way... "Why not just forget about blaming the business owner for market forces, and just take advantage of the low season? In addition, you'll practically have the resort to yourself. Costa Rica is not a 24-per-hour-per-day rain machine in September... that's just overblown rumor and hype." It's a "Sale" that works on a lot of people.

    Obviously, you have to change the times and prices depending upon your area and your particular business, but the basic concept is sound.
    Last edited by Speedy1; 09-07-2016 at 02:25 AM.

  6. #26
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    One of the best ideas that I've seen hoteliers implement, throughout my career, is "Discretionary Upgrades."

    It's not true of all hotels and resorts, but the majority of the hotels and resorts in the world have Three (3) basic classes of rooms. It's not always the same 3 classes... what I'm saying is that you can usually visit a hotel and see that there are 3 "levels" or "tiers" of rooms. Some hotels say that all of their rooms are the same, and some hotels say that they have 4, 5, or even more classes of rooms... and that might be true... but i can usually whittle the selection up or down to 3 classes of rooms, with the exception of the smallest hotels (nominally, less than 15 rooms).

    If you are a very small hotel, there is still probably some benefit to offering 3 classes. Do some of your rooms have a better view? Are some of them closer to the pool? Are the furnishings (bed, etc.) different? Surely all of your rooms are not exactly the same.

    If you're a larger hotel or resort, putting 5 or more classes up for sale just confuses and frustrates most people. Some high-end hotels do offer 5 or more classes, but then, many of their clients are probably savvy travelers, and most likely have a professional planning their travel for them.

    OK... That's a lot of set-up information... Back to my original point...

    Smart hoteliers use their "upgrade" opportunities when their hotels are neither full nor close to full, which is usually during the low season or "off" season... and low season travelers are quite often budget-conscious travelers, who plan their trips for times when prices are lower. This is where the Upgrade comes in...

    If a guy is running a hotel that only has one class of room, I'll usually say, "I'm sure you can think of a legitimate reason to split those rooms into 3 classes, or at least 2 classes. Not only will that make you a little more money during the high season, it will also open up your low season upgrade opportunities.

    When a repeat customer shows up, or if you have a new customer who is staying for several nights... bump him up when he checks in. Of any perk that a hotelier can offer, a room upgrade is the one that costs him nothing, or close to nothing. It engenders good will and loyalty. In many cases, it also puts the customer in a "spending" state of mind. Subconsciously, spending a week in a Suite rather than a Standard Room, eats away at that little voice in the back of his head that says, "Hey... I'm staying in a Suite... Why not spring for the lobster at dinner tonight?"


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    EDIT: I forgot to post the second part...

    The downside of the discretionary upgrade is "Devaluation." So... the "Discretion" part of the upgrade is important.

    Airlines will leave the entire First Class and/or Business Class section(s) empty, rather than Devalue those seats. That means that the airlines won't upgrade someone unless they see a potential benefit. They're not going to upgrade a guy on an "L" ticket who is not even a member of their Frequent Flyer program. If they start just giving away those seats, then fewer people will pay for them. The free drinks and upper-class meals are not a real issue for the airlines, when it comes to upgrades... they just want their customers to know that they have to "earn" the upgrades.

    So... as a hotelier... you at least need to see some kind of potential benefit from an upgrade.
    Last edited by Speedy1; 09-07-2016 at 02:53 AM.

  7. #27
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    Man... I am really feeling the Insomnia tonight, so here's another one...


    Defensiveness...


    Of all the ways that I see tourism-related venues screw up, this is the biggest one, by far. I know that I've discussed this in other threads, but it's worth repeating.

    For some reason, this is a particularly big problem in Costa Rica, and I think I know why... It's the number of smaller, privately-owned hotels in Costa Rica. As compared to the USA, Costa Rica has a far higher ratio of small, privately-owned hotels... versus large hotels/resorts, particularly chain hotels/resorts.

    For the most part, if you'll notice... The management and staff at Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton, Holiday Inn, etc... Rarely respond to a customer complaint with, "OK, but...", "Well, you have to understand that that's just the way it is here", "I really can't do anything about that", or any similar comment. It does happen, but it's uncommon. On the other hand, I hear these kinds of comments quite frequently from the smaller hotels and privately-owned hotels... They just don't understand this customer-hotel issue. This also applies to restaurants, bars, and other service industry venues. Any customer complaint or concern is quite often met with a defensive comment, which is exactly what a customer -- especially a customer on vacation -- does NOT want to hear.

    Yes... Some customers are just whiners. However, most of the situations which I have witnessed or discussed involved a non-regular customer with a reasonable complaint. And yes... sometimes a "reasonable" complaint is simply due to a lack of understanding of the differences between Costa Rica and the country that the person is from. A couple of examples...


    1) Customer: There are ants (or other bugs) in my room.

    WRONG: Bugs in hotels and other buildings are common in Costa Rica. We do what we can, but they still show up. We'll get someone to your room as soon as we can.

    Better: I'm terribly sorry about that. I remember that when I was in the USA, I didn't have that problem, but here in Costa Rica, those bugs are EVERYWHERE. It's frustrating... Believe Me, I Know. We take extra care to repel those bugs, but it's never 100% effective here in Costa Rica. I promise to get someone to room right away, and we'll take care of that as soon as possible.


    2) Customer (pretty much any Electrical/TV/Internet WiFi): It's not working.

    WRONG: The electricity (or TV, or WiFi) is not as reliable here as it is in the USA. I'm sure that the problem is outside of the hotel, but we'll take a look.

    Better: That happens here in Costa Rica occasionally, and it's really frustrating, isn't it? I wish that the utilities here were more reliable. I'll get someone to your room straight away to check that out. We'll find out where the problem is and get it fixed, ASAP.


    --------------------


    I could go on here, but I think that you get the point.

    If I could make only one suggestion to any venue owner, I would tell them to say this... "I'm sorry you're having a problem. We'll take a look at that, right away." This works for almost any issue. Making an excuse on initial contact, without even visiting the customer's room or looking at the problem, is just a horrible idea. Even if you're 100% right and the customer is 100% wrong, you are in a much better position if you at least take a look at the problem first. Often, the customer will be perfectly happy, even if you can't do anything about his problem, as long as you show a little bit of concern and at least make an attempt to fix it.


    ---------------


    Service complaints at restaurants and bars are common in Costa Rica. Usually, this occurs because tourists don't understand the concept of "European" service. The best thing that any tourist-oriented restaurant/bar owner in Costa Rica can do is to train/retrain his staff in the USA style of service. In the year 2016, most restaurants and bars that see tourists from the USA on a regular basis have already adapted... but many of them have not. I tell as many tourists as I can about this situation, because it is my firm belief that it is up to the traveler to adapt to the culture... it is not the responsibility of the culture to adapt to the tourist. Nevertheless, if a venue sees a lot of tourists, they can save themselves a lot of grief by adapting their staff to the USA style.


    I've posted this before, but it's worth restating...

    The "Standard" for the service industry in Costa Rica is European service. This was obviously introduced by Spain, centuries ago, and it still holds. European service means...

    1) Above all else, the server SHALL NOT disturb the customer/guest. In European style service, the servers are expected to avoid disturbing the customers/guests. It is expected that the customer/guest will call the server over to his seat/table if he needs anything. It is perfectly acceptable to raise your hand and wave at a server while saying (not yelling) loudly, "Muchacho! (Boy) or Muchacha! (Girl)".

    2) Typically, you will seat yourself, even at a nice restaurant. Go ahead and find your own table, unless you are greeted by a host or there is a sign that says "Please wait to be seated." It is considered rude, in traditional European service, for a restaurant or bar to tell a customer where he will sit. The servers keep an eye on the bars and tables, and they will usually approach quickly, once you are seated.

    3) Once you're seated in a restaurant, the server will soon approach with menus. He (or she) will hand you the menus, and then he will usually walk away. You are not always asked if you would like something to drink... my experience is that I am asked about beverages less than 50% of the time, during that initial contact. If you want a beverage, you need to ask for it before he walks away. Obviously, this rule doesn't apply at a bar.

    4) When the server returns, he'll take your full order, except for dessert. You are expected to order your beverages and all appetizer/meal items at this time. Often, the server will not return until you close your menu and lay it down on the table. You may have to call your server over to take your order, particularly if the restaurant is busy.

    5) When the final item is served, that's probably the last time that you'll see your server. If you need a drink refill or you want to order dessert, you'll need to call your server over.

    6) The bill is almost NEVER brought until you specifically ask for it. It is considered to be EXTREMELY RUDE to bring a customer his bill before he has asked for it. If a restaurant server brings your bill, he is basically saying, "We don't want you here any more... GET OUT!"

    One exception to this rule is that when a server is at the end of his shift, he may ask you to close out your bill with him. Tico servers don't usually transfer tabs to the next server.


    -----------------------


    Restaurant/Bar stuff that is specific to Costa Rica...

    1) Regardless of how fancy a restaurant bar is/is not, you might have to pay your bill at the "Caja" (cashier's station). Many Costa Rican businesses want only one person to handle the money, which is actually not a bad idea.

    2) Without getting into detail, that 10% "Servicio" charge on your bill is not exactly the same as a Tip or Gratuity in the USA. So... Don't automatically assume that you have tipped your server, just by paying the bill. On the other hand, most servers -- other than those in Tourist-oriented venues -- don't really expect any kind of extra Tip. My personal rule is to tip between 5% and 10% -- usually on a rounded-off or "keep the change" basis -- which brings the Tip plus Servicio up to 15% to 20%. Trust me... even a 5% extra tip is appreciated by most Tico servers.

    It is best to tip in cash. If you tip using your credit card, there's no telling who will end up getting that money. So... if you pay with your credit card, just leave your cash tip on the table or hand the cash tip to your server directly.

    One interesting thing you might see, if you're paying attention... The server will not usually keep the tip, such as by putting it into his pocket, as most servers in the USA do. Your server will usually place the tip into a "tip jar", or maybe a small box near the Caja. Servers in Costa Rica usually share their tips, even if they don't have to. I've seen a lot of this kind of behavior in Tico culture. There are plenty of thieves here, just as in most other countries. However, most Ticos would probably give a friend or a family member (not a stranger) their very last 5000 Colón bill, if they though the person needed it more than they did themselves. Ticos share... at least the good ones do. It's a part of Tico culture.
    Last edited by Speedy1; 09-07-2016 at 06:25 AM.

  8. #28
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    Regarding Food Preparation in Costa Rica:


    1) Chances are, the food will be on the Bland side of things. Don't expect anything to be spicy. This refers to most Tico restaurants throughout most of Costa Rica. However, there a few small areas, such as Limón/Cahuita, where the standard fare is not exactly "Tico", and will be a bit spicier. Use particular care in the Golfito area, where some of the sauces and seasonings would best be described as "jet fuel."


    2) For a steak, you need to be very specific about how you want it prepared. A typical Tico restaurant will take a gorgeous cut of beef, cook it to medium-well temperature, and then smother it with a quart of some kind of god-awful mushroom sauce. Most steaks here are way-too-lean beef cooked way too long. They'll show up as a dark brown patty, thinner than a McDonald's hamburger patty. The bright spots are here, but they are uncommon. I highly recommend Don Fernando (a few locations in the San José area)... Order the steak rare, and ask the cook to hold off on the sauces and seasonings. Don Fernando beef is very high quality stuff. Be very specific about the "Rare"... the concept barely exists in Tico culture.


    3) Use the phrase "no mayonnaise" (sin mayonesa) frequently, particularly when ordering a sandwich in a Tico restaurant. Believe me, Ticos put mayo on almost everything. Check out the mayonnaise aisle (yes... there is a mayonnaise aisle) in any large supermarket/grocery store. There are some very interesting flavored mayonnaise offerings in that aisle.


    4) Salt is a bona fide food group in Costa Rica. In restaurants, I highly recommend ordering almost everything with no salt, or at least, "not too much salt." Don't be surprised if your green salad is loaded with salt, and if the dressing is simply mayonnaise.

    I love Lizano sauce, the signature sauce of Costa Rica, but be warned... Lizano sauce is LOADED with salt.


    5) Watch out for "Limón" (lemon) on the menu. This is another seasoning that will show up when you least expect it. I once had a pulled-pork barbecue sandwich which was "lightly" seasoned with several tablespoons of lemon juice.

    A side note on the lemons... You'll hear the word "Limón" a lot. It means Lemon... not Lime. You'll also see a lot of small, green fruit. Those are lemons, not limes. The Spanish word for "Lime" is "Lima" (as in Lima, Peru), and you'll rarely hear the word "Lima" here in Costa Rica. That's because not many Ticos or tourists in Costa Rica have ever seen a lime here, although many tourists think that they have. Costa Rica is full of green lemons and green lemon hybrids. Limes are rare. The lemons that you see here ARE green. It has something to do with the species of lemon and the level of ripeness at which they are sold and used. The Rangpur commonly has a green rind and an orange flesh... It's a lemon/mandarin orange hybrid.


    6) I HATE the common juices which are made and sold in Costa Rica. Almost all of the juices here are made from concentrate, diluted heavily with water and with a LOT of added sugar. If you want fresh orange juice in Costa Rica, you usually have to buy the imported stuff... Tropicana and Florida's Natural are sold in many of the large grocery stores here.

    Very few Tico farmers grow oranges here. There is just very little demand for them. The Ticos actually prefer the from-concentrate, heavily-sugared stuff. Gross.

    Ketchup here is also usually a watery, sugary mess with a little red food coloring added (at least, that's what it looks and tastes like).


    7) If you drink milk, you'll probably be served "Boxed"milk... the ultra-pasteurized stuff that sits on the shelf without being refrigerated and has an expiration date that is 6 months in the future.

    Actually, the USA is the "Odd Man Out" in this regard. Most countries in the world sell and drink "Boxed" milk. Visitors from Europe would think nothing of it. However, grocery stores in Costa Rica usually sell both boxed milk and fresh milk.


    8) Whatever it is, it's probably going to be cooked very quickly, on high heat. Trying to explain to a Tico how to smoke a whole hog for 3 days is like trying to explain Calculus to a Cat. My girlfriend uses two settings on our stove, no matter what she is cooking... "Hi" and "Off."


    9) Soups in Costa Rica typically consist of a watery, thin broth and HUGE chunks of meat and/or vegetables. Expect to use spoon, knife, fork, and your fingers. Fortunately, it's considered OK to use your fingers/hands to eat, if necessary. This actually applies to almost all eating situations in Costa Rica. Ticos use their fingers and hands for eating, all the time.


    10) Eggs in Costa Rica are not usually refrigerated, and I have run into a few "Bad Eggs" here. Actually, refrigeration and bad eggs are two separate issues, but the bottom line is this... I recommend being very careful about eating under-cooked eggs here. Best to skip the runny eggs, unless you are familiar with and trust the establishment.


    11) The sausage here is very different from the sausage in the USA. I'm not saying that it's bad, but it's definitely very different. You might want to try it before you order a truckload of it.


    12) A few Translation issues... These probably won't mean anything until you've tried the food first...

    "Rice and Beans", "Beans and Rice", and "Gallo Pinto" are three distinct dishes. In addition, "Gallo Pinto" is nondescript term... the basic ingredients are the same, but everyone has their own recipe. It's like saying "Beef Stew."

    "Rice and Chicken" and "Chicken and Rice" are also distinct dishes.

    "Salsa" just means "Sauce" in Costa Rica (Spanish). It's not necessarily the "Salsa" of "Chips and Salsa." For example, "Salsa de Tomate" or "Salsa Tomate" means "Ketchup." If the menu says "Salsa", you had better ask what kind of salsa it is.


    13) Tortillas here are typically Corn Tortillas, and are thicker than the thin White Flour Tortillas that you're used to in the USA. The taste and texture are definitely different. You can buy both kinds in the larger grocery stores here.


    14) When grocery shopping, you'll notice that there are several equivalents or copies of popular USA products. To almost all of them, I would recommend that you say "Pass." Most of those copies are crap. However, the original Costa Rican products are often very good. So... Skip the "Quesitos" (Cheetos) and get a bag of Banana Chips instead.

    I would also recommend that you apply the same advice to restaurants and bars. If anything on the menu says, "American Style" or "USA Style"... NO... It's NOT. It's a horrible attempt at duplication. There are exceptions, but they are rare.


    15) "Spaghetti", for all practical purposes, means any kind of pasta topped with some kind of sauce. Make sure you know what you're getting before you order.


    16) Chain Restaurants from the USA in Costa Rica... Some extremely simplified descriptions and comparisons...

    a) McDonald's: Not all that different. Compared to the USA, there are some items that are not available here, and there are a few items which are available here that are not available in the USA. The french fries here are not the "magically delicious" fries that they are in the USA. It's McDonald's, so don't expect anything above "cheap fast food" quality. The ice cream and other frozen products sell very well here, and there are several stand-alone McDonald's ice cream stands in Costa Rica. If you want to go one better on the ice cream, try the Costa Rican chain "Pops."

    b) KFC: About the same, although the taste is a little different, and it's expensive. Some people like KFC better here, and some people like it better in the USA. One note on the chicken in Costa Rica... I find that the overall quality of the chicken here is better than in the USA. This applies to fast food chains, restaurants, and grocery stores.

    c) Popeyes: Definitely higher-quality chicken than in the USA... Crispier, with flakier meat, and less greasy. The "spicy" here is not as spicy as in the USA. The sides here are not as good as in the USA... the mashed potatoes and gravy here is Shit. The quality of the biscuits depends on your luck, but they are usually not as good as in the USA.

    d) Taco Bell: About the same... I guess. To me, Taco Bell is kind of "Nobody else was open", no matter where you go in the world.

    e) Carl's Jr: Pretty damned good. About the same as in the USA... maybe even better sometimes.

    f) Subway & Quiznos: About the same as the USA, overall, however... some sandwiches are better, and some are worse. I like the cold sandwiches better here, for the most part, but the meatball sub from Subway is not as good here as in the USA. I guess it just depends on where they get the meat and vegetables from. The bread here is pretty damned good.

    g) TGI Friday's: Not as good as the USA, but there are some decent items on the menu. DO NOT order the ribs here... JUNK

    h) Outback: Not as good as the USA. I did have a decent steak there once, but you'll need to explain the situation very specifically to your server, and maybe the cook, as well.

    Unfortunately, my girlfriend wasn't paying attention, and Blew My Cover at Outback. Now, I can't accurately evaluate the venue, because they know who I am.

    i) Hooters: Wings are very good... better than the USA, in my opinion. However, they are expensive. Some of the other menu items are very good, as well. Hooters in Costa Rica is just another themed sports bar, so expect to see plenty of women and children, as well as men. People from the USA who are visiting Costa Rica for the first time don't usually get the culture here... A Hooters girl in a Hooters girl outfit is basically wearing what most girls in Costa Rica wear on a daily basis, other than the sneakers and socks. Hooters gets very crowded for international football (soccer) matches involving the Costa Rican national team.

    j) Applebee's: FAIL. The concept of upscale casual dining is very difficult to push in Costa Rica. It's just not that fun, and the overpriced food is not that good.

    k) P. F. Chang's: I wasn't impressed with it in the USA, and it's equally unimpressive in Costa Rica.

    l) Starbucks: Once again... I didn't get it in the USA, and I don't get it here. Ticos go to Starbucks... because it's a "Tourist Attraction" for them. There are lots of better places to get coffee in Costa Rica. Starbucks is the same here as it is in the USA... $8 for a cup of coffee, served by a barista... a person who pours coffee. In its native language, "barista" simply means "bartender".

    m) Denny's: The food is not bad, but I think that the whole Denny's concept is lost here in Costa Rica. It's not cheap and it's not "down-home."

    n) Papa John's: Papa John's wasn't really my style of pizza in the USA, but it's certainly at least as good here.

    o) Pizza Hut: Pizza Hut went upscale here in Costa Rica, presenting itself primarily as a dine-in restaurant, rather than a less-expensive delivery joint. Lots of Ticos dress for upscale casual dining and go to Pizza Hut for dinner.

    p) Wendy's: CLOSED. Wendy's is the Poster Child of the Costa Rican fast food philosophy... "Don't sell it for more when the competition sells it for less." In a straight-up survey, a Costa Rican news organization polled the population... "Which is more important? Price or Quality?" The overwhelming response was, "Cheaper is better than Quality." You can go upscale... and many restaurants have... but you do have to sell it... HARD. You can't just say that you're better than McDonald's and expect people to pay 50% more for a burger.

    q) Burger King: Recently re-opened. BK closed for the same reason as Wendy's... almost. I'm reserving judgment until BK stabilizes again.

    Smashburger is also here, but I'd like to get more data before I render judgment.

    r) Hard Rock Café and Johnny Rockets: These two chains entered the Costa Rica market with an eye on adapting their menus and themes to Tico culture. I believe this a HUGE mistake. If you're a U.S. Chain, then people expect the place to be representative of the USA. They don't want "Hard Rock" serving Tico food with Tico music... everything done Tico style. The Ticos feel this way too. Ticos are enamored of USA culture, and they want to experience it... and they EXPECT it, when they visit a U.S. chain restaurant/bar.

    Johnny Rockets is still struggling with this issue.

    Hard Rock (in San José/Cariari) has taken steps to make back towards their core USA style operation. On my first visit to Hard Rock, I was served a pulled-pork sandwich drenched in lemon juice... which, ironically, removes any concept of "juicy" from the sandwich. Imagine eating a Styrofoam sandwich, and there you go. I always try to be objective, and I had to admit that the sandwich was not prepared "poorly", it was simply prepared Tico style. Unfortunately, Tico style is no good for a pulled-pork sandwich. When I ordered the same sandwich, 8 months later, it was much closer to USA style, and the lemon juice was definitely absent. Hard Rock has a long way to go, but they are definitely improving. The staff/management turnover has been high, which tells me that Corporate knows that something is/was wrong. It's a gorgeous venue, so I hope it works out.

    s) Tony Roma's: FAIL.

    t) Chili's: Not bad... About the same as the USA in most respects. However... just as with TGI Friday's... DO NOT order the ribs. Gross!

  9. #29
    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    If I won the powerball tomorrow I would still take one last stab at the tour operator/wholesaler business to the Caribbean but if that happened (which it won't) first thing I would do is put you on a retainer as a consultant.

    I know that you're kinda speaking hypothetically on this one, but as I said (and have said many times), "If I win the Powerball, you'll never see my happy ass again."

    I remember a few years ago, some dude won over $300 Million in the Powerball. When asked what he was going to do, he answered, "I'm going to turn it into a Billion Dollars."

    My initial reaction was, "Whu... Whu... WHAAAAATTTT?!?!?!"

    "Dude... THAT's what you would do with $300 Million? You'd turn it into $1 Billion? Seriously?"

    "Hell... If I won $10 Million, I'd be sitting on a beach saying, 'Bring a Margarita every 10 minutes until I pass out... Then bring one every 20 minutes."


    Of course, I would still do something that I really enjoyed... Probably get involved in building home-built airplanes, truth be told. But I certainly wouldn't start another business or do anything with the goal of generating wealth or income.

  10. #30
    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    Now that I have thoroughly trashed the Costa Rican knock-offs and the U.S. chains in Costa Rica... Let's consider some of the Costa Rican restaurants and chains (some of these are actually based in other Central American countries, but have outlets/stores in Costa Rica)...


    1) Pops: I mentioned this earlier, when I compared the place to McDonald's, regarding ice cream. Damn! Just... Damn! Pops is an ice-cream joint that simply blows away anything else in Costa Rica, including McDonald's and Dairy Queen. I love Pops. The only thing in the USA that I have ever found of equal quality is Ghirardelli. Pops milkshakes are simply thick liquid heaven.

    Pops stores range from small closets with basic selections to full-blown dine-in stores with tons of ice cream flavors. Some of the larger stores offer cakes and doughnuts, as well as coffee and a few deli-style sandwiches.


    2) Pollo Campero and As (Ace) compete with KFC and other fried chicken chains. Pollo Campero also offers grilled chicken. In an effort to appeal to tourists from the USA and other English-speaking countries, Pollo Campero concocted an English slogan... "Flavor You Can't Campero" *groan*


    3) Chubbs: This is not really a Costa Rican chain... It's owned by an Expat... but Chubbs has 3 stores in Costa Rica and does very well. Often crowded, especially on weekend nights, Chubbs offers some of the best U.S. Style food in the USA. Tourists might not be that interested, but it's a blessing for homesick expats. Even so, the majority of Chubbs customers appear to be Ticos... once again, aching for a taste of some True U.S. culture and food.

    Chubbs wings are decent, but are often prepared without sauce, then dragged through the sauce prior to serving... not the best way to prepare wings. Chubbs has a decent pulled-pork sandwich. The two food items that I love the best about Chubbs are...

    a) The Hamburgers. You can't find a better burger anywhere in Costa Rica. I realize that it depends upon your personal taste, but this burger is epic, in my opinion.

    b) The impromptu Daily Special items. New England style Clam Chowder is my favorite. Chubbs does a very good job with it.


    4) La Princesa Marina: This is a very popular seafood chain, with 4 locations in the San José area. It's a casual dining establishment that is a bit less formal than Red Lobster. Sort of like a Denny's that serves seafood. There is a full seafood menu, as well as a few non-seafood items... but going here for anything other than seafood is a waste of time. Expect large portions and low prices. I usually just order whatever the weekly special is... it's usually plastered on huge banners inside and outside of the restaurant. Don't expect the sides to amount to anything... the side salad is worthless. Be Aware... Any restaurant in Costa Rica that serves "Lobster" is not serving Maine Rock Lobster... it's more like a very very jumbo shrimp. It is a good dish, but it's not rock lobster, unless you positively verify otherwise.


    5) Kbańa Classic: This is a Costa Rican bar/restaurant with a slight lean towards a sports bar theme. It's primarily a Tico hangout, which means there won't be too many of your fellow tourists there, and the prices tend to be cheaper than other venues, unless you pick one of the stores that's in a "touristy" area. The menu is mostly typical bar stuff. It's a very nice, clean venue for those who don't want to pay $5 for a beer.


    -----------------

    One very interesting thing that you'll notice about all of these restaurants is that they look very much like their U.S. competition. That says something about U.S. marketing technique. The owner Pops actually hired a team from the U.S. fast-food industry to come to Costa Rica for a year and show him how to run his business. At the end of that year, Pops had nuked its competition, including its U.S. chain competitors, into oblivion.

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