“The customer is always right,” goes the old saying. This is particularly true in the food service industry, where running a tight ship and ensuring swift and cordial service is crucial for a business’s survival.
At least, that’s how it worked in the olden days.
Israeli restaurateur Tal Rashevski is breaking that convention — and the internet while he’s at it — with his brash-yet-humorus attitude, capricious management style and seeming indifference to customers’ concerns.
Rashevski’s exploits recently went viral after a Kan short documented his forward manner and unconventional work ethic, with social media branding him “The Pasta Nazi” — a play on the notorious “Soup Nazi” on “Seinfeld.”
Tometomato, Rashevski’s fresh pasta joint in Tel Aviv’s grungy-yet-chic Florentin neighborhood, only opens on days he feels like it and only for the few hours he can be bothered to work. If he doesn’t like a customer’s looks, he’ll tell them the wait will be extremely long. How long? Really really really long. In fact, they probably shouldn’t bother, but hey, it’s a free country.
In the seven-minute video, 36-year-old Rashevski is followed around as he goes about his business. The Kan video has raked up over 100,000 views on YouTube (below, with English subtitles) and nearly 180,000 on Twitter.
“I love my clients but I pick them carefully,” he says. “When I see someone is a troublemaker, I make them go before they’ve even ordered.”
He’ll also do it if he simply feels too busy.
“Sorry, it’s a long wait,” Rashevski tells one person. “How long?” the woman asks. “Not sure, very long, no idea,” he says.
“An hour?” another asks. “Could be an hour and could be more,” Rashevski responds with a shrug.
If he wants to ensure high traffic, he might announce specials on his Facebook page, with no intention of following through. When curious customers come in inquiring, he lies breezily and nonsensically.
“It’s in the oven, we had a mess,” he tells one person who asks about the promised dish. “Uh, the cash register fell,” he explains (?) to another.
When the work gets too much, he might stop everything and head out for a cigarette break — exasperated clientele in line be damned.
How exactly does Rashevski hope to keep his restaurant going with such an attitude?
Oh, he doesn’t. He emphatically doesn’t. In fact, he often hates it all. But the money’s too good, and the blasted customers keep coming back for more.
“It’s like a couple that’s been married for 30 years,” he says. “They have good sex but a bad relationship. That’s this business. I understand that I need it, I understand it’s good for me, I love it, and I want it to burn down.”
The place is open two or three days a week tops, for about three hours at a time. If waiters don’t feel like coming in on a certain day, that’s fine.
“Closed because we’re tired,” one post on the restaurant’s Facebook page reads.
On social media, dozens of users have responded with their takes on the infamous “Pasta Nazi.”
“Those who want polished service have many other options for dinner,” one writes. “I somewhat admire a man who only manages to work half a week and is not nice to customers.”
Others see a deeper meaning, saying Rashevski is cleverly poking holes in modern consumer culture, with its constant demand for pampering and coddling.
“I’ve never seen a more ingenious marketing trick than the douche who does himself a favor by not spitting on his customers’ pasta in Florentine,” another writes.
Asked by Kan what his plans for the future are, Rashevski responds: “I want the restaurant to close in the future. That’s my dream.”
Still, it seems there’s one reason people keep coming back, and that’s the one thing he remains (sometimes) passionate about: The pasta isn’t half bad.
“I don’t care if they get up and go home, I don’t care if they come back or not, it’s meaningless to me. But if they’ve eaten it, it should be tasty,” he says.