Clippers, Republicans… One of a kind?

Donald Sterling Recently, I ragged on the Republican Party. So in the spirit of equal time, I ought to give the Democrats their due. But I’m skipping the Democrats’ turn just this one time.

Besides, if you will recall, I did do a piece on the “Left Leaning Lemurs,” to which I got plenty of Democratic hazing. So in a “snake draft” approach, it is theoretically fair of me to go after the Republicans for the second time in a row, no?

So what’s the issue now? Healthcare? Welfare? Financial Reform?

Nah. I’m going in a more general direction. Much like my last piece on the Republicans, I’m more interested in the long-term interests of the Republican Party. What were they before? What are they now? What will they be?

When you ask those three questions, undoubtedly, you come up with the same three answers.

What were the Republicans before?
Well before the Democrats relinquished the South in the 1960s, the Republicans were a very weak party. When southerners flocked to the Republican party in that decade, it was mainly because Republicans were the party that stood to oppose the Democrats on civil rights. Ultimatley, civil rights and the Democrats won the legislative battle, but the Republicans undoubtedly grew in power, despite the loss.

What are the Republicans now?
Now, the Republicans are fresh off opposing healthcare. Once again, they lost the legislative battle, but now they stand to gain seats in both the House and the Senate, even though healthcare was a major legislative victory for the Democrats.

What will the Republicans be?
In my previous post, I proposed that the death of the Republican Party as we know it was imminent. There is no way they can continue to the ride the outlandish “we want the good old days” view of the far right in the face of an a country set on change. Still, the Republican Party will adapt. How much they adapt, I’m not sure. They will come back to the middle to appease a few more people and gain those that they have lost over the years. And Republicans will do just as they did when they reclaimed the south; grabbing those who oppose the liberal direction of this country, reformulating their positions, ultimately losing the legislative war, but winning a numbers battle.

So what’s the common theme between what the Republicans were, are and will be? They are the winningest losers of all-time. And you know what that reminds me of? The Los Angeles Clippers.

For those of you who do not watch sports, you will have to excuse the analogy. But any true fan of the sports, and specifically the NBA, knows how the Los Angeles Clippers have been one of the most successful losing teams in the history of the NBA.

For a long stretch, the Los Angeles Clippers were God awful on the basketball court. Under the first ten years of Donald Sterling’s ownership, which began in 1981, the Clippers didn’t  manage a winning record one time. It was Sterling’s frugal spending, insistence on having the team in Los Angeles, and propensity to fall in love with acquiring the best picks in the draft that led to the Clippers decade of bad basketball. In other words, stubbornness kept the Clippers out of the winner’s circle.

The Clippers did have two winning seasons in 1992 and 1993, but quickly returned to their losing ways with 12 straight seasons without a winning record from ’93 to 2005.

But during all of the losing, all of those bad teams, and all of the cheap, high draft picks, the Los Angeles Clippers made a ton of money. Last year alone, the Clippers operating income was a reported $10 million, similar to what they have made over the years. Not to mention, Sterling bought the team in 1981 for $12.5 million and the team is now valued at almost $300 million. Needless to say, Sterling has been winning the off-court battle, while the team he owns has been losing the on-court battle for years.

Sound familiar?

That’s exactly what the Republicans are doing!

Maybe I’m using hyperbole, but I don’t think so. The Republicans are no different from the Los Angeles Clippers. Republicans have been losing the legislative battles, for which they were elected to win. However, Republicans have been winning the ancillary battles by cashing in as the opposition party and winning seats, raising money, even dominating the television news landscape. Like the Clippers, Republicans are losing on the court, but their off-court game is nice!

This brings me back to my earlier post. How long can the Republicans last with a political methodology that consists of taking on legislative battles they cannot win, but using the subsequent anger from challenging reform bills to win seats and raise money for their party?

Well, if the Los Angeles Clippers are something of a tell-tale sign, the Republicans can get away with this for a long time.

However, much like the Clippers, the head of the GOP will eventually try to win some legislative, or “on-court” battles. The Republicans did just that during their Congressional stronghold in the early part of the last decade. They won battles on war, taxes and a few other things as well. Question is, when will they actually try to win their next battle?

Clearly, the Republicans are not interested in winning legislative battles like financial reform, and they don’t seem interested being on the right side of immigration reform either. Perhaps if the GOP wins enough “off-court” battles, much like David Sterling, they can use the extra cash and Congressional standing to win one major battle: the 2012 Presidential Election. Something tells me that if the GOP wins that battle, then much like the Clippers of more recent years, the Republican Party might actually try to win a few “on-court” battles for the first time in a while.

Screw “The Man”: Don’t Use Open Table!

If you live in New York City, the longer you’re here, the more and more the most popular thing to do is to go out and eat. Sure, New York City offers great theater, tons of sporting events and a myriad of conventions, performances and attractions.

But at the end of the day, almost everyone precedes going to the theater with a pre-show meal. You wouldn’t dare go to a Yankees game and not buy a hot dog. And just about every other attraction in New York City will bring food directly to your mouth if you’ll pay for it.

And I have no problem with that. Heck, I love to eat myself.

However, the next time you decide to go out for a nice meal at a trendy restaurant or a new place a friend told you about, do not make reservations through Open Table, it does you nor anyone else but Open Table any substantial good.

For those of you not familiar with Open Table, thank your lucky stars. Open Table is nothing more than another way for us lazy Americans to do something without personally talking to somebody anymore. Open Table avoids you the “inconvenience” of picking up the phone and calling somebody, and allows you to make reservations for breakfast, lunch and dinner with the click of a mouse.

However, what isn’t so apparent when you make your reservations through Open Table is the bloodletting the restaurant occurs by using Open Table.

According to some research on Jwegener.com, every time you make a reservation through Open Table’s website, the restaurant you dine at has to pay $1 for every diner in your reservation. Of course, it goes much further than that. Just for the use of Open Table alone, restaurants pay a $1,240 installation fee and a $281 monthly subscription fee. To add insult to injury, even if you make a reservation with the restaurant through the restaurant’s website, Open Table still charges the restaurant a 25-cent fee, essentially taking money for a reservation you made with out any marketing efforts by Open Table.

Of course, I’m not going to make this one-sided. There are reasons why restaurants use Open Table. For one, Open Table is one of the premiere technologies for making reservations, especially via the internet. Open Table’s reservation software makes it easy for restaurants to organize, prioritize and manager their reservations. Secondly, Open Table has a great note system, which makes serving regular patrons a lot easier. Lastly, Open Table is a great marketing tool. Through Open Table’s affiliate marketing system, blogs, websites and online menu directories from across the world act as de-facto cost-per-action marketing tool for restaurants. Not to mention, Open Table’s own website and blog do a great job of bringing attention to its stable of restaurants, especially here in New York City.

Still, all of this comes with a cost, one that the average restaurant pays dearly.

According to Jwegener.com, the average restaurant spends $515/month with Open Table and gets 345 diners each month. If the number of reservations a restaurant gets via Open Table coincides with the nation-wide averages, only 57% (or 197 diners on average) of the average restaurant’s reservations are a result of Open Table’s ability to bring in customers on the web. No including the installation, that would amount to a real cost of $2.61 per customer.

Granted, that $2.61 is for an average restaurant, and maybe a good deal of those 197 new acquisitions becomes repeat business, which would lessen the per diner cost over time. Still, that leaves us with a huge chunk of restaurants paying closer to $2 per Open-Table-acquired diner than to the $1 per diner charge.

However, even if it was $1 per diner, that $1 dollar can set the average restaurant way back. Keep in mind, that the average restaurant profit margin is generally around 5%. So if the average customer only spends $15 at a restaurant, than that $1 equates for 6% of the bill. If the restaurant’s average per diner revenue is $30, that $1 amounts to 2.5% of the bill. And even if the average per diner revenue of a restaurant is $50, that $1 dollar Open Table charge amounts to 2% of the bill.

Any sound business person can understand the pain of giving 40% of their profit margin to some other entity. That’s like making $2.50 off a sale, but having to give $1 dollar of it to someone else, when you’re used to having that entire $2.50 for yourself. Well, that pain is felt by the litany of New York City restaurants that use Open Table.

I know what you’re saying; why would restaurants use this service?

Like I said, Open Table, has its benefits. No business can afford not to get the same marketing that all of its competitors are getting by being listed on OpenTable.com and having thousands of websites with incentive to drive diners to their tables. So while giving up a chunk of their profit margin may hurt, Open Table has created a platform that leaves the restaurants that don’t use it at a disadvantage. Good business model for Open Table, sucky proposition for restaurateurs.

So what can you do? What can you the consumer do to help restaurants out?

It’s simple, and you don’t even have to give up whatever  advantages you get from using Open Table if you don’t want to.

To help the restaurants out the most, make your reservations over the phone. Yes, this means you can’t make reservations at 2am in the morning, but you’re helping your favorite restaurant out, and you may even help keep the prices at your favorite restaurant down.

Of course, as I said, if you want to keep the advantages of using Open Table, you can still bring the cost of Open Table down at your favorite restaurant by making your online reservation directly on the company’s website. This cost the restaurant 75% less than what an OpenTable.com reservation would cost, and you get the majority of the benefits that come with using Open Table.

So I hope you will help the restaurants in New York City with this. I know it hardly affects you or me (and it certainly doesn’t affect me), but this “don’t pay me at your own peril” business model, while completely legal and All-American, just irks me the wrong way, and I thought I would tell you why.