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Go back to: home culture bashing outbursts

Page 1

Castle Blanc
White Castle Slyders and a Glass of Barolo

by Jason Roth

I have a business proposal for White Castle.

(To the geographically or medically deprived, White Castle is quite simply the best post-drinkfest fast-food restaurant on the planet, with the hardest-working late-night staff in the business (at least at the North Bergen, New Jersey location). If there's no White Castle near you, you can see it in the movie, Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle.)

This is a serious proposal to White Castle, and if they choose to implement it, my hope is that they will choose me to lead the project team, or at least let me consult on it (with remuneration in the form of money and free food to be negotiated.)

Here's how far I have already gotten: I've e-mailed White Castle's general address located on their website (like a complete idiot, I assumed I'd get an actual response), and I have identified Mr. John Vogt as the local, Regional Director of Restaurant Operations for White Castle in the Northeastern United States. The reason I'm opting to post the idea here is that I decided to play it safe and assume that the people with the money will find this complete proposal easier with Google than via their own customer service department. Also, they will likely think this idea is too insane to be worth pursuing, anyway. They'll be wrong, but they'll probably think it.

The idea is simple: to open up a classy, upscale, restaurant and bar in Manhattan that serves White Castle food, with the name, "Castle Blanc".

The waiters would wear tuxedos, which is really the whole point of the idea - to get your White Castle hamburgers served to you by guys in tuxedos. Along with waiters in formal attire, you'll also get the theatrics of having a professional wine sommelier recommend a wine to pair with your clam strips, and have the ability to witness the metal plate covers simultaneously being removed from your party's entrees, whether it takes two, four, six, or eight waiters to do it. The food would cost exactly the same as it does in a regular White Castle restaurant, and all the fancy trimmings would be paid for by the alcohol sales.

The idea is basically a theme bar and restaurant for adults. Instead of paying for expensive ape or alien costumes, you only have to pay for tuxedos. And instead of expensive sports or music memorabilia, you just pay for cheap, modernistic art by some no-name wannabe who could easily pass for stylish. (Obviously, the subject of each piece of artwork would be White Castle.) Just spend a few bucks for decent wall lamps to light the paintings. Remember, presentation is everything, and the decor will either convince people it's worth something, or else get a laugh as if its intentionally satirical. An underlying, intentional sense of humor will exude throughout, but not be so in-your-face as to be cartoonish.

The premise behind Castle Blanc could probably be applied to any inexpensive food (e.g., buffalo wings). But it would work exceptionally well with White Castle because of the intense, ready-made fan base. The novelty of the idea and the brand name of White Castle would bring crowds in immediately. Make the restaurant a sufficiently impressive bar and lounge as well, and you'll keep them. The bar area would be large, and the feel would be modern and very Manhattan, with the occasional White Castle photo or piece of memorabilia on the wall. Show people you're serious: spend your money on a signed photo of founders Billy Ingram and Walter Anderson, and display a solid-gold sack of onion rings under glass. Make sure you include proof that it's real gold.

The thing that might worry White Castle executives about Castle Blanc is the explicit connection with booze. But the upscale decor and liquor selection will only compliment and bolster the food. Rather than, for example, serving cans of Milwaukee's Best, Castle Blanc would have a wine list and tequila menu (along with the beer). The highlight of the menu would be a massive combo platter. But instead of calling it Combo Meal #5, it would be the Castle Blanc tasting menu with wine pairing. Follow through with every detail: pay a wine expert to select the best white wine for the chicken ring sandwich and the best red wine for the jalapeno cheeseburger. Charge customers for it, but don't price it for the rich and stupid. Price it for the middle-class and smart. (Although it would be difficult not to serve at least one Kobe beef burger.) Acknowledging that you might have the occasional beer drinker or ten who likes White Castle food, include a beer pairing on the menu, too.

Think of Castle Blanc as an upscale bar and lounge with wait service, serving White Castle food and utilizing the White Castle brand to bring in customers while simultaneously building and promoting the White Castle brand. Yes, the level of service applied to the fast food product will be "kitschy", but the ambiance will be legitimate and the sound system impressive.

Castle Blanc would profit from the popularity of White Castle and the novelty of ordering and eating White Castle food at an over-the-top, upscale venue. It would allow people not just to eat at White Castle, but to dine at White Castle. It would be the spot for before-dinner drinks (and a burger or two) at the bar, plus the place for late-night grub. And it would be huge publicity for every other White Castle restaurant, likely opening up franchise possibilities in the hometowns of tourists who visit Castle Blanc while in New York. (And it might even make a good place to test new product.) Besides tourists, people from all over New York and New Jersey would visit the place, because it would be a fun place to eat and hang out, and because yes, dammit, a White Castle cheeseburger should be served to me by a guy with white gloves and a tuxedo. I will be the first to order my #1 with jalapeno cheese and a glass of Barolo.

Remember your guiding principles: "We believe in opportunities that increase the relevance and availability of our products to customers everywhere." And your vision: "Our quest is excellence and standard setting leadership in each of our industries." I guarantee you that serving your slyders with a glass of Barolo will set standards. If celebrity chefs can do it, why not you?

Did you have an opinion on this? Then post a comment.

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