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A Tale of Two Restaurants

Mo’s closed their doors last month.

I feel responsible.

Let me explain. Mo’s is…was an upscale burger and salad joint in Toluca Lake. It used to be called Hamptons before it was Mo’s and legend has it that Paul Newman was a silent partner .

Newman or no, Toluca Lake itself is a residential enclave for a number of people in the entertainment industry – both talent and production types.

Our most famous resident was Bob Hope, but Sinatra used to live here, so did Bing Crosby and Amelia Earhart. Ronald and Nancy Reagan had their wedding reception in William Holden’s house here.

If these names put you to sleep, Miley Cirus has a pad here, as does Kirsten Dunst, Andy Garcia, and Jack Black. But Denzel Washington moved.

Why all the artists? You can throw a rock and hit Warner Bros. studios. Universal is up the hill. Disney, ABC, NBC are down the street and Dream Works not much farther.

The point of which is that Mo’s, with 15 wild varieties of burgers, sexy salads and a smattering of regular fare, was so crowded at lunch by studio execs (and talent) you had to know someone to grab a table.

Mo’s wasn’t one of these iconic West Hollywood destinations like the old Chasen’s, or Le Dome or Spago’s on Sunset. No, Mo’s wasn’t full of itself, it was just…Mo’s. A touch rustic, comfortable enough, good food, reasonable prices and a casual Hollywood vibe.

So why did it close last month?

I am sure there are other factors, but one is that the owner, a very nice chap with whom I became friendly over the years, started making changes recently– to the menu, to the ambience, to the pricing without doing a single survey of his patrons to get their opinions about the changes he had decided to implement.

Mo’s was a few blocks from my house and I would often run in there with my laptop, grab a burger and a salad and write things… like this article.

And from time to time the owner, who knew I was in the survey and marketing business, would come over and sit down and start up a conversation about business. He would kind of bounce things off of me to get my take on things. When he would talk about making some change, I would suggest that he survey the idea with his patrons or others in the Valley that might drop in for a meal.

No joy.

He had a salad on the menu that I loved. Everyone I knew who had ever had this salad really liked it. It was a field of greens with gorgonzola cheese, candied pecans and a raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

It was known among the regulars as an “Art’s salad”. I have no idea where the name came from, but it was so good I built a scene around it in my first fiction novel, Mind Games. So I come in one evening and order an Art’s and a White Delight (this is an angus beef burger with bacon and blue cheese melted on top).

The waitress’s voice seems to crack, “We aren’t serving the Art’s any more.”

I am dumbstruck. “You mean for good?”

“It’s off the menu,” she says avoiding my eyes by looking at her order pad.

She pitches me on the salad that replaced it (kale, apple slices and walnuts in some tart dressing). I order the kale salad. And then look for the owner who sees me and comes over.

“Dave,” I say. “The Art’s is a great salad. Why remove it?”

“Kale is the thing these days. Need to be modern.”

“Why not leave it on the menu and add the kale salad?”

He goes into a pitch about how it’s been on the menu a long time and it’s the 21st century and time to move on.

From a salad?

Maybe from another Bush or Clinton in the White House, but from a salad?

He took the butternut squash soup off of the menu in May.

“People don’t eat hot soup in the summer,” he said.

Really? I do.

He pulled the Kobe beef burger off the menu.

“People don’t know the difference.”

Did he ask them? No.

Personally, I love Kobe beef.

But the big change came from a decision to go upscale: aprons went on the wait staff, fancy new serving dishes, the famous burger bar where guests could slather their burgers with an array of sauces and side dishes was taken out, and the exotic burger menu was cut to a parody of its former self.

And then,,,then he renamed the place The Continental.

In other words, he committed hospitality homicide. Mo’s was dead. In it’s place was something else entirely. It wasn’t a bad restaurant, it just wasn’t Mo’s.

Did they survey their patrons?



Two months later, a Toluca Lake landmark was out of business.

Contrast this with a restaurant in the Omni Hotel in Toronto. I was in Toronto a couple of weeks ago for an event. I stayed at the Omni. Very nice hotel, super friendly service, fair price.


The day after I returned home, I received a survey from the Omni and filled it out. I gave the hotel and staff the high ratings they deserved – all but one minor incident in the dinning room.

It wasn’t a big deal, but this particular waiter wasn’t up to the quality of the rest of their staff. I didn’t slam the fellow, but rated him a couple notches lower than others. But it was only one point on a detailed survey and I rated the overall hotel experience quite high and noted that I would recommend it to others – which I would do.

And I emailed it in. Happy to have given my positive review and opinion to the hotel.

To my surprise, there was a voice mail on my phone the next day. Someone from the hotel was asking if he could chat with me about the one lower rating in the survey so they can ensure any departure from their standard of service could be corrected.

I called the number back. Got voice mail and explained that I was quite happy with the stay and will stay there again if / when I return to Toronto and that the service flaw was minor.

Longer story short, over the next two days, the person called back two more times until he reached me and got all of the details about the lower rating so he could correct the waiter – nobody was going to lose a job but he wanted to correct any departure from the ideal guest experience.

No surprise that the Omni repeatedly receives the top honors from J.D. Powers customer satisfaction survey for luxury hotels and is expanding its properties at a stunning rate.

These incidents – Mo’s and the Omni – happened back to back and the contrast in the use of surveys and the lack thereof struck me.

Surveys are a communication line from your customers or prospects to Management.

Surveys are a wonderful customer loyalty and expansion tool. What do they most like about what you do? What, if anything, would they like to see changed or improved? Do they refer you to others?

Of course, surveying prospects can swing the door wide open to new sales opportunities.

For example, the story above should not discourage menu changes if you are in the food and beverage business– if you survey first!

“The business we received from these surveyed menus was phenomenal. Our take-out business increased by 150% in just a few days. It has leveled off in a range about double what it had been before the survey was done.” PB Manager.

We conduct surveys that drive sales.

Do let us know if we can be of service.