Homeroom, Oakland, Calif. November 16, 2011.

Homeroom Rules that Drive you Crazy (and why we have them anyway)

We get tons of questions every day. Questions about our ingredients, questions about our staff, questions about why we started a mac and cheese restaurant in the first place. And then there are the questions that you may be afraid to ask, but are dying to know – things like, “Why won’t you seat an incomplete party?” or “Really? You’re going to charge us fifty cents to put breadcrumbs on our mac?”

We know that we (and some of your other favorite restaurants) have rules that may not make sense to everyone–but unlike your curmudgeonly homeroom teacher, we have a better explanation than, “Because I said so.”

So here’s a list of questions that we hear most often, and if there’s something we forgot, please feel free to leave your question in the comment section below and we’ll be happy to answer it.

1. Why do you charge an extra .50 cents for breadcrumbs? Why doesn’t it just come on the macs?

This is probably the question we see most often on Yelp, and while it may seem stingy, we have very good reasons for both parts of the question. We have an upcharge for toasted breadcrumbs because panko is actually pretty expensive. Not only that, but pre-toasted panko is really gross, so our kitchen staff toasts pounds and pounds of panko every single day. This, of course, ends up costing us a lot, both in terms of the cost of the panko, and the cost of the labor it takes to toast it. To top it off, it takes an extra few minutes to be baked in the oven with the breadcrumbs, which also adds to the time it takes to make each dish, labor, electricity– you get the picture. Given all that, we think an extra .50 cents is actually a pretty great deal!

Breadcrumbs don’t come standard on all of our macs because, believe it or not, some people don’t like breadcrumbs on their mac (more people than you would think!). So instead of incorporating the price of the panko into all of our macs, we opted to keep our prices lower, and only charge for breadcrumbs when people actually want them. The exception to the rule is the Mac to Goat. Our goat cheese mac comes with breadcrumbs because we feel pretty strongly that you’ll like it better that way. Especially with the olive oil drizzled on top.

2. Why won’t you let me sit at a table before my friends get here?

We’re not just being mean when we politely say that we can’t seat you until the rest of your party arrives–there’s a very good reason for it! As you know, there is usually a wait at Homeroom for a table (especially for dinner). Now imagine we seat you at a table, and ten minutes later, your friends arrive and take a seat with you. Everyone looks over the menu, orders drinks, then orders dinner. That whole process just took ten minutes longer than a table who’s entire party was seated at once. Multiply that time difference by the number of tables in the restaurant, and suddenly the wait becomes much, much longer everyone. That doesn’t seem fair, does it? To keep our wait times as short as possible, we keep our tables full with complete parties, and try to seve them as efficiently as possible.

3. Why do you charge me if I bring in my own desserts?

The infamous “cake cutting fee,” is not in fact a fee for cutting cake (people ask all the time if we will waive the fee if they cut it themselves…). For some reason, we’ve found that people never question having a corkage fee if they bring in their own wine, but we do get a lot of pushback about having a cake-cutting fee–so here’s why we do it:

We charge $2.50 per person for a “cake cutting” fee if you bring in your own dessert, which is the price of our least expensive dessert. Why you ask? Because when people bring in their own dessert, that means they are sitting at the table for a longer amount of time, without purchasing anything, and still being served by our waitstaff and using our dishes that have to be washed by our dishwashers. This means your server, and the restaurant, loses out on being able to serve more guests as well as on the cost of the dessert you would have ordered if you hadn’t brought in your own. Multiply that by the many parties who do do this every week, and it actually has a pretty huge effect on Homeroom. So while we love for everyone to hang out and enjoy Homeroom, to keep all of our prices low, we have to charge if people bring in their own desserts.

4. Why won’t you seat two people in a booth, even when the restaurant is empty?

Ah, we hear this question all the time, and it’s the one that people get the most annoyed at. We know it seems crazy. We know you think we’re nuts because even when you and your friend are the only people in the entire restaurant, we won’t let you sit in a booth.

Let us explain.

We are a pretty small restaurant. We only have four tables in the entire place that can seat parties of 4 or more. If we sat 2 people at any of these tables, that would mean super long waits for larger parties, and longer waits for everyone because we’re not using all our available seats. Makes sense, right? We used to allow 2 people to sit at a booth during off hours, but then those same people would come back on a busy night and get angry with us for not letting them sit at a booth again. Plus, when other people would come in and see two people at a booth, they would want to sit at one too. So we changed our policy to a strict three-person minimum for the booths. It really does make for shorter waits and a better experience for everyone–so please don’t take a swing at our hosts when they direct you to one of our 2-person tables. We have some seriously some crazy stories of people’s reactions when they aren’t seated at a booth–so we’re hoping that by explaining this we’ll have a little less aggressive customer lore in the near future…

That’s all for today. We’ll answer more questions next time–when we’ll also reveal our brand new spring/summer menu! In the meantime, don’t forget about the super tasty dishes on our secret menu: Cacio y Pepe (the old exchange student), the Jalapeno Popper mac and an old fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich.