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.

31 thoughts on “Homeroom Rules that Drive you Crazy (and why we have them anyway)

  1. March 20, 2012

    I love transparency! Thanks for that. See you on Wednesday for lunch. :)

  2. Brendan N.
    March 20, 2012

    All understandable : ) if only people actually thought about all of these before complaining

  3. Shalee
    March 20, 2012

    I’m annoyed that people would even ask these questions. Seems pretty obvious to me why you do what you do. People just like to hear themselves talk.

  4. Rainier Wolfcastle
    March 20, 2012

    1) I second Tracey Arrowsmith in applauding the transparency.
    2) Everything you say is perfectly reasonable.
    3) I am anti-breadcrumb-on-mac. Thank you for listening to our misunderstood and oft-reviled minority.

  5. Bunny Watson
    March 20, 2012

    People give you grief over fifty cents? Really?!

    I apologize on behalf of all of them.

  6. Jennifer
    March 20, 2012

    I think anyone that comes to you and has a complaint is in a bad mood. You’re currently my favorite place to eat and I have eaten there enough times to have already filled a 10 punch card and am halfway through my next one. Each time I’ve eaten at Homeroom it has been a wonderful experience and I hope to continue having them. Thanks for being awesome!

  7. Tammy
    March 20, 2012

    I hate it when people question simple and reasonable rules. The rules are the rules and they shouldn’t have to be explained or waived because some don’t like them. Working with the public will drive you insane and make you mean. I’m almost ready for my padded room. You shouldn’t have to explain yourselves but its cool you did. Thank You for Homeroom, its wonderful!!!

  8. erod
    March 20, 2012

    Knowing hat people have had these complaints and have gotten angry makes me sad for that part of your customer base.

  9. Jacky
    March 20, 2012

    I applaud your openness. So many establishments look down at their patrons and think “we should understand” the in’s and out’s of the restaurant business without any explanation.

    Keep up this level of candor and you’ll enjoy the love and support of your customers for many years to come!

  10. Liz
    March 20, 2012

    Oh the entitlement of the masses. I think it’s very good of you to address these questions, but I also find it sad that you had to – especially the cake cutting fee one. People are amazingly thick.

    I know you didn’t post this so we informed few (who probably have the restaurant and/or retail experience the complainers are lacking) could bash people, so I’ll just say: I understand all of your reasons completely.

    PS. I love and appreciate your gluten free mac, and am an obvious “no breadcrumbs” supporter. 😀

  11. Melina
    March 24, 2012

    Okay, well some of us have back problems and your chairs are very uncomfortable. So if you can’t accommodate those of us who need a booth in order to even be able to sit long enough for you to bring our food out, then I guess we can’t come to your restaurant.

  12. Jessica
    March 25, 2012

    Do you really think it’s someone else’s job to accommodate your back problem? A booth is more comfortable for *most* people. Try having a spare cushion in your car, or learning proper posture while seated. There are many ways you can accommodate yourself without expecting better treatment than everyone else. Who is to say your back problem is any worse than mine? Shall we all start bringing our medical records to restaurants just so we can get special treatment?

    • Joan
      July 26, 2012

      Jessica, that is a lot of privilege you are stating there. I do expect restaurants to be accommodating of people’s needs. f you do not understand that, you need to examine your privilege. Obviously you are white and privileged.

  13. Amanda
    March 27, 2012

    You guys are a bit high maintenance. Please tone it down, I work hard for my money.

  14. Elizabeth
    April 2, 2012

    LOL Jessica! I second that.

    • Joan
      July 26, 2012

      Gotta love people with privilege like Elizabeth

  15. SA
    April 9, 2012

    I appreciate the explanations, though I agree these are kind of silly questions.

    I would like to know why you’re closed on Mondays, though! I stopped by today really hoping for some mac and cheese to go down easy after a weekend of tummy troubles, and was super bummed to find you shut up tight. Some Mondays are so awful, they really need some creamy Homeroom goodness to make them bearable…

    • Stuart
      December 24, 2012

      Monday’s are often an unprofitable day for restaurants. Since it costs money to be open (labor, lights, air conditioning) sometimes the restaurant operator doesn’t even break even on a slow day. Couple that with the need for owners to have a day of sanity with out worrying about the restaurant being open on a slow day and now you see why they close on Mondays!

  16. Beth
    April 20, 2012

    Yay for transparency. Am in the rabidly anti-bread crumb camp and very glad they are not standard. Why would you mess up a bowl of perfect cheesy creaminess with crunchy,crappy little bread crumbs??? 😀

  17. Toni
    May 9, 2012

    I understand the dessert challenge – but I am a celiac and last time I checked you don’t carry a gluten free dessert. Something to think about – that is hook up with Mariposa Bakery!

  18. Marie
    May 31, 2012

    Upon reading the explanations they definitely make more sense. Thank you for addressing these Homeroom! Seems there’s a lot of people who feel pretty entitled. Rules are there for a reason…Special treatment isn’t necessary. If someone’s back issues are going to be a problem for a 45 min dinner then may be they shouldn’t be out and about in the first place…Seriously. People who feel that entitlement will be the first to sue if a mirror isn’t low enough…I strongly dislike screeching infants during dinner but, it doesn’t entitle me to say don’t sit me around the family with the baby at a family establishment. I know what I’m getting myself into…You’ve been warned of the rules. If you don’t like it then simply don’t dine here.

    • Joan
      July 26, 2012

      Thanks for your privilege Marie! Perhaps someday you’ll be luckily enough to have some of your privilege taken away – like eyesight – and I will be sure to stick a plunger in the toliet for you.

      • Holly
        June 4, 2013

        Do you really believe eyesight is a privelege? You sound like an angry racist. And unreasonable. That doesn’t make me entitled because I’m saying that expecting special treatment is being entitled.

        Essentially what you’re doing is accusing everyone on here of being white and priveleged. The internet is accessible to the whole world and you have no idea of my race or level of entitlement. Isn’t it entitled to use your skin colour as a justification as to why you don’t always get what you want?

      • Zack
        July 23, 2013

        Joan, you sound like a mean and bitter person. Plus, when you say “I expect restaurants to be accommodating” it sounds to me like it is YOU who expect privilege. Sorry, the world doesn’t revolve around YOU. If you are truly disabled (ie blind) of course you should still be able to eat out, but it doesn’t mean everyone has to bow down to you breaking rules that others have to follow too. These rules sound reasonable to me and to expect everyone to bow to you is unfair to the business. Good for Homeroom to explain their reasoning and if you don’t like it, keep your mean and bitter self at home because I don’t want to hear you yap about YOUR privilege.

  19. DB
    June 2, 2012

    With regards to the ‘cake cutting fee’…

    I would actually like to bring an entire Thanksgiving dinner to your fine restaurant, have you serve it to me, fetch me water, and ask “how is everything?” Once I’m good and full of turkey, stuffing, and green bean casserole, you should clean everything up and take care of the dishes. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to package up the leftovers for me.

    Now, I won’t pay you anything, since I bought the food elsewhere. And I won’t tip, since tips are based on the check. But if you treat me really well I’ll hang out for an extra 30 minutes while I drink my Phil’z coffee.


  20. Joan
    July 26, 2012

    I was interested in eating here. But seeing how you mistreat people with medical needs – I will never come. Won’t go to folks who utilize privilege and really disappointing to see so many unenlightened folks on here posting things about people with mobile differences. All of you should be ashamed. You would feel differently if you had your privilege taken away. You sound like republicans. Very white and privileged.

  21. C-Mo
    August 12, 2012

    OK, here’s one you may not have heard but inquiring minds want to know:
    How the heck do you all stay so skinny if you’re eating all that mac and cheese?

  22. Floyd Thursby
    September 16, 2012

    That all makes perfect sense, but why in the world would you have a secret menu?

    P.S. No breadcrumbs for me either.

  23. Matt615
    November 11, 2012

    You guys are the best. I believe all these policies are completely fair but thanks for your transparncy around these questions that apparently come up frequently. :)

  24. December 6, 2012

    To the owner of the big white doggy, HI!!!!! Hope you will take my “late night order.” Besos!!!!!

  25. December 16, 2012

    hahaha. the fact that you even had to create a page for this is silly. sigh. alas, many people have never owned/worked in a restaurant, so they just don’t get it. hopefully this will smooth things over!


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