What Alfredo’s Pizza Cafe (not Pizza by Alfredo) Taught Me about Work Culture

What Alfredo’s Pizza Cafe (not Pizza by Alfredo) Taught Me about Work Culture

In The Office, we learn that Alfredo’s Pizza Café is “the better pizza”; whereas Pizza by Alfredo is, well, not good enough to pay the bill without holding the delivery driver hostage. But what I didn’t know about Alfredo’s Pizza Café was that it’s work culture actually holds the guest hostage. Let me explain.

On a recent trip to Scranton, PA, my family and I—all lovers of The Office—couldn’t leave without eating at Alfredo’s Pizza Café, a restaurant made famous in Season 4, Episode 3. Located in the South Side Shopping Plaza, this well-established Italian restaurant with its green painted walls, black drop-ceiling and large, comfortable booths, easily met my family’s needs. The food and service were excellent, kind of. Our server was wonderful, and the food was delicious, but it’s the bartender in this story that becomes the villain.

I ordered a beer before the meal. When asked if I wanted a second, I said I’d wait until the meal came. When the food arrived, which was very quick, our server said she’d bring the beer over in a minute. After about five minutes, she circled back to see how we were enjoying our food. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “As soon as the bartender returns, I’ll bring your drink right over.” As a restaurant owner myself, my immediate thought was that she couldn’t pour her own drink because she was not RAMP certified (Responsible Alcohol Management Program; it’s a PA thing, and for the most part, it serves a good purpose). For $18 and an hour online listening to a pre-recorded PowerPoint presentation, she could have had her certificate and been able to pour me a beer herself. “There’s a weak spot,” I thought. But I wasn’t upset. I chalked it up to poor leadership—I wasn’t going to go any further. But I did want to confirm my suspicion. A few minutes later, she returned with my beer. “So you’re not RAMP certified,” I asked, as she set it on the table? “Actually,” she replied, “I am.” “Why couldn’t you just pour your own beer, then,” I asked, with a puzzled look on my face? “Well,” she started, “if I did, the bartender would take it out on my later by holding my tickets, which would really anger my guests and mess up my tips.” Now I fully understood what was going on.

You see, at Grand Illusion Hard Cider, everyone is RAMP certified and everyone can pour their own drinks if they have the time and the need. We’ve purposefully created a very linear organization where power and control exist only to keep things running smoothly for the benefit of the guests. Alfredo’s Pizza Café, on the other hand, suffers from an archaic, but naturally occurring process of vertical power distribution. Here, I am sure, seniority, family, relationships with the owner(s), plays a role in defining status, power and deference, and all must follow the rules and play the game if they want to survive (keep their jobs). This is old -school-organization at its best, and I think its days are coming to an end. But perhaps, nestled in the middle of a strip mall in Scranton, PA, Alfredo’s Pizza Café shows us that dinosaurs do still roam the land, serving power and control at the expense of guest satisfaction.

Next time, we’ll try Pizza by Alfredo.

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