Dining with Dilbert

The New York Times ran a very funny story on Sunday about a very unlikely topic: Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, the comic strip that ruthlessly satirizes the hierarchical modern workplace, is trying to run a restaurant—even though he freely admits he doesn’t know what he’s doing. That’s right: Adams, who coined the term “Pointy-Haired Boss,” or PHB, to refer to a whole tier of blundering, hapless middle managers, is now a PHB at his own, floundering joint.

Here’s the background: A decade ago, Adams opened a restaurant, Stacey’s Café, in a town about an hour east of San Francisco. It did well. So five years ago he opened another restaurant nearby, Stacey’s at Waterford, which recently went from doing OK to losing money:

Mr. Adams, meanwhile, was dispatching his comic-strip responsibilities in just a few hours each morning. So, in July, he agreed to take over day-to-day operations of Stacey’s at Waterford, thus becoming what he has consistently ridiculed: a boss.

“I am highly experienced at making funny comics about managers,” Adams wrote on his blog. “How hard could it be to transition from mocking idiots to being one?” In fact, not hard at all!

Adams genially permitted his staff to talk to the Times reporter, and their comments are hilarious. From the chef: “I’ve been in this business 23 years, and I’ve seen a lot of things. He truly has no idea what he’s doing.”

Meanwhile, half the employees seem to believe that Adams is going to institute a dress code of “Dilbert-style white short-sleeved shirts and ties that curled upward” (a rumor that was actually started by other employees). “I bet you six months from now, you walk in here and see the ties,” says the lunch manager. As the Times writes, “Mr. Adams recognizes how such fears may have taken hold. ‘If you put that in context of my other bad ideas, it makes sense,’ he said.”

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