Weight Room Title Bar

by The Observer

[ Those who have read my other tales may be surprised by this one --- it is not based on a plumpening sighting. Nor --- at least not yet --- is it based on a real event, although it could be. But I hope you will still find it interesting.]

The idea for the Love Handles Cafe began when Jenine Thompson won the lottery, guaranteeing her a generous income for the rest of her life. She had overcome a lot in her always chubbier than others life, and had had a dream of what could be done if things had been different for her. Now she had a chance.

Since she still had her own job and a supportive husband, she decided to take $200,000 and risk it on something truly wild. It would be a novel type of concept restaurant --- the entire theme based on acknowledging and glorifying the secret love affair with food common to all human beings. She would then use it as a springboard to bring heavier people recognition in a positive way.

And so she began by converting a former furniture store into a totally different establishment. Those who have been there only once cannot forget the impact!

Pictures of famous fat people --- Kate Smith, William Howard Taft, Carne Wilson, Refrigerator Perry, Luciano Pavoroti, Jackie Gleason, Rosemary Cloony and a dozen more --- festoon the walls. Interspersed between them are laminated copies of 19th century weight gain ads for Scott's Emulsion for infants and Fat-ten-u products for adults, along with reprints of articles about the dangers of fad diets and reducing remedies. A selection of mini-biographies of accomplished heavier people are available in a rack in the waiting area.

Accenting the "in your face" celebration of joyful obesity is the Love Handles staff (no one under 200 lbs need apply) --- the plump waitresses dressed in generously sized gingham dresses with wide aporns and bonnets, the equally stout waiters and busboys attired in amply proportioned bib overalls.

Desserts at Love Handles, proclaimed the menus, are always served first --- and come free if you eat certain minimum amount as your entree.

And such desserts! Love Handles makes its own ice cream in fifty gallon batches and cooked its own pies. The cakes and pastries are made to specifications by a local bakery. It is a wonderous cart of delectibles that the staff brings to your table when you first sit down.

There is no salad bar at Love Handles, although there was a $ 6.00 all you can eat buffet with over twenty items. No wine list either, but a terrific selection of non-alcoholic and decidedly fattening concoctions. And, yes, a variety of burger and potato items for the kids.

In fact, it has been Janine's strategy from the start to make kid appeal, more specifically teen appeal, the key to success of Love Handles. Since she didn't have to make a big profit to stay in business she incentivized making it a teen and family hangout --- deliberately locating it within a block of a 3000 member high school and a 900 member Junior High School.

The first month of each school year she plasters both with $10,000 worth of free food coupons good for thirty days --- which bring her plenty of publicity (and some futile objections from some parents). Kids recieving a semester grade of B in any academic subject earn a $10 meal certificate. A grades bring a certificate good for the student and a guest. There is also a meeting room which school groups reserve for free --- the theory being that enough food would be sold to justify the expense.

But the incentives don't stop there! Regular patrons (read teens from the schools) recieve stamps which cand be redeemed for food, CD roms at a local music store, theater tickets, and even admission to concerts. Birthday meals are free if you bring an adult. In fact, even adults cand a free meals on their birthdays if they bring a second adult.

All of this, as you might realize, is well and good --- but the thing about Love Handles is that the gimickry is only part of the picture. The food is both good, generously portioned, and reasonably priced. Jenine recognizes that the key to success, as in all successful restaurants, is keeping the tables filled and patronage turning over at a reasonable clip while maintaining good cost controls.

But Jenine isn't into Love Handles exactly for profit. As she has told her managers, "just be sure we break even --- but what we are after is a higher goal."

That goal is to bring respectibility to people of size, especially those who are in the fragile teen years.

As you might expect, all this incentivised caloric availability has had a somewhat broadening effect on the student body. But the surprising thing is that the High School average SAT scores have risen five percent as well in the two years Love Handles has been open.

And, with Love Handles as a meeting base, larger sized students have learned to come out of their shells, working together as a group on size acceptance and other issues. They are using the heavyweight achievers in the pictures surrounding them as role models.

In the words of one, "what anorexic ever became President?"

Which is why you see amply proportioned gingham and overall clad young people (outfits courtesy of Love Handles) doing community service in the community. It began with serving food to the homeless at the local mission once a month. Now they are acting as docents for community carnivals and putting on shows for seniors in local rest homes, always clad in the same Love Handles motif. And for these activities you don't have to be 200 lbs, so it is becoming an "in" think to do. Of course you know they are probably getting free certificates at the restaurant for serving, but still, as one parent remarked to a reporter, "isn't it better this way?"

Next year the bar will be lifted a notch higher. Jenine intends to offer Love Handle scholarships to deserving students of size --- which should bring in some more publicity, and even more customers.