Food fight breaks out over cupcake walk

Photo by Assaggi Mozzarella Bar
Line to Georgetown Cupcake on Bethesda Row
Line to Georgetown Cupcake on Bethesda Row

A logistical and not-so-sweet food fight has broken out over the long lines at Georgetown Cupcake on Bethesda Row. Assaggi Mozzarella Bar and other merchants in Bethesda Row say the made-for-reality-TV business can't have its, you know, cupcake -- and eat it too.

The situation boiled over when cupcake-lover lines snaked from Georgetown Cupcake past other stores, blocking entrances and outdoor patios. The businesses most impacted, so far, are Assaggi Mozzarella Bar, two doors away and Daddy & Son Camiceria Italiana, a men’s clothing boutique, which is between Georgetown Cupcake and Assaggi.

Assaggi’s general manager’s Golnaz Feiz, has been up in arms about cupcake queues blocking the narrow sidewalk in front of the restaurant entrance and encroaching on patio diners.

“I received complaints from diners that the cupcake queue is intrusive on their table space on the patios,” she said.  Personal security also is threatened, said Feiz, because there is no “safety zone” for diners with briefcases, shopping bags and purses.” Assaggi’s al fresco patio is located across a narrow sidewalk from the restaurant’s main doors.

Jon Moss, operations manager for Georgetown Cupcake, said a “newly implemented” policy presented late last week at a meeting attended by representatives of Georgetown Cupcake, Federal Realty Investment Trust (the management firm for the row of stores), Assaggi, and Daddy & Son calls for a security guard and other staff to break the queue for the length of Assaggi’s storefront and “95 percent” of its patio.

Moss said the queue resumes after the restaurant property ends. But Feiz said that in actual practice the execution of the new monitoring plan is “not consistent.”  For instance, she said, the youngish staff for Georgetown Cupcake has difficulty guiding customers “because people get upset” with the break in line.

“It’s a circus,” she said.

Georgetown Cupcake at 4834 Bethesda Avenue opened in November, 2009.  Customer traffic on any given day from morning to evening is between 500 and 800 people, said Moss.  He said the fresh policy sets up a single-person-wide line with barriers to keep people from spreading out.

Until very recently, Georgetown Cupcake’s queue was hardly a single file line. Couples, friends and families doubled or tripled up on the sidewalk, “not to mention strollers, kids and dogs,” said Feiz.  Distracted cell phone talkers also were a problem -- they didn’t notice other pedestrians trying to squeeze by.  

Line outside Assaggi Mozzarella Bar (Photo by: Assaggi Mozzarella Bar) Line outside Assaggi Mozzarella Bar

“We have table service outside on the patio,” said Feiz. “We have servers in and out, busboys in and out, food runners delivering food. We have wine and alcohol service outside. We have a service station outside that our waiters and busboys need to get to. We also have valet parking.

“Waiters carrying food trays and drinks are hindered from serving our diners. It creates a hazardous situation for everyone. We already had one busboy get pushed, and he toppled the tray that he was carrying with two cups of hot coffee. Thank God he didn’t get any on the customers,” she said.

“I had two couples seated outside who just got up to pay for their drinks without ordering food,” said Feiz. “They said they were out for a pleasant dining experience and did not want to be bothered with a line right next to their table. They were regular customers. I can’t lose loyal customers who are supporting us and enjoy our Italian cuisine.”

For awhile, the cupcake line was directed in the other direction toward Cava, a fast food operation, away from Assaggi.  However, merchants on that side then complained about the line blocking their entrances.  So, the line was shifted back to Assaggi’s and Daddy & Son’s direction again. Georgetown Cupcake is flanked by Cava and Daddy & Son.

Francesca Inferrera, who owns Daddy & Son with her husband, said the new plan doesn’t help her business because the line still runs parallel to their entrance and blocks it. “For the last two weekends, we are down in sales by 50 percent,” she said. “It’s a human wall. You can’t see my store for the line. I don’t have window shoppers anymore because people can’t see in.”

“And, if clients want to come in, they know they have to fight their way through the line, so they just don’t bother coming in. If I open the door to let people in or out, I have to excuse myself to the people in line. It’s like the Beltway at 4 o’clock –a traffic jam.” And she added, “there remains only 20 inches of walkable sidewalk” for regular pedestrians.

Feiz said she spoke to Federal Realty about moving Georgetown Cupcake to a wider storefront area. She said the response was that it was “costly” to do a relocation.  

Moss, the Georgetown Cupcake spokesman, told to The Georgetown Dish: “We’ve been thrilled with the Bethesda location, and we plan to be there for the long term. We are doing our best” to fix the line. “This plan should function.”

A Federal Realty spokeswoman did not return a phone call.

The flagship Georgetown Cupcake in Georgetown is on a business corner at M Street and 33rd Street NW. The Georgetown line, which can stretch for a couple of blocks and is double-wide with people, streams past residential houses. Relations between those residents and Georgetown Cupcake has been testy at times, too. The Georgetown branch recently set up a rope line to control the cake walk.

 

0 Comments For This Article

Anonymous

Georgetown Cupcake is long overdue in taking responsibility for crowd control in Georgetown. As one who turns onto 33rd off M frequently, I predict it is just a matter of time before someone gets hurt. This has become a tourist attraction at the expense of local residents patience. Dimwitted customers in que stand in the middle of the road to take pictures or marvel at the line. They run up and down the street, yes, the street, because the sidewalk is all taken up. I was actually behind a car where the driver stopped and took a photo causing a traffic jam. THIS IS RIDICULOUS AND GEORGETOWN CUPCAKE NEEDS TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!!!! Someone is going to get hurt or their car hit. Georgetown Cupcake should hire off duty police to control the crowd and traffic. Bill Sterols, the ANC commissioner should be all over this! Why is this allowed to happen?

Anonymous

AS much as I admire the two women who opened Georgetown Cupcake, the cupcakes, are, frankly, not that great - they're too small, tooe xpensive for what you get and the several times I've been forced to have them, they have been dry -- not moist, but really dry. The cupcakes at Baked and Wired are much better, but the best, by far, are the ones at Furins. Georgetown Cupcake is for tourists.

Foxhall Village neighbor

Sprinkles is better anyway, go to Georgetown!

Anonymous

The rope line in Georgetown is a farce...the lines are so wide forcing people onto the streets; hate to be the sisters when someone gets hit and they are sued up to their icing...it's a travesty, and they clearly don't give a sh*t...

L. Denise

Yikes...

anonymous

Suggestion: Add an employee who goes along the line taking orders,bags them, IDs them, and the sales receipt on the bag for checkout, or two registers for when the lines start--like a supermarket. There must be an answer that that takes the burden off neighboring businesses--and it needs to be done fast. The owners should have clearly been on this long before now, and they may need some help themselves on management of this.Obviously they have a good product and good location. Apple expanded its space when their business demanded.

Anonymous

If I owned the Assaggi Mozzarella Bar I'd simply move. Either that or demand the owner cut my rent. I'm sure Assaggi pays a hefty rent to have its restaurant there and the Georgetown Cupcake line really messes things up. I live in Bethesda and always see (and avoid) the line. That sidewalk is crammed as it is with the tables from Assaggi. I don't know how the servers and bus boys get through it. Georgetown Cupcake is definitely a pain in the ass neighbor - whether it's located in Georgetown or Bethesda.

Norman

I feel their pain! It's hard enough to pass by on the sidewalk, let alone eat a meal with all the people in line. I passed by the Bethesda store this afternoon and it was insane. I also saw people in line getting upset with people cutting in line due to the break in the line.

nelliebly

I'm torn: Sidewalks are public and people who are visiting a business have a right to stand on them. And the cupcake store has a right to sell cupcakes to its customers. But I do feel for the businesses that feel "blocked." I think it should be handled by the property management company.

Glover Park Peeps

I also turn left onto 33rd from M street every single night and every single night there's a buffoon who haphazardly wanders into the street neck deep in a dry cupcake. And every single night I see that same buffoon nearly get plowed by cars turning left during a legit green arrow. That place is out of control. And Anonymous Octopus is right, their cupcakes are not great at all. Par at best.

nate

It's kind of sad, because these lines are fake and just for publicity when they give away free cupcakes at random times that they tweet to create flash mobs. Flash mobs sums it up since these people often times can block the way of people in wheelchairs and they can be kind of teritorial. As a life long Bethesda patron I would like to be able to walk down the sidewalk without running in to a flash mob. Sure would be nice for businesses to respect everyone and not try to create fame at the expense of others. I frankly prefer the cupcakes of cakelove (the original DC cupcake).

Anonymous

Assaggi and the other merchants have a right to run their businesses without having to deal with the crowd control issues created by Georgetown Cupcake. I agree with the other commentors, Georgetown Cupcakes just aren't that good. It's a frenzy created by a reality show, and the reality is that Georgetwon Cupcake is not taking responsibiilty for the damage they are doing to nearby businesses.

It is Georgetown Cupcake's responsibility to fix the problem. They should learn to be good neighbors. There are other ways to deal with the issue, they can give people numbers and beepers, so people don't need to wait in a long line, but instead shop at nearby stores waiting for their turn. At what point do people realize it's demeaning to wait on a long line for a cupcake?

Anonymous

People! Bake your own cupcakes - it's easy and fun!

Steve25

We are relatively close to the end of civilized society.

Georgetowner

What's the word for people who take an hour or more out of their lives to stand in line for a second-rate cupcake just bring themselves a wee bit closer to the perceived glamor of a reality tv show?

Anonymous

You have a line of people wanting cupcakes...Assaggi Mozzarella Bar should start selling them as well. The difference being they wont be disgusting and dry like Georgetown Cupcake. Take advantage of the situation and screw that company until it cant make a profit.

Anonymous

Isn't the point of sitting outside to enjoy the nice weather and be amongst the passersby? If you don't want people walking next to you while you're eating out on the sidewalk, then get an indoor table.

Assaggi should be happy. More people now see their restaurant in one day than they've probably had pass by in a month. If Assaggi had a reality show and had swarms of customers, I guarantee you that they wouldn't be upset anymore. They're just upset that people are crowding the sidewalks but not eating at Assaggi.

I agree with the commenter above. Assaggi is a business and should simply adapt to this. Start giving out their own free cupcakes to people who come have lunch at the restaurant. Or, offer a 5% off coupon for people who leave the Georgetown Cupcake line and instead eat at Assaggi.

If you have hundreds of people standing outside your restaurant during the rush, that's a free opportunity to market to them. Use it to your advantage.

Fisch

The man jus' upped my rent las' night.
('cause Whitey wants a cupcake)

No hot water, no toilets, no lights.
(but Whitey wants a cupcake)

I wonder why he's uppin' me?
('cause Whitey wants a cupcake?)

I wuz already payin' 'im fifty a week.
(with Whitey wantin' a cupcake)

Printing Money

I am just so happy the Washington, DC has such "problems"... As you travel around this depressed country you realize most people "outside of the beltway" would die to have people lining up for a few ounces of sugary cake at a few dollars a pop... We are in complete unreality here:-)

fakes

WTH is with people who want cupcakes that badly? What a waste their lives must be.

Anonymous

The only thing that is laughable about this situation is how much people care about a successful business. I don't know how we got to a point where people seek to punish a successful business for being, you know, successful. It's the pinnacle of brilliance to be able to find something as obscure and admittedly absurd as cupcakes and make millions off of them. We should be rewarding this sort of ingenuity, not punishing it because a store that sold maybe a shirt a day now can only sell a pack of cufflinks instead. Assaggi's frustration I can understand, but the only way they're going to make this situation better is with a meaningful compromise with their neighbors, not harassing the high school kids managing the lines.

Anonymous

nate, im pretty sure they give away free cupcakes every single day - they don't do "flash mobs" at random times? and honestly, Assaggi is really sub-par if you're ever actually been -looks really fancy but the food is pretty mediocre. On top of that, I've legitimately never seen a single person inside of daddy & son, before or after georgetown cupcake moved into bethesda.

Anonymous

Omg, lyk I LOVE georgetown cupcakes and lemme say out front HATAs GONNA HATE. FURST OFALL: who goes to eat cheese outside, GROSS. Second, these cupcakes are worth YEARS IN LINE. like eating heaven. Trustme Ive eaten them, and all these HATERS are LIARS. DOWN WITH THE H8AS

Anonymous

@Nate: That's blatantly false. They have a free cupcake every day, which most customers don't even know about, advertised over Twitter and Facebook. They usually run out early in the afternoon, so I don't know how you explain the lines later in the evening if it all has to do with free cupcakes and some grand conspiracy to screw their neighbors.

MixMaster

1 box of cake mix $1.30-$3+ (tops)
1-2 eggs, approx. 35¢
(icing: butter+sugar approx. < 50¢)

< $3.85 (max) for approx. 24 -- TWENTY FOUR -- cupcakes (no lines, crowded shop, etc. easily made at home).
> $2.75 + tax for 1 -- ONE -- Georgetown Cupcake (sold by itself)

Doesn't look like the smarts from the nearby university translate to the street. Maybe the other stores should give away free cupcakes. Or just advertise local market deals on the fixins to make those waiting half an hour or more in line think twice.

Anonymous

"Isn't the point of sitting outside to enjoy the nice weather and be amongst the passersby? If you don't want people walking next to you while you're eating out on the sidewalk, then get an indoor table."

It's one thing to be at outdoor seating while people are passing by -- its entirely different when the passers-by are standing about a foot a way from your table in an endless stream, several minutes per person.

SlimShady

The day I stand in line for a cup cake no matter the amount of time, call the Home and tell them I'm ready..

Anonymous

So what else is new in this age of Selfishness, Bad Manners and plain old Stupidity???

Anonymous

Baked and Wire people! twice and big and ten times as good!!!

Francesca Inferrera

…because a few of these anonymous comments “smell like a rat” namely 2 that have their facts wrong regarding my store Daddy & Son, I’d like to offer the other side of the medallion without hiding behind “Anonymous”. I defy anyone who steps into my position of owning a store here, financially held to the same standard as every other tenant on this street, not to be as frustrated as I am regarding the over-crowded sidewalks caused by the lines, I’ve already mentioned problems for wheelchairs and strollers, in addition, people have a hard time getting in and out of my store and even seeing it from the street, and negative comments from my own clients regarding the situation. “Punish a successful business” as stated above, how? Funny, they don’t seem to be suffering, in fact they are going about their daily routine choosing to ignore their surroundings. I had expected /hoped in more consideration for their neighbors from GTC and the neighborhood in general, not to mention my expectations of the property management company. I do NOT expect the “high school kids managing the lines” to really know what sacrifices it takes to run a small business, if they did they would certainly take a little more care in their management of it. As to this being a fight or war, nothing of the sort, I hope that an equitable solution is found that respects us all, businesses and non.
Francesca Inferrera – Owner Daddy & Son Camiceria Italiana