Not everyone thinks like me. While I couldn’t envision anything much worse than a restaurant staff singing to me on my birthday, my daughter is different. She doesn’t mind being the center of attention in a crowded eatery. But once I saw what she received after her birthday serenade on Friday night, I might change my tune.
On St. Patrick’s Day, we took Sloan to a popular Spokane restaurant called The Onion. The business has been in the area for decades and is known for its (surprise) onion rings and extensive beer selection. It is also starting to earn quite the reputation for its birthday tradition.
After we finished our dinner, our rock star server asked if Sloan could have the restaurant’s complimentary birthday treat. Heck yeah, we responded. Not long thereafter, our server emerged with most of the restaurant staff behind him (watch it all here).
“Happy Birthday, Sloan,” the server warmly told our daughter as he placed a gigantic sundae in front of her. He then took a step back and addressed everyone in our section of the restaurant. “Attention everybody, it’s Sloan’s birthday, let’s give her a hand!”
The wait staff that stood behind our server clapped with intensity as the diners at surrounding tables joined in. All eyes were now on Sloan. The server leaned in again and asked Sloan if she wanted the “short” or “backward” version of The Onion’s birthday song. Sloan selected the backward version.
The Onion contingent hopped 180 degrees so their backs were facing Sloan and started to sing a happy birthday song that incorporated lots of clapping. At the end of the song, everyone hopped 180 degrees in a dramatic way to once again face Sloan in perfect coordination with the final lyrics of “happy birthday to you.” It was quite the performance.
But for as “extra” as the birthday song was, it didn’t compare to what was sitting in front of Sloan. As the applause faded and the restaurant employees walked away, the birthday girl focused on the giant ice cream sundae in front of her.
In a large glass goblet was a creation of sugary excess. It contained a couple scoops of ice cream, large pieces of confetti cake, an enormous mound of whipped cream, hot fudge, and COTTON CANDY. Yes, cotton candy was added in. The rim of the goblet was coated in more hot fudge and topped with sprinkles. In a final display of sweet insanity, a big carnival sucker was propped up in the whipped cream.
Where to begin? Luckily, Sloan had no trouble coming up with a game plan to devour the sundae. Of course the plan wasn’t perfectly executed because there was no way a single 6-year-old girl could eat the whole thing. Even with the help of her eager brother and grandparents, there was still a lot of the sundae left by the time everyone tapped out.
The crazy thing is that the sundae is free on your birthday. I know some restaurants will offer a complimentary scoop of ice cream or milkshake on a customer’s special day… but something as elaborate as what The Onion offers? It is basically dessert for the entire table and why the sundae runs for $17 on the menu.
Why would The Onion so freely give away $17 sundaes to every person who dines at the restaurant on their birthday? How is that sustainable? Just during our visit, another person in our vicinity was also celebrating her birthday by enjoying a free sundae. Who knows all the other birthday people who came in on that night alone.
My guess is that The Onion manages just fine. In fact, I think the free sundae is probably one of its most valuable marketing tactics. I am sure a lot of people are influenced to celebrate their birthday at The Onion because of the sundae that awaits them. If they bring in an average party with them, the $17 sundae turns into a $150 dinner bill.
Regardless of the intentions behind the free sundae, it does add an exclamation point to a fun dining experience. I thank The Onion staff for making my daughter’s birthday special. Don’t Blink.