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Much depends on lunch Add to ...

So as not to shake up the staff, or the customers, Shehata agreed to change the menu slowly, over a period of weeks. The chef switch, however, happened instantly. At 10:30 one night, after they'd signed Shehata up, Joe and Gary went out for a late meal-at Canoe-and invited Marco to join them. "When I went to Canoe, I had a feeling that things weren't right," says Marco. He wasn't surprised when they gave him the news.

CANOE: 1:20 p.m. The rush has passed. In the back, as cooks find a moment to sip coffee, Walsh takes delivery of some Dorset lamb from one of his eccentric suppliers. Out front, Scott Hall is mildly annoyed. He has to call a server into the kitchen and ask him to deliver a plate. This tends to happen at the end of lunch, when servers start focusing on other duties. Says Hall: "Even though we only have a table of five and a table of three and a table of two sitting in the restaurant right now-like, come on. We're still in service here!"

Out on the floor, some of the waiters are picking up their credit-card receipts. No server will admit to how much they make from tips at Canoe. Claude calls it "the most taboo subject there is." But the system for distributing the largesse of guests is clear: At the end of each shift, when waiters tally their sales, 6% of the total is automatically deducted and shared on a percentage basis with server assistants, hosts, dishwashers and cooks. That means that when a guest leaves without tipping, which happens, says Claude, "more often than you think," it actually costs waiters money.

That table of three, by the way, is Mr. Dee's table. After another few minutes, they start to stand-Mr. Grey has a plane to catch-and Mr. Dee thanks the server again for the oyster amuse. Nearby, an expensively dressed elderly couple, the final table of two, rise smiling from their seats. The man chucks their waiter affectionately on the shoulder, and lunch is officially done.

VERTICAL: APRIL-JULY, 2006 The patio reconstruction continued into the spring (with all of the outdoor liquor licence delays that entailed), and Gary and Joe's hope of opening their patio by the end of May fizzled. They walked around in the gorgeous sunshine of the first week of June and saw all their competitors' patios open, raking in money. "It was just killing us," remembers Joe. Finally, on Friday, June 16, the staff of Vertical was out on the patio's fresh-laid granite, screwing together the metal furniture Joe and Gary had bought on sale and kept in storage for a year. They scrapped plans to have a dedicated outdoor kitchen, and on June 30 the outdoor bar was leaning against a wall, in pieces, waiting for the plumbing and electrical work to be done. They hoped the building's workmen would be coming by soon. All of which explains why Joe and Gary weren't counting on meeting their revenue projection of $3.5 million for Vertical's first year. They figured they'd be happy if they do $2.5 million, which wouldn't begin to start paying back their 17 silent investors.

As of the beginning of July, lunch on the Vertical patio was still a work in progress. Shehata seemed to be handling things well in the kitchen-Vertical's graceful pastas were charged with flavour-but, on the floor, things weren't yet refined. "Is there supposed to be a hostess outside?" a waiter pleaded one day at a quarter to noon. "What's going on?" And they were still waiting for their first review in one of the major papers, which they were counting on to help drive sales. Joe and Gary decided to start marketing directly to the office towers that surround them, to the people who, although they can look out the window and see their patio, don't even know Vertical exists. As part of that effort, they planned to visit every office in First Canadian Place to drop off biscottis, or something, to announce their presence. Of course, that would be against the building's rules. But screw it, they were going to do it anyway. "You gotta survive," said Joe. "We're not Peter Oliver. We're Joe and Gary."

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