“Is Pepsi okay?” are not the words serious Coca-Cola drinkers want to hear in restaurants. So when a Coke-themed diner switched to Pepsi, customers like Oceanside resident Cheri Noel were “not happy.”
Last week Noel went into one of her favorite places to eat: the popular Pit Stop Diner at the corner of Mission Road and El Camino Real. The diner’s walls are covered with road signs, license plates, and hubcaps. A restored 1962 Chrysler Imperial sits in the middle of the restaurant, and a whole wall is dedicated to Coca-Cola signage, right above the — now — two Pepsi machines.
“I paid for my meal, turned to get my drink, and exclaimed, ‘What happened?!’ when I saw the Pepsi machines,” said Noel. “I was immediately asked if I wanted my money back, as if they have been having to offer that a lot.”
Noel, who has a whole room in her home dedicated to Coke memorabilia (she also owns stock in Coca-Cola), refuses to drink Pepsi.
Steve Amster, owner of Garden State Bagels in Carlsbad and Encinitas, says Noel isn't the only one.
“In 30 years in business, no one has ever walked in and asked for a glass of Pepsi. No one!” Amster replied when asked why he sells Coke instead of Pepsi.
Oceanside’s 101 Bagels owner Rocky Rabadia says Pepsi gave him more options when he opened his store last year. He needed a machine set up within two weeks and Coke couldn’t accommodate him. “In hindsight, I wish I had gone with Coke because it’s more well-known,” he said.
However a manager of Carlsbad’s Miguel’s Cocina restaurant sang the praises of Pepsi: “When we need service, they are here within two hours,” he said. The reason his company’s 18-chain restaurants all serve Pepsi products, “Coke may not come until the next day.”
The Pit Stop’s manager, Sotirios, says the eight-year-old restaurant recently changed hands. The reason for the switch to Pepsi: “The new owners tried to get Coke to add icemakers to their machines and they wouldn’t,” said Sotirios. He also indicated Pepsi offers more incentives and rebates to the restaurant owners than Coke.
He said he has had several customers complain. “I would prefer we had Coke,” said Sotirios. “But people have to decide what makes them happy.”