Last week’s Vanderpump Rules episode, “Mistress In Distress,” was a wild one — between Lisa Vanderpump clocking something weird between Raquel and Sandoval, Ally revealing that she saw them out together (alone) at the Abbey at 1am, and Katie later calling Tom out for it, there was almost too much to take in. But in between an hour’s worth of jaw-dropping moments, there was one scene that uniquely re-irritated me a few times. When Ariana and Katie shared their excitement about signing a lease in a prime location for Something About Her, Tom Sandoval sat by, seemingly unamused and admittedly seething with jealousy. Just see this back-handed compliment in response to their celebration:
“Look, I am so stoked for the girls. I am definitely jealous of how low their rent is, and it’s, like, small, contained, easy. They don’t have any partners. I’m excited, I’m jealous in a good way. I’m envious.”
Why — during an episode in which Schwartz continued to deride Katie, in which Raquel chastised Oliver while secretly sleeping with Sandoval, in which Sandoval continues to have that stupid mustache — did this seemingly innocuous sentence enrage me? Because, as a business owner who knows how difficult it is for women to get ahead in any industry, hearing Sandoval call Katie and Ariana’s endeavor “easy” filled me with rage not seen since Jax roamed the streets in a bulky white sweater.
Before Something About Her even opens, Sandoval is insistent on under-cutting Katie and Ariana’s success. Should the business begin raking in serious profits, Sandoval’s narrative is clear: Something About Her’s success is less worthy and impressive than Schwartz & Sandy’s, because Katie and Ariana had it “easy.”
But are Katie and Ariana on easy street, or are they simply non-delusional about what makes a savvy debut venture in a notoriously difficult industry and city? Looking closer at SAH, Katie and Ariana, unlike Tom and Tom, were smart enough to not leverage their own money in building the business, and smart enough to place said business right in the middle of Vanderpump Square in WeHo. Sandoval is right that they don’t have (or, more appropriately, need) a meddlesome third partner, but he ignores that it’s because they’re starting a manageable venture and not a pipe dream. They still have access to Lisa as their mentor, organic promotion from the show, and the concept itself has legitimate franchise potential if they can pull it off. They also have a brand and strategy that’s rooted in what a square like Greg might call a “competitive analysis.” Katie and Ariana have recruited the interior designer who works on Nancy Meyers films to execute their brand concept, and their booth guy hasn’t quit yet.
Anyone who wasn’t handed their stake in a restaurant because their name is Tom would appreciate that, from a profitability perspective, Katie and Ariana appear to be in a much better position than their Disgusting Brothers counterparts. At the very least, they’re seemingly not pouring five digits of rent into an unfinished space, potentially for months on end, while simultaneously checking out emotionally and relying on their partners and employees to do everything. Even in the worst-case scenario that SAH doesn’t thrive, they can simply end the lease and close the business without scorching their finances and futures.
As anyone who has watched the last two seasons knows, that’s certainly not the case for Tom and Tom. Tom Sandoval wants us to perceive him as an elite businessman and victim in the travesty of Schwartz & Sandy’s delayed opening, when he is, in fact, the perpetrator. He and Schwartz don’t have the experience to execute with multiple distractions pulling them away, and Greg didn’t have the incentive to force a half-assed open and put his reputation as a restaurant operator on the line just because the Toms are bleeding cash. I also strongly suspect that the opening could’ve happened earlier if it weren’t a distant 5th on Sandoval’s priority list, behind 1) fucking Raquel, 2) going to Mexico, 3) his band practice that was scheduled a long time ago, and 4) manicures.
When it comes to the Toms, S9E8, “Pitch Not-So-Perfect,” is much more interesting to re-watch now than it was at the time it aired, because it so clearly shows the ineptitude that leads to season 10’s delayed opening. In season 9, Sandoval petitions Greg for $1,700 light fixtures (he just really cares about the details, he says), and then spells “Schwartz” incorrectly on his sketch of the Schwartz & Sandy’s sign (so on top of those details!). Greg had asked them during a previous episode to brainstorm a brand concept, so they take mushrooms and report back with the concept of a “dive lounge.” By the end of their meeting, Greg says he’d rather partner with Katie, and asks her to help them come up with a mission statement. Despite her legitimate input, Sandoval berates her, and his sidecar, Katie’s own husband, backs him up.
Fast forward to season 10, and we’re now watching Schwartz & Sandy’s struggle to open on time, juxtaposed with the founding of Ariana and Katie’s “small and simple” business. A lemonade stand, practically, right Tom?
You don’t need to tell fans that Kariana is superior, and worthy of all the success that comes their way, but it’s frustrating that it took this long for Vanderpump’s own cast to realize it. Despite all of Tom and Tom’s very public personal and professional flaws, Ariana and Katie were never the frontrunners to become the Vanderpump heirs-apparent to the restaurant business. No matter that both of them had more legitimate restaurant and bartending experience than other cast members — like, say, Tom Schwartz, a 5% owner of TomTom. Frustrating as it might be, though, it’s also not surprising, particularly when you see that this is a problem that extends well beyond West Hollywood.
About a week ago, data went viral showing that among Fortune 500 companies, only about 40 of them are led by women — but those companies have consistently outperformed the male-led companies on average. Also, a new fund of women CEOs has outperformed the S&P 500 since it started in January 2023.
There are many theories as to why this is the case, but mine is that by the time any woman attains such a rare position, she’s been trained to be so incredibly on top of her shit and has worked so exhaustively to correct her flaws (which have been pointed out to her repeatedly) that of course women at that level are poised to outperform their male counterparts on average — especially considering the male CEOs’ average is likely dragged down by some who have made it to the top despite some B+ performances (like expecting someone else to name your drink menu while you were both hooking up with Raquel in Mexico).
Sandoval lucked into the dream of every waiter/actor/model in LA, and it didn’t require any actual skills to get his big break. Astoundingly, Tom Schwartz’s rise is even less meritorious. Unable to make it through the grueling interview process of making one cocktail, Schwartz got to where he is (wherever that may be) entirely because he was Katie’s boyfriend. From there, his ability to charm Lisa Vanderpump landed him in not only a lead spot on the show, but an ownership stake in a West Hollywood restaurant (!) named after him (!!) with established partners doing the actual work (!!!) that is featured weekly on national TV (!!!!). There’s failing up, and then there’s whatever Tom Schwartz is doing. Talk about sleeping your way to the top.
Whether or not the Toms deserve to be there in the first place, the way Schwartz & Sandy’s is developing, it seems clear they don’t deserve to be where they are now. In all fairness, though I do know quite a bit about running a business, I know nothing about restaurants, so who am I to say that starting the next TAO doesn’t hinge on designing the tackiest banquettes east of the PCH?
And then there’s the timeless adage: location, location, location. Something About Her is down the street from Sur, while, as Dylan Hafer pointed out on Mention It All, Schwartz & Sandy’s is at least 30 minutes away from Vanderpump Square. The twin decisions to put their confusingly named establishment (Is it a surf shack? An old school Jewish deli?) at a considerable distance from Sur definitely speaks to the innate draw that the Toms believe they are, and will undoubtedly continue to be. The small radius in West Hollywood around Sur is where fans of the show go to chase their goat cheese ball dreams, but I can’t imagine that contingent crawling across LA in a costly Uber just to glimpse the adulterous clowns whose own business partner predicts they’ll be divorced and living out of their cars in 10 years. Reminiscent of a few prominent men I won’t name, Sandoval seems far less invested in running an enterprise that makes an actual profit than he is in using Schwartz & Sandy’s as this season’s manifestation of his late-stage narcissism. I think I’ve seen this film before, and I didn’t like the ending.
For what it’s worth, the Toms claim that the restaurant is thriving. This makes sense at the moment, given the morbid curiosity we’re all experiencing post-Scandoval. Honestly, even I would probably walk into Schwartz & Sandy’s right now just for kicks. But what’s the plan for five years down the line when there is no novelty to be found in paying for a B+ brunch by Bravo’s biggest purveyors of bullshit?
They were never working toward a long-term business. I can’t conceive of two 40-year-olds more likely to fail the marshmallow test than Schwartz & Sando (at least this name would’ve made sense — no one even calls him Sandy!). Watching them interview staff was like watching two 10th graders attempt to hire cabinet secretaries. They never once thought about what might happen if they acted like shitheads (unfathomable) and fan favor turned against them. Instead, Tom 1 and Tom 2 were so obsessed with going out “on their own without Lisa” (but still with a guy who they met through Lisa), that they continued to leverage their own precarious finances in increasingly D&S ways. I have a feeling this strip-mall wonder might end with them auctioning off the Schwartz & Sandy’s sign to a Vanderpump fan with too much money. On the bright side, at least Sandoval will be able to pay his mom back.
Could Katie and Ariana get by on B+ performances? And, if they could (no), would they ever feel like that was enough? To me, they seem pretty aware that they need to put actual thought and effort into their restaurant, and that no one is coming back for a hyper-artisanal cocktail that resembles Listerine. Obviously, we don’t know how either company will ultimately perform, but between real-world data, and Something About Her business strategy? Never has it been easier to root for Kariana.
Featured image courtesy of Getty Images.