For this installment of Share Plate, I asked my friends who run kitchens and dining rooms what aspects of the hospitality industry they are “completely over.” As I was preparing to write this little blurb, Zagat.com ran a hot little item titled “10 Most Controversial Restaurant Policies”, which is a nice counterpoint to check out, too.
The number one issue noted by my cabal of restaurateurs, by a landslide, is guests who modify the menu. As one downtown Los Angeles general manager puts it:
“I’m officially over guests modifying a dish beyond recognition….And you should never be allowed to modify happy hour.”
The inability to modify the menu is one of the things that annoys guests the most, though. So….
Why is it so terrible?
Is it really that big a deal to just make the burger with Bleu Cheese rather than Swiss?
But suppose the burger is coming from the grill station on the line in the kitchen. The grill station does not have Bleu Cheese on it, the pantry station does. So, someone has to get the cheese from the pantry, to get it to the grill cook. And both the pantry cook and the grill cook have seven tickets in front of them, one of which is a table of 17 on a set menu. Somehow in the ensuing chaos, either the special order ticket, or the tickets after the special ticket, are going to wait while one of the cooks leaves their station to rummage around for said cheese.
In that case, yes, it is a terrible request. It’s not so much that chefs don’t want you to enjoy your meal (though it is worth noting that there are usually reasons a chef chooses to serve a dish a certain way), it’s more about logistics and being able to maintain a high level of service. About 60% of the time the guests don’t like the modified dish anyway, and the other guests at their table are annoyed that they had to wait. As a dining room manager, all of this sounds like things you are now going to have to comp.
Other hot button issues were:
- Using a steak knife as a butter knife, when both are on the table. The server who placed the steak knife believes that this table has everything they need for their entree course before going to take the order on her next table, only to waved down by the first table because they now need another knife.
- Entitled servers. One prolific special events manager says, “I’m over pretentious serving and bar staff… ” This is a struggle for guests and operators alike; it’s a human industry, and humans can be….. variable. Servers that appear at your table to feel entitled to a 20% gratuity are also the staff that appear to feel entitled to the best shifts, the best stations, and the best parties, regardless of their abilities to provide good service or be a team player. The bearded, arm-banded bartender who sneers when you order anything that’s not artisanal gin is also the staff member that will go on vacation witouth getting hs shifts covered…Not all servers display an attitude of entitlement, but those that do…. are seriously annoying.
- Impossible requests: From a fine dining server: “requests like a “quiet booth/table” on a Saturday night. That’s never going to happen … it’s Saturday night! Typically it’s the busiest night of the week. How are we suppose to control the people sitting next to you, they too are out, spending money & have a right to enjoy the night as they see fit.”
And a nice one to end on, from a director of operations and restaurant consultant:
“I could go on and on here, from servers’ feelings of entitlement to a 20%+ tip just for serving food at a minimal service level, to guests’ feelings of entitlement to order anything they want from a menu and their dismay when they are charged for extra food or for their substitutions, and on to bloggers who are really just opinionated diners who don’t know the industry that steal time and attention away in the blogoshpere from highly knowledgable and greatly experienced restaurant people such as Mary King.”