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Am I being too harsh? - Page 2

post #31 of 44
A couple of comments:

First, I laughed when I read your story about the ice cream flavors since I had that exact same thing happen to me...with a twist. The dessert was the restaurant's housemade three scoops of different sorbets. When I asked the server for the flavors, he left to ask somebody. It seriously took five minutes to get back to me. And then, he could only remember the flavors of two of the scoops. He told me, "This one is prickly pair. This one is mango." He started to walk away, and I asked him about the third scoop. He literally said, "Um...er...[looks at the color of the scoop]....raspberry." We both knew it wasn't raspberry. And he knew that I knew that it wasn't raspberry. And he knew that I knew that he didn't know what the flavor was. We shared an awkward moment of silence, and we both kept out mouths shut. But at least I got a fun story out of it though. :)

Second, I think your reaction and frustration was perfectly fine. Service has gone down, and far too often, too many people try to belittle a person's aggravation of a poor dining experience. This negative reaction to a person sharing a poor dining experience only leads to more apathy toward the lack of good service and/or feeds the mediocre-service-beast. In other words, if we don't feel aggravated by poor service, or if we consciously ignore the missed details (like not knowing an ice cream flavor) then we allow poor service to become commonplace.

After sharing poor experiences, I have been told: "Get over it" or "it was only a [insert any adjective here for the restaurant] restaurant." And, to be honest, it made me not want to share poor experiences anymore. If so many people (including culinary professionals) want to excuse poor service, then what is the point of sharing?

But I think that you sharing your poor dining experiences--ESPECIALLY in these forums dedicated to the culinary world--shows how passionate you are about food and dining. Further, it shows that you personally pay attention to the details and that you give a darn about the industry and the direction it is heading. And, such expectations should make every cheftalk visitor look for and expect a certain level of standards from their own dining experiences.

The fact is, if YOU (Nicko) felt that something was amiss with a dining experience, then you probably don't even have to ask us for confirmation because I think most of the readers/poster on these boards would agree with you. Thanks for sharing!
post #32 of 44
In the 6 months I've been in Japan, I've learned some rather tough lesson about service quality. The service in our local corner joint, essentially a small local chain Denny's sort of place (but Japanese food), is better than at almost anywhere I have ever eaten in the U.S. -- and I have eaten very high-end periodically for 20 years. My parents love to go out to eat, in Boston and New York mostly, and I've eaten at a great many distinguished places. Very few of them can match our local corner joint. Then there are the better places here, which just blow everything else out of the water. I was stunned to learn that when you eat a $200 meal at a kaiseki place, which I'd compare to an equally-priced (or more!) meal in New York's finest, the chef does 95% of the service himself. And there is no tipping. And usually tax is included in the stated price. Liquor of all kinds is minimally above market price.

I know a fair bit about the food industry, though I've never worked in it -- I'm an academic, and I read a lot, and talk to a lot of people, and so on. Here's my little suggestion for you pros.

Fire all your front of house except the front manager, and sommelier if you have one and he or she is good. Hire cooks instead. Rotate your cooks: they will work front, line, dishwashing, garde manger, etc., in rotation. Pool all tips evenly, or else raise your prices 15% and request -- and insist if need be -- that people don't tip.

Why wouldn't it work? Because most cooks in the U.S. industry aren't the most front-presentable people, and they sneer at that end of the business. So what are they teaching the waitstaff?

Yes, the waitstaff these days are unprofessional louts who don't give an expletive. Okay, and the cooks? Do they? Fine: let them do the work. Lord knows cooks aren't paid all that much, and if you just pool tips or jack prices and refuse tips it'll come out much the same.

If everyone did this, service would transform dramatically. Your waiter would most certainly know what the dishes were: he or she would have made them last night. Your waiter would send back dishes that weren't right. Your waiter could do some tableside work -- carving, garnishing, etc., because that's a skill he or she has got. And your cooks would know every inch of the line and indeed the business.

Will it happen? Probably not. But somebody explain to me, honestly, why it cannot be done.

Explain to me too why the New York Times ran an article recently about a cool new trend where -- gasp! -- the chef actually cooks your food and is present at service! OMG! Well, where else should he or she be? Why did I come to his or her restaurant otherwise? If the place is ultra-professional like the Plaza Athenee in the day, you wouldn't be able to tell who was and wasn't present: every part would be a perfectly smooth-running machine. But that's not the case.

How about the chef and the line cook and serve the food and fire everyone else. Serve at a bar. Put the hotpoints behind glass or something -- or behind a wall if you prefer -- but put everything else behind the bar and do it where everyone can see. Talk to your guests, serve them yourself, and entertain them with your food and your manner. Isn't that a nice pipe dream? It'd for sure solve the problems Nicko and others are describing, don't you think?
post #33 of 44
you've essentially discribed Atlantico minibar.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #34 of 44
Aha! I did wonder, from your remarks in the thread about 25-course meals.

So why don't I see this more often? Or is it on the rise?
post #35 of 44
it's on the rise, but if you read the others responses you'll get a sense of the uphill battle those places have.....
The few that are serving food in that manner are typically booked far in advance....there is at this time more demand than places yet again many of us consider this a novel way of eating and would not necessarily have it as a regular dining venue.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #36 of 44
The thing I don't understand is that line cooks aren't especially well paid. Waiters, because of the tip system, are often paid better. Why not fire the waiters, replace them with line cooks, jack prices 10% and flatly refuse all tips, then rotate everyone through the entire establishment? You ought to come out even, or even slightly ahead, in monetary terms alone. And your cooks, the ones who move on and up, will be extraordinarily well-trained in all aspects of the business. To top it off, you eliminate the need for any front-of-house except a front manager, and he or she with the exec carry 99% of the management/organization headaches, for which they get paid.

The only difference between this system and the kaiseki restaurants in Kyoto is that they also have a small coterie of well-paid and highly-trained waitresses, dressed in kimono, who serve food to large parties. But some places hire these ladies per diem and do most service at a bar. And in America, nobody particularly expects refined, ultra-fastidious ladies to serve them in this kind of way, so I don't think anyone would miss it.

'Course, the other slick thing the kaiseki places do is to put everything on prix-fixe, by reservation only, at least 24 hours in advance. You call, they ask you how much you want to spend per person (e.g. $50, $75, $100, or choose something more if you like), and you book. When you show up, they have a set menu at that price and you eat it, and they (the cooks) serve it. If nobody books for Tuesday, they buy no food. Nothing sits in a walk-in except stuff that really can take it. Only one reservation for Tuesday? Fine, only the chef and the minimum necessary personnel are on that day, and everyone else gets vacation -- paid, usually, because it's an unusual thing. Other than that, everyone's on every day, with a day off per week but a sort of "on-call" policy in case there's a huge demand -- which again will be known at least 24 hours in advance. The result? No food goes to waste. Liquor is ordered at the table, but it keeps.

If I were insane enough to open a restaurant, I'd do it this way. I bet I'd keep my overhead well down, too. And I'd keep it small, and just add people as demand rose, and go from there. Stop when I can't hire any more people because of space in the kitchen. Fortunately, I'm not that nuts.
post #37 of 44
kinda like catering.....set menu, you know how many will show.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #38 of 44

Its not a Hooters

I agree, the dominating server really irritates me when I went to spend time with someone else. Very frustrating. I have actually just said, "I don't want to be rude but I haven't seen so and so for a long time and I am looking forward to a nice conversation with them" thanks.
Source for the best butchers block.
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Source for the best butchers block.
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post #39 of 44
I keep thinking about this comment, and it just keeps hitting me. What I'm talking about -- kaiseki on its home turf in Kyoto -- it's catering, but the location is the restaurant. Every menu is tweaked to the diners: if you call, one thing they often ask is if you hate something or can't eat something. They're not worried about allergies or the like, though certainly if you have them they want to know, but if you really hate tuna they're not going to serve it to you. They make a meal for you. The restaurant is small: a straight-up kaiseki place has a bar about 10-20 seats long, and they have one seating, because it takes hours. They also have a few private rooms, seating another 10-20 each, but all waitstaff there are per diem -- remember, it's planned in advance.

So the principle is, buy only what you need to serve tonight, hire only who you need to do it, charge like in New York but with no tips. Result: fabulous food, catered to the diners, personal service, cost lower than NY (because no tip!). And, to add on, the chef himself (at a kaiseki place, always male, unfortunately) will serve and chat at the bar.

Shroomie, do it. You know you can, right? Cater without onsite problems? Pick and choose what you serve when? C'mon -- this is a goldmine for someone like you. Open "Shrooms." 24 hours reservation required, all dinners involve mushrooms, you set the menu, price is fixed, it's all in your hands. Can't that work? I tell you, it sure as heck does in Japan -- that's the BIG bucks places, in a nutshell.
post #40 of 44
Myself, my spouse and my daughter (the pastry chef) operate a lil fine dining restaurant that is reservation only, 6 tables with a maximum seating capacity of 30. I write my menu every week, ask customers about food preferences and allergies and we cook, serve and do all the side work. Right now we are serving a 6 course mostly set price fixe meal. we have been open for 6 months and the reception has been very well received. We also seat every table only once per night- so no rushing to turn the table over, so the pace is relaxed.
And since I live out in rural Idaho, its good to hear that places like mine in LA and NYC are also trying to keep up!
The name of the restaurant is... The Dining Room.
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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post #41 of 44
My take on RUDE is, it doesn't work in my restaurant or when I go to any other restaurant. In my restaurant my employees are hired knowing they are to be treated with respect by our employees and customers. If someone doesn't respect my employees, (they are gone). We don't put up with stupid. If my employee is RUDE or treats someone unrespectful (they are gone). We don't put up with stupid.
Its not up to me to train someone elses employees, if someone ever treated me or anyone in my party RUDE or disrespectful, I would have the manager take care of the problem. If I ever had to replace a server at a table because of rudeness in my restaurant, I would serve the table myself and write my employee his/her last paycheck.
A tip is for services rendered, There is a difference between giving service and just being the food pick-up delivery person. If you don't have people asking for a special waiter/waitress in your restaurant, they just may not be that special.
I asked my eigth year old this question, her answer was, its not nice to be rude PAPA. I would tell her/him to be nice. out of the mouth of babes. I get nothing but the untainted truth from her..............take care..........Bill
post #42 of 44
Thread Starter 
I don't think that having the chef and cooks serve the food is so impossible if you have a smaller table count. There is a great restaurant in Chicago that has made a lot of press Schwa Schwa Restaurant in Chicago.

My wife and I had a fantastic meal here and the chef and sous chef served every dish. No servers or maiter d.

The best service I have ever had in Chicago was at Tru which I have mentioned before. And, for the money you pay it should be.

Chris, the quality of service in Japan sounds very much like the service I have experienced in France. There is such a pride in offering not good but great service. The servers truly take serving the food to a very high level of quality. It is not a job but a craft and they take it very seriously.

One of the big problems in the US is that being a waiter/server is not a respected profession. It is almost always looked at as a means to another path in life. In France other countries it is not uncommon for a person to be a server at a high end restaurant and support their family.
Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
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Thanks,

Nicko 
ChefTalk.com Founder
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking
Bacon (I made)
(26 photos)
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post #43 of 44
I agree on the poor service. Even more so, I don't tip if the service was poor. Then some idiot takes offense and expects the tips as some sort of entitlement.
post #44 of 44
Nicko, I have never had bad service when served by a Chef, or owner. The thing is, if my employees do wrong to a customer, its my falt. If I have the chance to do something about it, it will be taken care of, one way or another. In any large restaurant, a waiter could be replaced by a head waiter, dinning room managers, owner, chef,whatever. This would give me a chance to tell the customer, we care about your needs and you are important to us. It would also send a loud message to the other servers. Would you want to be the server replaced by the owner, Chef, head waiter????????...??? I wouldn't..................Take care................Bill
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