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The only industry in which doing it right can ruin your restaurant's reputation?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

My little restaurant is a good place, we serve great food, enjoyed by many regulars. Despite being in a tourist destination, we don't believe in milking tourists at inflated prices; we want them to come back next time they're in the area. Yet, of course, we do make mistakes and occasionally get complaints, mostly friendly, and more often than not, things can be "fixed" one way or another.


What really gets to me is complaints about food that is, to all intends and purposes, perfect. Yes, it happens more often than one might think. To put it bluntly: complaints by morons who don't know much about food. "The duck breast is almost raw" (perfectly pink inside). "The pork tenderloin is undercooked" (again, perfectly pink and juicy in the middle). "The veal escalope is raw and inedible" (this 4 mm slice - essentially impossible to undercook - emitted some clear juice). And so on. You know what I mean.


Please give us your stories and discuss this somewhat absurd problem. How do you handle it? Are you in a situation where you might have to "dumb down" your cooking for the lowest common denominator or can you be "arrogant" enough to do it right and at the best possible quality? I know one restaurant where the chef refuses to cook steaks well done and states this openly on the menu. Personally, I don't have the bottle...

post #2 of 12
Thread Starter 

Oh, before someone posts: "Why don't you simply cook things the way people want them?". This is not what I mean. At least in this country, things are served in "the done way" unless otherwise specified. A steak will be served medium, everything else (hopefully) at its best...

post #3 of 12

Oh no Recky....we understand completely what you are saying.


I think it all boils down to peoples' perception of what THEY think is right.

There are those who would never eat pink pork ever.

There are those who would never think of duck breast as anything other than well done.


As in all things food is no different.


It is not for us as cooks and Chefs to judge others eating habits, but it is our job to satisfy them when they choose to patronize our places, and perhaps even have a chance to teach the customer to appreciate good food choices.


So....what if you have to re-cook that pork a little more, or that duck breast.

At least you are giving the customer what they want.


Yes this is putting your last comment into different words.


You say that in your country you serve the food in the "done way."

Would that be universal for all of Germany's people?

Think again.


What about the Chef who does not offer salt or pepper at the table because HE/SHE Chef thinks the food is perfect the way it comes out of the kitchen?  Would a person, who has the temerity to ask for same be labeled a "moron?"


I happy with those patrons who know the difference and be patient and perhaps even helpful to those who are less food savy.  


I have gotten a few people in my time to change from well done to medium because they never took the time to understand why they had such an aversion to seeing bloody meat.

post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 

Chefross, I see where you're coming from, and of course, I'm venting.


I strive to be very accommodating and give people what they want, but there are situations where you have to do things how you think it's best. Yesterday, I had a large group in who had pre-ordered from a custom menu. Amongst the dishes there was a large number of salads with strips of duck breast. I just knew someone would complain, as they weren't foodies or anything, but a work do made up of poeple with all kinds of different expectations. Now, would you cook your duck breast to the lowest common denominator, or would you do the best job you can by serving delicious, succulent pieces of meat? I mean, if the one person (in this case) who complained about the "raw" duck breast had said anything to the waitress just after it had been served, then I could have accommodated her special requirement, but she didn't. Yet she might be the one who now spreads the word about my restaurant serving undercooked food.


I think one might expand this thread to include all manner of unreasonable expectations. What about those customers, for example, that order a starter portion of zucchini fritters or a side salad (and nothing else) and afterwards complain that our portions are too small? I'd love to tell them RTFM (read the f***ing menu), but, naturally, I don't.


You might say it's all about communication, on the menu and boards, between FOH and customers, but this is not always possible. You simply can't please everybody, as the old adage goes. Or can you???

post #5 of 12
Originally Posted by Recky View Post

What really gets to me is complaints about food that is, to all intends and purposes, perfect. Yes, it happens more often than one might think. To put it bluntly: complaints by morons who don't know much about food.

The best way to deal with morons, is to not open your doors. Problem solved.


Lets say you serve 100 guests. One is a moron who doesn't know much about food. One thinks you are God's gift to the culinary world. Who are you going to file away in your memory banks and use to bolster your self image during tough times.


Focus on the dissatisfied and you will be dissatisfied. Focus on the satisfied and...Simple choice for me.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 

Does my original post come across as bitter? Not my intention at all. I'm actually quite happy with the general reception of my cooking and the restaurant. We have a lot of fans. It's just those few unreasonable complaints that really get to me...

post #7 of 12

Not really and I can without a doubt relate, just trying a chamaraderie bump which is something I need at times. chef.gif

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
post #8 of 12

I too know exactly what youre talking about--we pride ourselves on our

experience that has brought us to being what we consider a good, accurate

knowledgable cook, then along comes a customer who obviously doesnt know

steak from hamburger, telling us its wrong when we know its right. Those customers

are all part of the game. But as you say some instances are worse than others,

and times when there IS no dumbing down--not possible.You wanted stories...  


Catered event, some factory dumb-dumb, who'd been a client for 3 years, this was

his thanksgiving day event. I was serving his swing shift--we're talking like midnight

service for 200, straggling in over 2 or 3 hours. One entree' was bone-in roasted chicken parts.

For some reason this manager, everytime we gigged him insisted that the pink around

the leg bone knuckle that seeps a little into the dark meat meant that we were serving

him raw chicken. And there was NO convincing him otherwise. We finally dumped him--

no one wanted to work it--including me. That wont work in a restaurant of course...

catering doth hath its advantages over open doors.

post #9 of 12

Been dealing with it for 45 years.  They are all authorities.Gri and bare it and take the money.

post #10 of 12

 Doing it "right" is doing what the guest wants. It can be annoying but at the end of the day, our job is to make people happy.




Also I would argue against a medium steak being the "done way". For me(and at the restaurant I work) med-rare is the "done way", whatever that means.

post #11 of 12

Tough question. I may go off on a tangent here, but theres a fine line you tread here. You are going to piss people off by making change, or by not making change. The idea is to make mostly the right changes in terms of balancing what the customer wants, what the majority or your clients or the area wants, and what you want, and of course, giving them value for money along the way.


At the end of the day, you really need to cook food that fits into the area you are cooking for. A town or part of the city which is uncultured is not going to appreciate fine dining to make a very obvious example. SO if you are cooking food that fits the area then it's a great start.


We as chefs know probably better than the customer what is good and what isn't. What i mean by that is we do this job for a living, our livelihoods depend on making really good tasting/looking food. Having said that, everyones palate is differant, so straight off the bat it is impossible to please the vast majority of customers. So when a customer complains or approaches me with something about the menu, no matter what i will listen. But that does not mean i willl immediately change that menu item. If they thought it was overseasoned and you thought it was correct then it more than likely is. However, if 4-5 tables have complained that it's overseasoned in the same week, and you think it's alright, perhaps you have a chef palate and you need to rain it back a little.


Trying to break this down into two examples which i feel restuarants fall into that are unseccesful.


Theres a balance you find here, if you do everything the customer wants, then they expect it next time(which leads to horrible floor issues among other things, but not getting into that). So you really need to do that for each table to be fair. So now you need to change the dishes so much in service it becomes hard to get the food out, suiddenly the customers now have something else to complain about - inconsistency and slow food.


If you don't listen at all. Think your all that, and you think you are the god of cookery, every dish is perfect and you think anyone who complains is an idiot. Then you may not be cooking for that laocation, your numbers will dwindle, people will get pissed off and your menu is likely to not evolve with the times at all.







In regards to doneness of steaks. You will always get complaints. It's usually one of three main problems. 


Floor- we need to train(or FOH manager) staff to actually ask these things when taking orders. I always ask if there are any allergies we need to be aware off, and when ordering a protein which isn't obvious then ask how they would like it cooked. 


Chef- Cooking steaks classically isn't easy, especially in a busy restaurant. You have to allow for a lot of things to get them just right, the main one being residual heat and resting. Now i can't comment on your restaurants, but i've seen a lot where the chef thinks they have done a great job, but it falls below par a lot more often than it should. To combat this procedures and training need to be put into place in regards to hot you cook it/rest it/ serve it. Sous vide cooking has taken the guess work out of a lot of these things, the main one being you no longer need to allow for resting times. but it comes with other challenges like getting the protein hot enough for guests and getting a nice char on it. If you are the head chef, you should be constantly checking these things to make sure they are going out correctly. Beleive me, you won't get complaints if the steak is cooked and seasoned well. usually comments like " oh i'd prefer it to be a little more cooked or whatever) 


Last one being menu structure. If you do get a lot of poeple wanting well dowe steaks, put braised beef cheeks on the menu as well as steak, simple but very effective way of making sure they enjoy their meal (again, FOH need to know how to push customers into ordering this as well done).


hope these ramblings help

post #12 of 12

keep in mind also that there is usually a reason behind why someone won't eat pink pork, or red looking chicken. It usually stems from childhood and what their parents have passed down. Good luck trying to change that perception :). A lot of the time someone has had a bad experience with it, getting sick or something from mussells or pork or whatever which i can totally relate too. At the end of the day, it's rarely ever an attack on you personally, so you just need to find some way to deal with it. As nice as it is to get pats on the back, i'd much prefer to hear ALL of the complaints. The food is supposed to be good, so i'm not suprised when they say so. But complaints help me to get better and perfect things, so if they didn't tell me, i'd be going on cooking bad food. Try and look at it as feedback for yourself, turn that so called negative into a postive by looking at the item and making it better if needs be.

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