We dine out every evening with rare exception, so I feel qualified to offer some advice to the restaurant industry (oh, yeah, I’m also not a bad consultant):
- Your hostess is the first and last person with whom I interact. If she can’t smile and be pleasant, fire her. Her job is to seat me quickly and cordially, not to do her paperwork or romance the computer.
- “The chef will be preparing” and “the veal will be coming with….” are the wrong tense. The chef is already doing it and the veal is on site. Stop using inflated language as if we’re about to watch Picasso entering his Blue Period.
- I don’t want to be friends with your wait staff. I have friends, and they’re not waiting tables. I don’t care about his or her name and I want to be addressed as “Dr.” or “Mr.” or even “Your eminence.”
- Have the wait staff write things down. Their memorization abilities are irrelevant to me but mistakes in the preparation are highly annoying. What is served by this ridiculous affectation?
- Put salt and pepper on the table. I don’t care if your chef owns Michelin, I’m eating the food and I’ll determine the seasoning. Oh, yes: And bring cream with the coffee, don’t ask me about it and then go fetch it while the coffee cools.
- If you’re going to use words and phrases from other languages or‚most likely, merely made up, save your breath. I lose interest with: “Our amuse bouche is crescent of modicule, seasoned with feulli pollard, and served on an embodiment of pureed haut lomatta.” In fact, I’m afraid to eat that.
- Keep your tables sufficiently distant so that we can converse without screaming.
- Abandon the phrase, “Are we still enjoying that?” as the wait staff looms over emptying plates deciding whether or not to remove them. And understand the etiquette even a busser should know: You don’t remove one person’s plate, you remove all plates only when the last person at the table is done with the dish.
- If you’re going to be more than 10 minutes late seating me with a reservation, buy me a drink and apologize. If you dare to say, “Sorry, we’re very busy,” I won’t be back.
- If you have your server say something clever and alluring about your desserts and after-dinner drinks, you’ll improve those high-margin sales by 20% or more.
- Learn the language. “Smothered onions” and “Grandmothers sauce” show a deficiency which is disturbing among people reading labels of ingredients in the kitchen.
- Change your menu frequently. Specials are nice, but there’s too much competition out there to have a static set of offerings.
- Create and maintain a decent wine list. Don’t be idiosyncratic. Forty bottles of obscure Oregon pinot noir vineyards isn’t a wine list, it’s Russian Roulette.
- Learn to pronounce what you’re serving. Gnocchi is pronounced “nyoo-kee,” not “g-nocchi-ee” or a similar uninformed variant.
By the way, if you use a parking valet service, these people should greet you cordially, open the door for the passenger, and have umbrellas when it rains.
This is just my free advice. Think of how well you’d do if you hired me (or offered me a free meal).
© Alan Weiss 2017