Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Don't Give Me This For Dinner
This picture reminds me of the meals I suffered through when I was young, growing up in the days when Saucy Susan shrimp cocktail was considered the height of fine dining, along with a hunk of Velveeta on a Ritz cracker. That bland slab of baked ham, frozen peas heated to lukewarm, and candied yams,glazed beyond recognition, make me shudder with nostalgia. So, that's why I turn into a sulky and bad-tempered child when I'm served a particularly bad meal at a restaurant, something that's happened twice in the past week.
In the first case, I was served up Singapore noodles with so much curry powder dumped on them, my lips turned numb. And in the second case, my onion and cheddar omelette was so oily that it practically slid off the plate.
I was insulted and disgusted. Didn't the chef even look at what he or she was dumping on the plate? Did he or she even taste the food? In both cases, I was tempted to take the plate back to the kitchen and demand exactly that. But reason took over. I complained to the waitresses. One of them shrugged and the other one giggled. Alright. I'm not Gordon Ramsey from "Kitchen Nightmares" and commanded no respect. But being food obsessed, I have to vent somewhere. So here are my 10 Commandments For Restaurant Owners.
1. Don't hover by the cash register. Go into the kitchen and see what your chefs are preparing. If you wouldn't eat it, neither will your customers.
2. Know your menu. Is it authentic? No self-respecting Greek restaurant owner within 100 miles of New York City (the American version of Athens) puts beets on their Greek salad, so don't let your chef in New Hampshire do it.
3. If you own a pizzaria, let's say, don't start out using fresh mozzarella when you first open the restaurant and then switch to the cheap yellow variety that's as glossy as a pool of melted butter. Your customers will notice.
4. Stale bread is still stale bread even if it's hidden at the bottom of the bread basket.
5. If you're an absentee owner, chances are pretty good that your staff will take the night off when you're not there. And your customers won't like it.
6. The time between ordering the food and the arrival of the food is proportional to the quality of the meal.
7. Chefs who love artichokes, for example, should not be allowed to put that ingredient in the majority of the entrees. (To wit, that Italian restaurant in Meredith, New Hampshire, which shall remain nameless.)
8. If the restaurant is called "Cucina Bella," for example,the menu should not offer sushi. (This is actually what happened in a so-called Italian restaurant in the North End in Boston.) In other words, the promise of the name, decor, and menu have to jibe with what is actually delivered to the table.
9. Eggs are eggs, even if they're served with Hollandaise sauce. So, the customer is going to resent it if you charge $12.00 for them. The same is true for pizza. Because most customers have a ceiling price for certain foods,$25.00 for one pizza pie is going to feel like robbery.
10. Customers appreciate a clean restaurant, but we can't stand when the waitstaff vigorously spritz the table right next us while we're eating.
And above all else, respect the customer. If don't, your restaurant will fail. That much is certain.
Photograph "Demon Child" originally uploaded by: Ms.BlueSky on Flickr.com