Titanic Menu up for Auction; Restaurant Critic Reveals His Identity; What Food Woolf Eats to Fuel Up; Charlie Trotter’s Thoughtful Future; Sommeliers as Stars

Jack Dawson and friend Fabrizio rejoice at the news that roast beef is on the lunch menu.

Dining and food news…

* Steak your claim. Ladies, if you’re in the UK on February 29th, pop the question with a steak. Literally. [NewsLite]

* Iceberg lettuce, right ahead. A menu from the ill-fated Titanic is up for auction. [ThisIsWiltshire.co.uk]

* When cigarettes were on the menu. Did the notice read, “The consumption of cigarettes may increase your risk of death”? [Gothamist]

* Anonymous no more. Why Chicago Tribune restaurant critic unmasked himself to review Next. [Chicago Tribune]

* Fuel Woolf. How restaurant service expert Brooke Burton, aka Food Woolf, fuels up for long days on the job. [Food Woolf]

* Goodbye, knife kit. Hello, book bag. Charlie Trotter’s second act involves earning a Master’s in philosophy. [Washington Post]

* Pour some sugar on sommies. Wine gurus are becoming restaurant rock stars. [Wall Street Journal]

* It pays to be famous. Going on TV is really good for your culinary career. [Boston.com]

* Horse meat. Let’s hope it’s never what’s for dinner. [River Front Times]


Casual Dining vs. Careless Service: A G-Chat with Service Coach Brooke Burton

Service coach Brooke Burton also writes the popular Food Woolf blog.


Brooke Burton is a Los Angeles-based service coach, with more than 20 years’ restaurant experience, who specializes in diner retention. Restaurant clients include Luna ParkSotto, and The Spice Table, We G-chatted recently regarding Alan Richman’s recent remarks about how the level of service at very hip restaurants seems to be slipping.

me: Hi Brooke!

Brooke: Hi Caroline. It’s an honor to speak with you today about a subject that’s near and dear to my heart!

me: So, you’ve heard about the kerfuffle that restaurant critic Alan Richman had at  a restaurant in New York recently that spawned an interview with Grub Street in which he accuses some unnamed-but-presumably-hip NYC restaurants of taking casual dining a bridge too far by providing careless service. I’ve seen some of this, but, thankfully, not at restaurants on OpenTable. Are you seeing any of that on the West Coast?

Brooke: Oh, absolutely. Here’s the thing — I think a lot of restaurant owners who open casual restaurants assume that giving great service in a casual way is easy. But the thing is, hospitality is an EXTREMELY difficult thing to do. No matter how casual the concept. Giving great service is an art form.

me: So, I have some theories as to the root of the problem. One is that maybe restaurant owners are hiring people who are interesting and bright, but they do not have affinity for hospitality. So, even if they fit the vibe of a restaurant, they could lack the warmth and hop-to-it-tiveness that makes great servers?

Brooke: Maybe. Hiring is key to the success of any business. But, it’s up to the owners to define what great service is, create clear expectations, and teach their staff the tools they need to give great service. Hospitality may come naturally in some, but it takes constant nurturing to grow it.

me: It’s really a customer service job at its core…

Brooke: Removing your ego — as a business practice — is not an easy concept for anyone to do.

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