Waiter, I Can’t Hear My Food: Survival Tips for Noisy Restaurants #hackdining

restaurant, food, dining

So, you recently enjoyed a tasty meal at a noisy, hip restaurant only when you were headed home you noticed your ears and head were throbbing leaving you wondering if you had just dined at an industrial construction site? Don’t worry, you haven’t suddenly morphed into your grandparents (unless you’re also dining at 4:30PM), and you probably aren’t imagining things either. You’ve just entered the increasingly common, ear-splitting world of high-volume modern fine dining.

Following of the trend that accompanied the California cuisine wave of the 80’s and 90’s, more and more fine dining places have broken with tradition and are jettisoning stuffy settings and dress codes while focusing their energy on exceptional food. Now you can eat like a VIP but still wear jeans. The casual vibe has moved from décors to DJs.

As chef-proprietors have become the norm, they also bring their sensibility from the kitchen to the front of the house. The thinking is if their Spotify playlist is good enough for the back, it is good enough for the dining room. And the volumes can be ear shattering. While it’s nice to no longer have to wear a tie to dinner, I might like to hear from my date before paying the check.

Part of this trend is economics: an environment of loud music creates a party-like atmosphere and, it turns out, is a proven method to boost alcohol sales. More booze, more profits. A collateral effect is that it also tends to drive customers out faster… tables turn quicker, more profit.

So, what to do about noisy restaurants? Unless you’re regularly packing ear plugs, here are some more practical tips that might help:

1. Do some homework. If you’re unsure about your destination’s atmosphere and you need a place with a quiet vibe, do some research on what kind of acoustic environment to expect; reading through recent reviews on OpenTable is a good place to start. You may not mind a full-on raucous hoopla on a casual night out with some friends. But if you are taking out your future in-laws for the first time, you’d be well advised to head someplace you can savor their every

2. Share your beef. If you find yourself sitting inside a human snare drum, don’t be afraid to ask the management to adjust the volume. Just know that they may well resist. One critically-acclaimed, but infamously cacophonous Italian eatery has been known to inform their customers that neither the music selection nor the decibel level are negotiable and have gone so far to nudge their diners to head elsewhere if it’s not to their liking. Other, less rigid restaurants, however, typically strive to keep their customers happy and may bend to accommodate your polite request.Continue Reading

Experts Predict the Top Restaurant Industry Trends for 2016

 

Restaurant Trends for 2016

It’s a new year, and there’s no shortage of new challenges and opportunities for the restaurant industry. From minimum wage hikes and tech innovations to guests’ evolving tastes and preferences, it seems restaurants are constantly breaking new ground to stay current in an ever-competitive landscape.

We asked some of the top chefs, restaurateurs, and experts in the industry to share their predictions for restaurants in the year ahead. Here are the restaurant industry trends for 2016 that they expect to see in food, drinks, business, and beyond (and take a look back at last year’s predictions to see where experts got it right).

BUSINESS BREAKTHROUGHS

Eamon Rockey“We will see the ground-up restructuring of restaurants as we know it. There are major changes ahead for restaurants legislatively, and with technology, labor, tipping, etc., restaurants will have to rethink operations and how they take care of their customers across the board.”

— Eamon Rockey, General Manager, Betony

Laws and regulations have never been more important to the restaurant industry, changing the way businesses fundamentally operate. Kevin Boehm, Co-Founder of Boka Restaurant Group, predicts that 2016 will be an experimental year for the economic framework for restaurants. “From increased kitchen pay to tipping structures to the inevitable menu cost inflation, we will all be keeping a close eye on what works and what doesn’t,” he says.

Maureen Cushing, Director of IT at Union Square Hospitality Group, says that identifying back-of-house efficiencies will be a major priority for her team in the coming year.

Maureen Cushing“We are always looking for ways to control costs. Scheduling software is something we implemented in 2015, and integrating it with real-time data to control payroll expenses is a focus for 2016. Purchasing software is critical, but the challenge of all businesses is maintaining the recipes for accurate costs.”

— Maureen Cushing, Director of IT, Union Square Hospitality Group

Anthony Rudolf, Founder of Journee, a community for restaurant professionals, sees a future of gratitude over gratuity. “Service included is here to stay,” he says. “That’s a great thing! While guests may be resistant at first, once they understand that the perceived power of tipping was only an illusion, they will realize that leaving behind their gratitude instead of their gratuity is far more satisfying and productive to everyone. Even more so is honest feedback provided in the moment, whether positive or negative.”

Sabato Sagaria, Chief Restaurant Officer at Union Square Hospitality Group, agrees that tipping is on its way out.

As the cost of doing business continues to rise around the country, the traditional model of tipping will further fuel the disparity between dining room teams/culinary teams and make it more of a financial hardship to enter into management,” he predicts. “As a result, more restaurants at varying price points will shift to an all-inclusive pricing model in order to fairly compensate the ENTIRE team, in turn providing more inspiration for others to follow and bring us one year closer to saying… ‘Remember when we used to tip?'”

ADVOCACY

Erin Fairbanks“We’re gonna get more political! 2016 will be a huge election cycle and so many of the core policy issues facing the restaurant industry are influenced, mandated, or stymied by our elected offices (think mandatory minimum wage, tipping laws, alcohol sales and distribution). I think industry leaders and trade groups will be looking to advocate for enhancements in the dining/beverage sector.”

— Erin Fairbanks, Executive Director, Heritage Radio Network

Leaders in the industry are using their voices to raise awareness and protect their interests. Paul Kahan, Executive Chef and Owner at One Off Hospitality Group, adds that chefs play a particularly important role in fighting for change.

“I would hope that 2016 would be the decline of the celebrity chef, and the rise of the chef as a contributor to food education and advocacy,” he says. “The only way we can institute change in our country is through younger generations.”

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Tweet of the Week: Setting the Table with OpenTable

We were thrilled to host hospitality expert and restaurateur Danny Meyer of Union Square Hospitality Group last week. Mr. Meyer, an OpenTable board member, is the author of Setting the Table, a book that has quickly become the industry guidebook for restaurant professionals. It was a happy coincidence, then, that restaurateur Alex Wrethman of Charlotte’s Table in London recently sent a tweet showing how much he and his staff have taken Mr. Meyer’s advice to “Be the agent!” to heart. Thanks for sharing this tweet, Alex. We love the placement of your reminder, by the way. Diners in search of amazing hospitality can be sure to find it at Charlotte’s Table — and at any of Mr. Meyer’s establishments, naturally.

Tweet-of-Week-120913

 

The Fallacy of Food Faux Pas, or Why Restaurants Really Want You to Have It Your Way

Candy-Bar-ForkI love the folks over at Thrillist, but this week they published a list of seven food faux pas that makes my blood positively boil. Their round up of seven deadly culinary sins includes so-called dictums like, “Don’t order a steak well-done, anywhere.” Or, don’t ever put ketchup on a hot dog in Chicago. WHAT?!

Really, though, here’s what: When you’re paying for a meal — or a hot dog or a cup of coffee or a piece of streetza — you can enjoy it however you please. Let me repeat: HOWEVER YOU PLEASE. Dunk your ‘dog in ketchup. Ask for your steak charred to a flaming crisp. Heck, eat your candy bar with a knife and fork if that’s what floats your boat. Continue Reading