It’s the Little Things: 10 Thoughtful Restaurant Amenities #hackdining

Michelin-level food, stellar service, or awe-inspiring settings can go a long way to creating a memorable meal. However, sometimes it’s the littlest touches that make the biggest impact. Here are 10 thoughtful restaurant amenities that help diners enjoy a next level experience.

Madison, San Diego, California
Situated in the trendy University Height’s neighborhood, the sleek Mediterranean eatery boasts a gorgeous cedar-lined patio. On evenings when the temperatures dip, guests dining al fresco can request one of the monogrammed fleece blankets. As they snuggle up, we recommend ordering another round of well-executed cocktails – such as the View From Above with rye and ancho chili liqueur – to help ward off the chill. Make a reservation at Madison.

Thoughtful restaurant amenities

La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, San Francisco, California
A lot of restaurants have valet parking. But this waterfront eatery is one of the few to offer free valet parking — for diners’ boats. The dock and dine perk allows waterborne guests to enjoy a seamless experience from the decks of their yachts to the restaurant’s patio. Make a reservation at La Mar Cebicheria Peruana.

Thoughtful restaurant amenities

Besito, Burlington, Massachusetts
There are amenities galore at this Mexican restaurant. Little diners are given complimentary banana and avocado when they arrive, giving them something to nosh on while their parents peruse the menus. During the summer months, outdoor tables are stocked with sunglass cleaning wipes and treat/water bowls for dogs. And guests are sent home with still warm, freshly made churros at the end of their meal. The only perk we can’t guarantee is a besito (little kiss). Make a reservation at Besito.

Thoughtful Restaurant Amenities

Stars, Chatham, Massachusetts
Forgot your glasses at home, so now you can’t read the menu? Never fear, there’s an array of Moscot glasses on hand in a variety of prescriptions and styles. Once the menu is in focus, we recommend the butter poached lobster and the oyster stew topped with pork belly and caviar. Make a reservation at Stars.

Thoughtful restaurant amenities

Swift & Sons, Chicago, Illinois
Want tickets to the sold out Kanye West concert happening that night? Forget to bring flowers to your anniversary dinner? Looking to get into an exclusive speakeasy for post-dinner drinks? The in-house concierge can help with all these problems and more. Frankly, we wish they were available to tag along with us on all our nights out on the town. Make a reservation at Swift & Sons.

Thoughtful restaurant amenitiesContinue Reading

You Got (Dis)Served: 7 Signs You’re Receiving Bad Restaurant Service #hackdining

Signs you're receiving bad restaurant service

Alton Brown once said, “Good service can save a bad meal, but there is no level of food that can save bad service.” Oftentimes the errors can be glaring, but sometimes the slights to the guest are more subtle. So what are the signs you’re receiving bad restaurant service?

To find out, we spoke to front-of-house all-star William Washington. A managing partner at Farmers Fishers Bakers in Washington, D.C., he’s a veteran of The Source by Wolfgang Puck, Blue Duck Tavern, and the Inn at Little Washington. He clued us into seven common service slip-ups that can turn what should have been a great meal into an unforgettable disaster.

You’re not seated at the time of your reservation.

“After five minutes of waiting for your table, it’s okay to check in with the host to make sure you’re on their radar, but this doesn’t mean you should be complaining. If they’re 15 minutes behind schedule, it’s more than reasonable to ask for a manager. They should do something for you at that point – at the very least an apology, but maybe a drink, too. At 30 minutes you have a right to be infuriated and the restaurant should definitely do something for you.”

A staff member doesn’t acknowledge you when you’re seated.

“Someone should greet you within two to three minutes of you arriving at your table. Within five minutes, you should have a server getting your drink order and addressing any issues with the table or the experience. You don’t have the right to ask them to change the music necessarily, but if it’s a hot summer night and you’re sweating, you can ask them to check to see if air conditioning is working.”

You don’t have a drink in hand within 10 minutes.

“And it should only take that long for craft cocktails. Also, the sommelier should visit the table while you still have the wine list open – not after you’ve ordered.”

You’re not noshing on appetizers within 15 minutes.

“Unless it’s something convoluted. In that case, a server should tell you up front, ‘The shrimp soufflé takes extra time, so please be aware.’ If you only order mains, they should be to you within 20 minutes.”Continue Reading

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).


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?'”


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.”

Continue Reading