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

2016 James Beard Award Semifinalists: Chefs + Restaurants

JBF

It’s awards season once again, and we couldn’t be more excited for the upcoming 2016 James Beard Foundation Awards. The list of semifinalists for nominations was recently released and it reads like a who’s who of American cooking (you can click here for a full list of nominated chefs, restaurants, and restaurateurs, including the extensive regional nominations). The nominees will be revealed on March 15th. Winners will be announced on May 2nd at the awards ceremony, which will be held in Chicago. Cheers to all the 2016 James Beard Award semifinalists — we hope you make the final list of nominees!

Semifinalists include:

Best New Restaurant
Alter, Miami, Florida
Bardot Brasserie-Aria, Las Vegas, Nevada
The Blanchard, Chicago, Illinois
Bracero Cocina, San Diego, California
Cassia, Santa Monica, California
Coquine, Portland, Oregon
The Dabney, Washington, D.C.
Eloisa, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Girin Steakhouse & Ssam Bar, Seattle, Washington
Helen Greek Food and Wine, Houston, Texas
INTRO, Chicago, Illinois
Kinship, Washington, D.C.
Morcilla, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Público, St. Louis, Missouri
Shaya, New Orleans, Louisiana
Shepard, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Outstanding Restaurant
A.O.C., Los Angeles, California
Acquerello, San Francisco, California
Bluestem, Kansas City, Missouri
Craft, New York, New York
Fore Street, Portland, Maine
Foreign Cinema, San Francisco, California
Fork, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder, Colorado
Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham, Alabama
Jaleo, Washington, D.C.
Lark, Seattle, Washington
Pizzeria Bianco, Phoenix, Arizona
Providence, Los Angeles, California
Rasika, Washington, D.C.
The Spotted Pig, New York, New York

Outstanding Service
Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel, Carmel, California
Bacchanalia, Atlanta, Georgia
Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, New York
Café Juanita, Kirkland, Washington
Charleston Grill, Charleston, South Carolina
Eleven Madison Park, New York, New York
L’Espalier, Boston Massachusetts
Marcel’s by Robert Wiedmaier, Washington, D.C.
North Pond, Chicago, Illinois
The Pass, Houston, Texas
Quince, San Francisco, California
Restaurant August, New Orleans, Louisiana
Saam at the Bazaar by José Andrés, Beverly Hills, California
Saison, San Francisco, California
Topolobampo, Chicago, Illinois
Zahav, Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaContinue 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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Let’s Begin Dinner By Carb Loading: A Dozen Delicious Restaurant Bread Baskets

There’s a reason why it’s called “breaking bread.” Offering up bread at the beginning of a meal is an age-old gesture of hospitality, a way to make guests feel welcome as soon as they sit down. Rather than simply offer soft rolls and hard butter, plenty of restaurants are offering boss breads. We’re talking the likes of crème frâiche biscuits, Gruyere-laced popovers, and jalapeno cornbread muffins. The kind of stuff that makes you forget you’re on a carb-free diet. Here are a dozen delicious restaurant bread baskets (with apologies to our gluten-free diners – look away!).

Birch & Barley, Washington, D.C.
There’s a word that always makes us smile when we’re dining out: free. The thing is, we would happily pay for this bangin’ bread board, but we’re more than happy to enjoy it on the house. The selections rotate regularly, but it might include a pretzel roll, a crème frâiche biscuit, and an olive roll.

Best Restaurant Bread Baskets

Barton G The Restaurant, Los Angeles, California
There’s a bit of magic at work here. When your bread comes to the table, you’ll probably think that the server accidentally brought out some dessert doughnuts instead. Actually, the rounds are savory, finished off with basil, cheddar, pink peppercorn, and black truffle “frostings.”

Best Restaurant Bread Baskets

Urban Farmer Steakhouse, Cleveland, Ohio
Hey, nice cans! The tin tubes are used to bake mini silos of cornbread for dinner service. During brunch, they hold zucchini bread, which gets a shower of freshly grated chocolate when served.

Best Restaurant Bread Baskets

Andiron Steak & Sea, Las Vegas, Nevada
Meet the pop stars of the bread basket world. These Gruyere-laced popovers boast a crackly crust. The warm puffs arrive with whipped butter dusted with black Hawaiian lava salt.

Best Restaurant Bread Baskets

Chauhan Ale & Masala House, Nashville, Tennessee
Chef Maneet Chauhan serves an Indian-inspired bread basket. Freshly baked naan is accompanied by a selection of seasonal chutneys, sauces, and butters. Selections in the past have included spicy pineapple chutney and traditional raita.

Best Restaurant Bread Baskets

Osso Steakhouse, San Francisco, California
A boule of sourdough topped off with rosemary and garlic is very nice. It’s even better when it arrives in a small cast iron skillet brimming with a creamy chorizo sauce. And it’s even better still when it’s finished off with a shower of cheddar cheese and quickly baked. Certifiably addictive.

Best Restaurant Bread BasketsContinue Reading