Five Things Diners Do That Drive Restaurant Workers Crazy #hackdining

Chefs Preapring Food TogetherMost seasoned diners know that a refined restaurant experience is much more than just the act of serving you good food on a plate. It’s a hospitality business in every sense. The passionate restaurateur yearns for their customers to have a wonderful experience — not just so you’ll come back and tell your friends about it — but because, quite frankly, it’s part of their DNA. Chefs, in particular, crave approval and desperately want to make you happy. It’s a big part of why they went into this trying business. (It certainly wasn’t for the money.) Running a restaurant is about as hard a job as it gets.

So is the customer always right? Does anything go? Well, yes and…no. While a top-notch restaurant should bend over backwards to accommodate its guests, the reality is that the relationship ought to, in fact, be a bit of two-way street — so everybody can win.

With a bit of background into the creative and operational process of running a restaurant based on personal experience and recent interviews with several chefs who wish to remain anonymous, here are five things diners do that drive restaurant workers crazy.

Incomplete parties: Restaurants essentially make their money much the same way airlines do: they sell time in their seats. This is perishable inventory, only with fine dining and expensive ingredients in the fridge, even more so. The equation is simple: available tables x minutes the restaurant is open x cost of the items you order. There are precious few minutes each day when a restaurant must earn all its money, so every minute a table or individual seat sits idle, that is revenue that’s gone forever. So, when your party is incomplete and the server sometimes doesn’t seat you, understand there is a method to the madness.
Advice: Try to arrive together and on time, be a bit patient if you’re not, and ALWAYS let the restaurant know if you need to cancel as soon as possible so they don’t lose an opportunity to fill the table. And, please never no-show for your reservation.

Table breaks: The process of preparing and serving a variety of menu items for a large table can be a choreographic miracle. In sophisticated kitchens, there literally can be dozens of cooks working on one meal to simultaneously ensure that the poached egg atop of your crisp frisée salad is deliciously runny at the same time that your date’s fettuccine is perfectly al dente. The chef acts as the kitchen’s conductor, making sure everything is in synch and just right. When a server cues that you are, say, getting close to finishing your appetizer, this culinary orchestra jumps into motion in order to send out all the various plates at the same time and at the exact right preparation and temperature. Keep that in mind when you wander out to take a 20 minute phone call mid-meal. It can throw the kitchen into a tizzy as they try and keep your various dishes at the right temperature while trying to guess when you might return.
Advice: If you must leave the table mid-meal, let the server or host know — or wait to slip out until the food has come, if possible.

Modifications: A great dish — even a good one — is a calibration of texture, temperature, and ingredients, especially flavors like salt, acid, and fat. This process doesn’t happen by chance. It’s often the result of methodical, creative experimentation and refinement to get that balance precisely right. Asking the server to take an ingredient out of a dish is akin to sawing the leg off a table – the whole thing can “tip” over and all that hard work goes out the window. A number of chefs I’ve spoken with complained that it drives them nuts when customers arbitrarily eliminate a component, ask for it on the side, or – the worst form of insult – request to substitute something else entirely. The main worry is that when you remove an ingredient, the dish no longer tastes the way it was intended, and the experience (and their vision) is seriously diminished.
Advice: If it’s an actual allergy, you’d do best to order something else. If it’s an aversion, ask your server to guide you to a dish that has all the flavors you enjoy most.Continue Reading

Trending on Recent OpenTable Restaurant Reviews: Vegan Dining

Vedge-blog
You probably won’t miss meat when you dine at Vedge — or any of the restaurants diners are raving about here.

It’s Meatless Monday, aka the cruelest day of the week for hardcore carnivores. But, it doesn’t have to be! Vegan cuisine has become so unbelievably delicious and inventive that it’s not just for vegans anymore. Even card-carrying meat eaters are enjoying vegan delights from time to time, some in the name of their dining partners, others in the name of health — and many in the name of culinary adventure! Find out what folks are saying about their veggie-centric dining experiences as of late in recent OpenTable restaurant reviews.

Cafe Manna, Brookfield, Wisconsin: “Dined with friends New Year’s Eve. None of us are vegan or vegetarian, but we really enjoyed our dinner selections.”

Candle Cafe West, New York, New York: “At Candle, you feel like being in a normal American restaurant, except you have the great opportunity to eat excellent vegan food. The menu has amazing options and the quality is really high. We really enjoyed it.”

Crossroads, Los Angeles, California: “Three out of four of us were not vegans, but we still all enjoyed the food. Our favorites were the kale Caesar, artichoke dip, and the vegan version on chicken Parmesan.”

* The Daily Dish, Silver Spring, Maryland: “I recently stopped by The Daily Dish after hearing about their delicious vegan soups, and I must say, I was not disappointed. I started with a bowl of the butternut squash soup. I can’t even begin to describe how amazing the flavor was; I wanted to lick the bowl it was so perfect.”

Depature Restaurant and Lounge, Portland, Oregon: “We are long-term vegans and the dishes that we ate at Departure were not just off a special vegan menu, but they were imaginative and delicious. Everything was unique and different than what we normally prepare at home.”

Gather, Berkeley, California: ” Vegan charcuterie is always a winner as an appetizer. It’s nice to take your time with that one. Our two friends who had never been to Gather agreed it was entirely unique. For our entrees, we shared pizzas and a vegan squash dish, all of which were very tasty. The chocolate vegan desert was also very good.”

Gobo, New York, New York: “I am not vegan, but I still love coming back. The portions are great. They are split by small plates, large plates, starters, and sides. I’ve eaten large plates by myself or ordered a few to share with friends, so we can all share the food. Any way you decide to go, you will not regret it.”

Greens, San Francisco, California: “The food was great! We went back the next evening. I am a vegan and was very pleased with all my courses. My wife is not a vegetarian, but loved her meals.”

Karyn’s on Green, Chicago, Illinois: “As a vegan living in southwestern Michigan, I wanted to indulge in a special treat for New Years Eve, so I looked into Karyn’s on Green, reading that it was a favorite destination for fellow vegans. My husband, who isn’t vegan, graciously accompanied me and thoroughly enjoyed the food as well. The New Year’s Eve menu was splendid: tasty, refined, creative and just the right amount so we felt satiated but not full.”

Mi Lah Vegetarian BYOB, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: “Treats vegans like we are foodies too! Highly recommend whether for veggie diets or food connoisseurs!”

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Boomers Keeping Restaurants Busy; Nervous Diner Syndrome; Kid-Free Dining + More News

RelaxDining news from around the world and the web…

* A boom of boomers dining out. Millennials, however, are a different story. [The New York Times]

* Frankie say relax. So do all your servers. Nervous dining is a no-no. [Seattle Weekly]

* Should restaurants ban children? Depends on who you ask. [Fox News]

* Yippee, hippies! Legendary LA vegan restaurant The Source gets a revival by way of a pop-up. [Los Angeles Times]

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Counting Courses; Restaurants Fight the Flu; Great Wine by the Glass + More

I like tasting menus, but the last one I did was just four courses at Kajitsu in NYC. This is the citrus fruit pot — vegan and delish!

Food and dining news from around the web and the world…

* Waste not, want not. That saying has been around for a really long time, and yet half the world’s food supply goes to waste. Join me in a collective “Ugh!” [Los Angeles Times]

* By the numbers. The so-called tyranny of tasting menus in New York, this time broken down by time and number of courses. [GrubStreet NY]

* One flu over the cuckoo’s nest. Either from illness or fear, the flu is making us all a bit crazy, and restaurants are doing their part to fight its spread. Thank you! [CBS Local/DFW]

* The real restaurant wars. The battle for dining supremacy continues to rage between New York and San Francisco. And I’m staying out of it! [The Awl]

* Pour some Ducru-Beaucaillou on me! Abe & Arthur’s restaurant in Manhattan is serving up wines by the glass that are typically too expensive for your average bear. And, you know, me. [Fox News]

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