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How do you take criticism?


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17 replies to this topic

#1 pacman1978

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 09:22 AM

Hi,

I came across this recently

http://www.guardian....logger-s-review

I am gobsmacked how you could treat a customer like this. I am sure it is going to damage his restaurant. I'm particulary disappointed in Tom Kerridge as I always admired him and his cooking.

The irony is no one would have even read this but him doing this made it reach the bbc news front page.

Anyone ever had a go at a customer like this?

Edited by pacman1978, 16 November 2012 - 09:22 AM.


#2 radtek

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 10:06 AM

Already discussed ad nauseam in this thread: http://forums.egulle...876-chefsunite/

And I agree- a chef should have a thicker skin than that. Maybe take something for that swollen inflamed ego as well. Ibuprofen or prozac?

Edited by radtek, 16 November 2012 - 10:07 AM.


#3 Baselerd

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 10:19 AM

That's no way to treat another person regardless of the situation...

#4 jrshaul

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 02:34 PM

I ask:

"How do you suggest I should fix it?"

If they can't come up with an answer, I get to make them look like a fool. If they can, I profit.

Either way, I win.

#5 Tri2Cook

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 05:32 PM

How do you take criticism?

Seriously.

With a grain of salt on the side.
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#6 SylviaLovegren

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 06:11 PM

Wow. I hadn't seen the earlier thread. I would not eat at any of those chef's restaurants, I don't care how good the food is supposed to be. Total jerks, bullies and crybabies. Ugh.

#7 Edward J

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 09:42 PM

Now here I have to congratulate myself--either through stubborness, laziness, or maybe just living under a rock,-- I (and my business) don't have a twitter account--never did and never will, don't have a FB account, and I don't really follow any of the food blogs in my city.

It's a mess, and the Chef should be cooking, not checking up on every blog.

#8 Broken English

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 04:06 AM

It depends who its from,,,

From fellow chefs and cooks I take it on board pretty well, and re-evaluate whatever it is.

From customers I have to take a hard look at what the criticism is before either dismissing it or taking action. I taste everything I serve, so I have a pretty good idea if there is a problem on that front, and whether it's just a matter of differing palates or if there's something that could be improved. They're the reason I have a job so it pays to listen.

From front of house I generally will have to look at their experience, aptitude and passion before deciding to take it seriously.

I guess I'm a little stubborn, but sometimes idiots who have no idea what they're talking about see fit to criticise and take the mentality of "I could do what you do, and it'd be better", and at those times, I find it hard to play nice.
James.

#9 Edward J

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 09:19 AM

I dunno....... I've been thinking about this one for a bit and I'd like to play devil's advocate for a minute

So, customer is not happy with one course, but does not bring this to server's attention. After the meal the customer decides to tell his "followers" about his meal and while he doesn't like that one course, he can not go into detail WHY ie: Presentation? Cooking style? Choice of ingredients? Price point/percieved value? What does he not like???????????

Now some might call this type opf behavior incongruent--saying yes when you mean no. And it might be true, but I call dishonest.

And while I can not endorse the Chef's behavior--it is terrrible-- I do understand his anger and frustration: How can you fix a problem if the customer does not tell you one exists?

#10 Mjx

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 10:01 AM

I dunno....... I've been thinking about this one for a bit and I'd like to play devil's advocate for a minute

So, customer is not happy with one course, but does not bring this to server's attention. After the meal the customer decides to tell his "followers" about his meal and while he doesn't like that one course, he can not go into detail WHY ie: Presentation? Cooking style? Choice of ingredients? Price point/percieved value? What does he not like???????????

Now some might call this type opf behavior incongruent--saying yes when you mean no. And it might be true, but I call dishonest.

And while I can not endorse the Chef's behavior--it is terrrible-- I do understand his anger and frustration: How can you fix a problem if the customer does not tell you one exists?


The thing is, my experience is that chefs don't tend to ask this sort of question in a way that encourages anything other than a response somewhere between 'fine' and 'fabulous'. I have no recollection of any chef ever asking how I liked about my meal in a way that seemed anything other than a rhetorical question. And while I realize that some diners get the opportunity to chat with the chef away from other diners and staff, most don't, and I don't know about other people, but if I'm going to say something even slightly critical, I feel rude doing it in front of others. So, when I'm asked how everything was, I smile and say something nice, because the last thing I want to deal with is some sort of unpleasant scene.

I also write reviews on tripadvisor. Most are positive, a couple, not so much. However, I don't think I've ever written something negative about a restaurant's food without having at least tried to get it addressed while I was eating there. Still, I'd be wiiling to bet that a couple of places might have read my reviews and resented them, simply because they were [partly] negative, even though I take extra pains to make my negative comments polite, fair, and objective.

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#11 Edward J

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 01:07 PM

Fair enough, but my question still remains.

How do you fix/address a problem when the customer won't tell you about the problem?

#12 Mjx

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 01:19 PM

Fair enough, but my question still remains.

How do you fix/address a problem when the customer won't tell you about the problem?


It would be necessary for chefs to find a way to set up a situation where they could ask questions and get honest answers, before the customer leaves the restaurant. Obviously, this couldn't be done with every customer, but carefully selecting intelligent waitstaff would mean you'd have people in the front of the house who could identify diners who were sober/thoughtful enough to give an objective opinion of their experience, as well as communicating to the kitchen what diners were saying.

Then, chefs would need to listen to the diners they spoke without becoming immediately defensive or hostile; they'd be requesting a critique, and reassuring the diners that they wanted honest feedback (the herring ice cream that seemed like such a brilliant idea may be so awful that it's destrying the entire evening). It would be important to speak with diners who were really interested in what was going on, not in throwing their weight around. Hell, I'd LOVE to speak with chefs about the meals I eat, but quietly and comfortably, not in the main dining area, which is where diners are usually asked 'How was everything?'

I guess I'm saying that both parties would need to act like grownups interested in an intelligent discussion.

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#13 Edward J

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 02:32 PM

Exactly, honest answers.

No Chef or server can read minds, if they could, they'd play one poker game per month and be extremely wealthy.

So, how should restaurants respond to criticism on a blog when it contradicts what the blogger said in person? Can this criticism be respected?

#14 Mjx

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 03:13 PM

Exactly, honest answers.

No Chef or server can read minds, if they could, they'd play one poker game per month and be extremely wealthy.

So, how should restaurants respond to criticism on a blog when it contradicts what the blogger said in person? Can this criticism be respected?


The best strategy for avoiding conflicting statements would be to get in-person responses that were truthful in the first place.

Whether or not any criticism can be respected depends on how it's presented.
I just can't see taking many bloggers out there particularly seriously, regardless of what they say. I pay attention to a reviewer's tone, their level of awareness of their own subjectivity. This blogger was not anyone who was getting a significant amout of attention, until chef whatsisname decided this nearly invisible person's opinion mattered enough to blow up. He pulled the roof down on his own head. Ignoring people isn't always a good strategy, but how could he imagine that this response to the blogger was going to do anything other than make readers think, 'You know, this blogger may have a point'?

To elicit honest responses in the first place, all I can really suggest is what I think I'd do, if I were a chef (something I could never ever even begin to handle; the pressures involved are not the sorts I'd be able to deal with), which would be to ask customers whether they'd be up for a bit of a chat.
Surely it would be possible to pull one party a week aside, and talk with them a bit? Particularly in places that have restricted numbers of seatings?

I'm thinking back to a lunch my boyfriend and I had at Osteria Francescana, not that long ago. The chef kept popping into the dining room, and spoke with us a couple of times. I loved the meal, but couldn't help noticing that the chef looked a bit anxious and tense (or maybe had a toothache, what do I know).
When, at the end of the meal, he asked how everything was, we were able to truthfully say that we'd loved it.
The thing is, if there had been something I didn't like, I wouldn't have been able to bring myself mention it to the chef. He seemed to be so invested in it, and there were other people around to hear, and... I would have incredibly uncomfortable criticizing the food or wine (and in that case, I would have addressed any problem as delicately as possible in my review and indicated that because I'm a gutless wimp, I hadn't mentioned this while I was at the restaurant). On the other hand, if, he'd asked whether we'd be up for talking about the meal for a few moments in the back, over a glass of wine or something, I would have been forthcoming with any criticism. As I said, the meal was great, so that wasn't an issue, but still.

I did once have a meal where one of the courses was a tartare that frankly reminded me of catfood, and was a bit clammy. It was a sort of textural/visual thing, and the flavour and scent were fine, but I didn't really enjoy it. And no, I didn't mention it while we were there. In fact, I didn't mention it in my review, either, because I've never been sure whether or not it wasn't just me, and that's the way this tartare was supposed to be. However, sitting head to head with the chef, I would definitely have asked questions about this, mentioned my reaction (probably not using the cat food simile).

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#15 Edward J

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 05:58 PM

Thank you for your candid and honest thoughts.

I guess I am very "old school" about Chefs in the diing room. During my apprenticeship and the many years that followed, a Chef was never alowed into the dining room unles there was a dire emergency.

I truly believe that the server should relay information to the kitchen because:

a) the server "takes care" of the customer from the time they come in from the front door to the time they leave
b) the server describes any item on the menu in detail to the guest, and can (or should) guage the customer's facial expressions/body langauge as each item is described before the item is ordered.
c) the server has opportunity to observe how the dish is consumed--if it is merely prodded with a fork once and pushed to the side, or eaten, and how it is eaten. Any knowledgeable server will intervene if the dish is not well recieved

and,

d) the server is one who gets the tip, not the Chef.

#16 Mjx

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Posted 09 December 2012 - 02:50 AM

I'm completely on board with the more traditional concept of the chef being in the kitchen and waitstaff acting as liaison (of course, the tipping aspect isn't usually a part of the equation in EU countries), but it seems to me that the chef's presence in the front has become standard in restaurants with a strong modernist aspect. In fact, I can't think of any restaurant of this sort where I haven't seen the chef wandering about. These chefs seldom look particularly comfortable; I get the impression that as a group, restaurant chefs aren't particularly gregarious, so being out front is probably an added stress.
Going out front also means moving from an environment over which the chef has control, to one in which he (so far, all the ones I've seen have been men) has no control, which would make most people feel a bit vulnerable and defensive; understandable, but hardly an ideal state for either eliciting an honest yet tactful critique of your labours, or discussing it calmly.

In such cases, since the chef is already face to face with the diners, restoring some of the his or her sense of control over the situation via occasional one on one conversations might do a lot to avoid public messes, since most people seem to be more thoughtful in their criticism of someone with whom they've spoken directly (looking at the online/blog review end of things), while the chef would have the opportunity to address criticism directly, and be spared unpleasant surprises.

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#17 ScoopKW

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Posted 10 December 2012 - 02:29 AM

Fair enough, but my question still remains.

How do you fix/address a problem when the customer won't tell you about the problem?


We hire a "mystery shopper" company to send folks to eat at our place. They critique us to the mystery shopper company. That company passes the results to us. We make adjustments.
Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

#18 Edward J

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Posted 10 December 2012 - 04:55 PM

Interesting.