Jump to content


participating member
  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by TheFoodTutor

  1. Sorry, that was rude of me. Nobody would ever do this to a guest, where I work, as far as I know. I just get strange thoughts in my head, sometimes. The system just works, incredibly well, pretty much all of the time, but I have a really strange sense of humor.
  2. I mentioned in another thread the fact that I work for a small-ish chain that is so efficient that elite universities in this country actually use it as a business model, for teaching the best way to run this sort of restaurant, when those higher schools of learning actually have a course dealing with restaurant and hospitality management. Because there are so many people interested in the way restaurants work here, as guests and as potential entrepreneurs, I wanted to share a good deal of this information with you, for free, so I decided to start this thread. Hopefully, I won't be wasting too much of your time. This chain has about 50 restaurants, only one of which has had to close, and that was because of a strangely unexpected loss of lease on the property there, and not due to any sort of lack of business. Every aspect of the business is scripted, to the letter, while at the same time, changes are made very, very often, in order to make things work even better. I mentioned already that all of our servers are never allowed to walk past an ungreeted table, without greeting it. There is no asking another server, behind the scenes, to help you catch that greet, so that someone ends up deep in the weeds, looking for a server who can help out. And unlike at other restaurants, all of this behavior is mandatory, drilled into the skull so that a person would simply not behave otherwise. Even when the formula changes, the whole service staff takes it in stride, adapts, adopts and improves. So here we go at the inside look: When I circulate about the dining room, I instantly recognize an ungreeted table by seeing a manila card, lines up, on the table. I instantly stop, smile broadly, and ask what the people would like to drink. As I'm doing this, I either sweep up the card and stick it into my server book, if the table is in my section, or I make a bend in the card and stand it up on end, so that all the other servers can see that this particular task has been done. Patrons almost never, ever notice this detail, though I've seen one ungreeted lady actually pick up the card and tear it to shreds, absent-mindedly. I kind of wanted to smack her across the face and ask her if she didn't want to be greeted and have her order taken, when I saw it, but then I simply remembered myself and grabbed another card from the hostess stand. And that's the first part of how it works. More details later.
  3. I think that's a really cool setup. It really bothers me in a restaurant (or any place of business) to see some people working their butts off while other people are standing around doing nothing. It is a pretty cool arrangement. I could describe every bit of the operation, in a separate thread, if people think that they would like to read it. Do you think people would like that?
  4. while it's almost always apparent who the customer is, it's not always so clear who the server is, given that there are often runners, hosts, busboys, managers, servers, wine waiters, etc, running around and possibly approaching your table right out of the gate. i'm all for anything that makes communication more effective and efficient. it's has never been a burden on me to have a server say "i'll be your server" or (gasp!) "my name is dennis and i'll be your server". i wish that was the biggest issue i encounter every day. Well, that's another part of the beauty of the way the restaurant where I work operates. It's mandatory that we wait on absolutely every table, as if it were our own. We aren't allowed to walk by an ungreeted table without greeting it. We must run food to every section of the restaurant, and bus plates off of any table that needs it. We have sections, and that's how we get paid, but it's completely possible to earn a tip off of a table that you've only visited briefly, or to completely wait on a table whose tip will go to another server. It's a sort of socialism, in practice. And it doesn't really matter that much, since we all turn tables so fast and do so much volume that we usually make the same amount of money. And every single time a guest asks me to find his server for him, I respond, without even blinking, "What can I get for you, sir?" But hearing "I'll be your server," isn't horribly taxing, in the grand scheme of things. It just sounds cheesy, in a Crapplebee's sort of way.
  5. I have never heard of this one, personally, and the specials tend to be in the POS as one price, so that wouldn't be possible, in that instance. I haven't worked at a place with hand-written tickets since I was a teenager. ← But you could do something like have the "Sea Bream w/ Spinach" listed as $20 and the "Sea Bream with Spinach" listed as $25. I wager most people won't notice. ← OK, so there is one aspect of what you're talking about that is possibly true. When servers at upscale establishments take drink orders, and they know they are waiting on people who are on an expense account, in order to escalate the bill, they have a few tricks. If someone orders "vodka and tonic," but doesn't specify what brand of vodka, they can automatically key in the most expensive one. And on top of that, they can hit a "rocks" key - basically making it a vodka martini on the rocks with a splash of tonic - and add another upcharge. And don't ever order a glass of "house merlot" at one of these high end restaurants, because there isn't one, and servers who see that a customer can't even be bothered to look at the wine list by the glass will simply ring in the most expensive one. But these little tricks are well-known, and when the managers of these places see them, they crack down on them, and people lose their jobs. The type of trick you're talking about, where there would be 2 separate keys in the POS for people who ask the price of the specials, and people who don't, would involve a manager entering that information into the system on a nearly daily basis, and then informing the servers of how to charge people. Frankly, I've never worked at a place that came even close to being that unscrupulous, and I certainly wouldn't eat at one.
  6. I have never heard of this one, personally, and the specials tend to be in the POS as one price, so that wouldn't be possible, in that instance. I haven't worked at a place with hand-written tickets since I was a teenager. I once worked at a fine-dining establishment that went from running a few specials per day, to running a huge list of them, and so they started putting an insert of the specials into the menu. And then people would constantly ask me to recite the specials, and I could only sort of point at the printed list. It felt really stupid, because people always wanted my performance surrounding the list of "specials," but just being reduced to reading the list for them took 100% of the fun out of it, for both parties. I mean, if you don't have a specials list to recite at the table, what do you say? You have to have something to talk about with these total strangers that you're about to feed, don't you? It just seems so impersonal, otherwise. With specials, you get to share what you know about the menu and the ingredients. "Our Georgia Rainbow Trout is caught fresh, every day, by this funny little fisherman whom we call on the phone, and when we ask him how many orders we can get, he doesn't put us on hold. No. He puts down the phone and stomps over to the door and yells, 'Hey, George! Can we give them 50 orders?' and then he stomps back to the phone and says, 'Yeah, we can do 50.'" There's got to be a little of that something extra, and the customer needs that. It just makes it complete.
  7. Yes, it is an intentional business policy, or at least it is in every restaurant where I've worked. It does make the flow of telling the specials sound much nicer, keeps it upbeat and positive, shortens the presentation and, most likely, sells more food. I have worked at many restaurants, but currently I have gone back to work at one of my favorite places of employment, a small-ish chain of about 50 restaurants or so. When it comes to analyzing everything that a server does and scrutinizing everything that can be made more efficient and effective, this restaurant tops the heap. In Cornell's Restaurant and Hospitality Management program, 2 entire chapters are devoted specifically to how these restaurants operate. It is considered to be one of the best business models in the restaurant world, and many, many entrepreneurs copy it. I have a very specific manner in which I must tell the "specials" - although they're not called "specials" in the restaurant world. Want to know why that is? Well, of course it's because all of our entrees are special, ladies and germs. Did learning that just make you a little bit queasy? Yeah, me too. But anyway, I even go through a process called "re-certification," every other month or so, wherein I wait on a manager, and the way I "feature" (they are "features," or "additions to the menu," not specials) the guest is a huge portion of this test - a test which basically grades how well I do my job. I happen to always do very well at this part, because I know exactly what the company wants, and I follow it to the letter. Somewhere along the line, they have figured out that the fewer words said at the table, the better, so absolutely no unnecessary words should be spoken. For instance, I say my name, but I don't say, "and I'll be your server." Of course I'm your server. I'm dressed like all the other servers in the restaurant, and I'm standing at your table. I think you've figured out what my job is by now. But I digress. Here's how I do my feature: Greet the table, very short pleasantry, drink order, offer to get them an appetizer right away (just in case they arrived at the restaurant dying of starvation, nearly passing out from hunger.) Then get eye contact from most members of the table (or if they all are doing something else, or talking on cell phones, just pick one person who looks intelligent enough to repeat the list after I'm gone and focus on him), and then tell them the specials as quickly as humanly possible while enunciating clearly, smiling and keeping eye contact. No prices. "Our fresh fish of the day is Georgia Rainbow Trout. We also have Atlantic Salmon and Cajun Redfish. Our Crabcakes are also available, made with jumbo lump crabmeat and served with a Pommery (SP? I don't spell it, I just say it) Mustard Sauce. Vegetables of the day are Braised Red Cabbage and French Green Beans." And that's it. Bam, bam, bam, then walk away from the table. The only part that I usually get wrong is that I sometimes say, "I'll be right back." More unnecessary words. Obviously, I've just taken a drink order, so I'm going to get them, and then I'll be right back. It's just hard not to punctuate leaving the table with a finishing line. So the company has clearly done research into this sort of thing, and while the specials stay the same for so long, but do sometimes change, that I can recite them in my sleep, it is important to say the specials. And I see why in the faces of many, many customers. Some of them even beam brightly at me, before they've decided what they want to drink, and ask "What are your specials?" There must be something about the reciting of specials that completes the restaurant experience, although it is also true that our seafood specials are open to change due to availability, freshness and quality of product. And just giving this brief information conveys to the guest that I am simultaneously willing to go back and explain more about every item, and the prices, if needed, and able to skip the whole recitation and let them order the same item that they always get, every time they visit. So what I'm saying is that, while the majority here seem to agree that they want prices recited with the specials, this other model seems to work really, really well, to the benefit of the restaurant, and the benefit of the guest who wants to be served very, very quickly. And this restaurant is both too formal to have a blackboard, yet so casual that they have a 1-page menu that is laminated.
  8. True story, so not exactly a joke: I was talking on the phone with my boyfriend, back when we'd just started dating, 5 years ago, and I noticed a wasp buzzing around the living room, smacking against the window. "There's a wasp in my apartment," I said. "Well, offer him a manhattan," was my boyfriend's response. Mildly food-related, but I thought it was pretty funny. Well, we're still together, anyway.
  9. The Arch Card -- the new official card of being dumped. ← I hadn't thought of this before, but now I think it's perfect. What better way to tell a person, "Get the hell out of my life," than to give him or her a card that entitles the bearer to a pile of consumable grease? If one really wants to get the point across, a card in the amount of $50 could speak volumes.
  10. Wow. At the risk of being banned for one-too-many times being "off-topic," I have to say that you are insanely cool and perceptive. You have summed up, perfectly, the feelings of nearly every failed business owner I've ever known, succinctly. Thank you.
  11. No, I more or less agree with you most of the time, Mayhaw Man, though I don't always post here, because my job doesn't always allow it. I also like iced coffee, on occasion, but I think he was expressing that it seems like a no-brainer to offer day-old coffee, iced, at a premium price to gullible customers, in line with the overall retail selling point of giving something to somebody that they could get virtually free somewhere else, for a high price, because they are in a place where one is a captive audience. Airports are exceptional at this, but coffee shops do pretty well for people who don't plan well enough to have proper equipment at their offices. It's also a useful help to folks thinking of opening up their own shops to consider whether it's worthwhile to have available seating to consume a 2 or 3 dollar beverage for upwards of half an hour, or possibly even 3 hours. The business owner is paying rent on that space, rent that one could assume equals more than the profit on a $2 cup of coffee per every 3 hour interval. When one adds WiFi and its fees into the mix, things get considerably more dicey, and it becomes obviously only profitable if there are other coffee shops in close range that can provide more services for less money. I will disagree with you on the intent of the article, however. He meant to say that, essentially, "he did it for love," and that was the wrong reason. And I'd agree with that. While even people who love providing nourishment to other people will, inevitably, grow to despise the people they serve, because of the very nature of service (the things I have seen would chill you to the very bone, and I honestly and truly went into this business because of the "meaningfulness" of feeding people), there is almost no one who can come out on the other side unjaded. I honestly believe that the best way to attack a true desire to open your own restaurant, coffee shop, cafe, bistro or whatever is to go work for someone who has already done that, run their books, see how much profit is involved and how much money can be made for however much work, and then scrap the whole idea and invest in a small laundromat. Really.
  12. I didn't mean it to sound like you're naive. Sorry. What I don't know, given this person's theoretical business, is when he'd make those croissants and other pastries. That would be a full time job in itself, in addition to the 70 hours a week that he's just putting into operating the coffee shop. That makes for a pretty long week, don't you think? And he can't combine the two by doing them both at the same time, because he'll need at bare minimum one person running the front and one in the back, which amounts to 70 hours a week each from him and his wife. Of course, they're cutting out that 25% labor cost in the hopes of making more money, but they still have to have enough sales to make it happen, first. As far as the pastries being a continual loss to the shop, there are many businesses that operate knowing that one of their products will cost them money to sell, while another will bring in enough profit to cover for that loss. In cinemas, the products that lose money are the actual films, and the product that makes up for it is the popcorn and soda. In fast food, the products that usually lose money are the sandwiches, which is why you're encouraged to buy "value meals" with fries and a soda. And in upscale restaurants, most of the food loses money, and they're really only serving it in hopes that you'll buy some wine or cocktails. So the idea that the croissants are a money loss does not, in itself, make this a poor business model, and if they turn a potential 120+ hour week into just a 70 hour week, it might be worth outsourcing it. I've never run a bakery, personally, so it could be easier or harder than I imagine, but I tend to think that if it were fairly easy and profitable, I wouldn't hear so many complaints about how there aren't any good ones around here.
  13. The thing is, he didn't actually have $6300 per month to spend on pastries. The guy in the article was actually answering his own question backwards, that question being, "How much business would I have to do to make a 25 seat coffee shop profitable?" He started answering that question by figuring the absolute minimum labor cost, given that the coffee shop would be open 10 hours a day (an absurdity, actually, since coffee shops tend to be open a lot longer than that). But, absurd or not, he starts with those 10 hours a day, figures employing 2 people at $7.50 per hour (or perhaps one at $8 and the other at $7), one front and one back, then figures how much business they would have to do if that cost were the ideal 25% of total revenue. Based on that total figure (18K), he gives the budget figures for rent and ingredient cost. Working backward from that, one can figure that this relates to about $600 in coffee and food sales per day, $60 in sales per hour. That's actually a heck of a lot for a small coffee shop to consistently sell, and I'm not even sure which 10 hours out of the day I'd pick to be open. 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.? But what about the after work crowds? But if you stay open longer than those 10 hours, and you're trying to save on labor by doing all the work yourself, doesn't it get tiring? And how do you go home after a 10 hour or longer day and make croissants? Feel free to open a shop for yourself, if you envision a potential gold mine in turning flour and butter into profit, and I'll certainly stop in to buy your wares, but having managed restaurants for other people, and running the numbers several hundred times through my head, I'm perfectly fine with my decision never to open a place of my own.
  14. Nothing wrong with the request, certainly. At a previous restaurant where I worked, if someone asked for a "taste" of soup, I was instructed to offer that I'd simply bring a bowl, and if the guest liked it, he or she could finish the bowl, but if it was not satisfactory, the bowl would be taken away and I'd simply never ring it on the tab. And putting the garnishes on the side, so that they could be tasted aside from the soup, would be no problem. Bringing the whole bowl was simply a matter of efficiency. Most of the time, the soups were very good, and people would want a bowl, anyway, so the extra time/effort/labor of bringing a taste, checking for satisfaction, then bringing a bowl was inefficient. The soup, itself, in that particular context, was not as expensive to throw away, on the rare occasion that someone didn't like it. And you also kill the other bird (the person who just wants to have a free "buffet" of "tastes") with the same stone, since most freeloaders in restaurants try not to be too obvious by sending back too many dishes/drinks/etc. A few of the scammers are capable of going well beyond normal limitations on ordering things and sending them back to the kitchen, but that's a matter for being dealt with by other methods, and certainly another topic. Personally, I can't think of any times I've asked for a taste of anything, but I have been offered a few tastes of wine or food at some places, similar to what therese mentioned. I think the comparison to car buying/house buying/relationship decision isn't quite fair, though, given that those are some pretty expensive and serious decisions. If I go to my local McDonald's and ask if I can get a sample of the $1 McChicken sandwich, I think the owner would be right to refuse me, whereas if I were purchasing a $500,000 home, I'd be irate if I couldn't see it before locking myself into the mortgage. There would seem to be some sort of sliding scale there, don't you think?
  15. A minor correction: RiceSticks in Sandy Springs has been open for 1 year and 4 months. Owner Kevin Tran will be closing the restaurant after the final dinner service on Sunday evening, October 23.
  16. Probably because Houston's is not considered to be "fast food," though their service is undoubtedly fast. Houston's is mentioned exactly once under the thread about favorite chain restaurants. That said, I was surprised at how much I ended up liking their buttermilk garlic salad dressing, and I must admit to making a spinach and artichoke dip that is very, very similar to their recipe, because I don't think I've tasted one better than theirs. Not groundbreaking stuff, but reliably good. I'm not sure I get the popularity of the veggie burger, though it is different from just about every sit down restaurant with which I'm familiar in that it's entirely house-made (rather than a frozen patty made from extruded soy or wheat products.) Good, and better than most, even, but I'm not sure I'd seek it out.
  17. Lunchables! Oh, dear. I really like Ovaltine, though. Excellent blog and baby pictures. When I read that you're looking for the perfect cannoli, I thought of posting a picture of some of the ones I'm making lately in my new job, but they're really the frou-frou sort, entirely untraditional and not likely to fit the bill. Thank you so much for the nice pictures!
  18. More restaurants than not have a "Kitchen Manager" rather than a Chef, unless you almost exclusively dine on the upper end. But this is a good thing, as Kitchen Managers make sure that a recipe book is maintained and followed during all prep, whereas Chefs tend to be more secretive about their recipes. Any good server should be able to tell you most of the ingredients in any dish sold, and for that 20% of ingredients that he or she won't know, a quick query to the back of the house should answer any questions. If you don't get a confident answer, based on an allergy question, from either your server or a manager, within a relatively short period of time, and the allergy concerned is serious enough to send someone to a hospital, I'd suggest getting up and going somewhere else.
  19. Wow. Very cool animal pictures, of both domesticated and undomesticated critters. I've always wondered about taking pictures of hummingbirds, since you never know exactly where their wings will be when you snap the shot, so you can't compose the photo just the way you'd like to. Glad you're blogging, and I wanted to mention how lovely your pictures are, though I'll have to go back and look at the whole blog after it's finished sometime later. My new job is keeping my so busy I don't have time to be on-line much. P.S. - My cats like the food with the stinky gravy in the pouches, too.
  20. Very nice observations so far, and I'll be the next to say, "Happy Birthday!" Count me among the folks who "find" the money to have an occasional extravagant meal by living lean in other ways. I drive a very old car. I work extra hours. I also work a job where I'm not stuck in an office, thinking about which sandwich shop I'll be visiting at lunchtime. In fact, at lunch these days, I'm in a kitchen with a bunch of Mexicans who are thinking up what sort of tacos or pizza or whatever to make for family meal, so lunch is free and sodas are free. And when I do go out, most everyone in the restaurant business knows me, so I get a free drink here or there, a free appetizer or maybe dessert, or sometimes just an "industry discount" of 50% applied to all food items on the bill. What's the catch? Well, to get all that stuff, I simply have to sweat my butt off in a kitchen all day long. Or alternatively, I could sweat my butt off in the front of the house, as I used to do. I'd say what I spend on restaurant meals per month, but it kind of freaks me out to add it up, depending on what month we're talking about. My birthday month of July was most likely a record-breaker, so I'd prefer to just not talk about that.
  21. I'm reminded of a song by the venerable Allman Bros Band (yes I know I'm dating myself here)-'Not My Cross To Bear' ← So, you care enough about the welfare of the staff that you'd withhold comments to management about a complaint that was so significant that you actually walked out of the restaurant without paying your tab, an act which could get you arrested, yet you don't care enough about the welfare of the staff to simply decide to eat elsewhere from now on? Fascinating.
  22. This sounds like a "slippery slope" argument to me. Many people make similar arguments on the subject of, say, gay marriage. Those who oppose gay marriage say that it will lead to things like incestuous marriage and marriage to animals. Therefore, if I advocate gay marriage, must I also, logically, advocate incestuous unions and sex with animals? Of course not. By the same token, if I say that I would simply not want to eat in a place where I'm highly aware of abusive policies toward employees, must I then begin scrutinizing every purchase I make, to ensure that no one was ever hurt in any way producing the goods I buy? I don't think so. Sure, I'd like to get rid of all the cruelty in the world, but in this situation, one of these decisions is triflingly easy, while the other involves a great deal of research and a lot of legwork. I don't think it's the slightest bit laborious or agonizing to decide to stop going to a restaurant where I've seen evidence of abusive behavior. On the contrary, I'd find myself quite uncomfortable dining there after seeing something like that, and it would ruin the experience that I went to that restaurant to achieve - a relaxing meal out. I'm very curious as to why you'd use those words in reference to this situation.
  23. I like this question, and the rest of the response. My answer, personally, would be that I would stop patronizing the establishment at the first sign of abusive behavior toward employees. Now, I know that I do have an advantage, of sorts, in that I know how to cook darned near anything, or I can figure it out in less than a week if I need to, but I don't think this is a unique talent. It's very easy, in fact, and the few impediments I've found have been things like not always wanting to have a deep fryer set up in one's home, since they tend to make the whole kitchen greasy. Beyond that, I can reproduce any restaurant experience, more or less. I could very easily make my own thali, that's for sure, and for very little money. Assuming that a thali would be similarly priced to places where I live, at lunchtime, this meal would have run in the neighborhood of $5-10, right? So assuming a tipping habit of 20%, depriving a server of $1 to $2 by paying the bill, but stiffing the server is pretty much meaningless, right? I'm no longer a server at this point, but I can say that when I was one, the thought of someone caring enough about a buck or two to stiff a working professional without saying a word meant that those 2 bucks must mean a lot more to that person than they'd mean to myself, so I'd be glad to let them keep it, and as a server at this place, I'd probably rather be rid of that customer, because I don't want to continue serving someone who wants to just buy the food, yet be served in a sit-down environment without even paying the nominal service fee that's accorded the person who brings it. So I ask you, Sam, why would you ever bother going back? Do they get special deliveries of manna from heaven that you cannot buy elsewhere, so you must patronize an establishment where employees are subjected to abusive treatment? Do tell.
  24. So here's a question: Instead of asking people on the internet what they think of your decision to walk out of this particular restaurant, why don't you just go back and talk to someone there? Personally, I'd have no problem going in when I knew the owner would be there and saying something along these lines, "Excuse me, but I came into the restaurant last week, ordered some lunch and had to return it to the counter because my meal was not hot. I never got my food back, and no one was available to speak with at the time, as all of the servers were very busy. I don't want you to think that I intended to leave without paying, but I really was unable to eat my food, and could not get anyone's attention. I intend to eat here again in the future, so I just wanted to make sure that I wasn't barred from your restaurant permanently." I'd probably also ask about service issues, and whether it would be a good idea to avoid the place at lunch rush, which is the impression I get from the initial post. Restaurant owners and employees are simply other human beings, after all, and the best way to clear up an issue is to speak to someone about it. Frankly, since I've seen people complain to management about everything under the sun, it's hard to imagine the other side, where one might see a reason not to speak to someone about things like this. In my experience as a manager and a server, and other positions, I've seen everything from outrageous claims - "I ordered a rack of ribs in here last week and took it to go, brought it home and my order was incomplete, plus after I ate it, I got real sick. . . No, I don't have a receipt or anything, and I don't remember the names of any employees that I dealt with on that day, and I didn't call to report that I got sick. . . But could I get a free rack of ribs today for my trouble?" - to people who are genuinely reporting a problem that could be remedied. Your complaint sounds like the latter, so if I usually like eating there, I'd talk to someone. Worth a shot, no?
  • Create New...