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Everything posted by san

  1. has anyone gotten any responses recently? i am still waiting; hoping no news is good news.... i believe i read somewhere they begin sending acceptances in november- is that right?
  2. i don't feel like i got shiated on, i just think that there is a school of thought that potential customers SEEK restaurants: whose staff acts 'above' their guests, that are tough to get a reso and rarely care to seat you near your reso time anyway, and are generally unconcerned how individual 'non-regular'/non-celebrity diners feel about their service. apparently this school is at least in some ways right; since i come from the opposite school i find this behavior disappointing. i guess it's just not for me. since we didn't drink (this may be the first time i've ever typed those last 3 words) it was only about 80 per person, and the food was worth most of it.
  3. though the website isn't much to brag about, the restaurant is. the lark is probably the best restaurant in detroit (again not necessarily saying that much), and has been named best restaurant in the united states by conde nast traveller mag's reader's poll. its owner, jim lark was a successful real estate developer (i think) who retired to open a restaurant with his wife in the 80s. it has since been an incredibly successful restaurant and a constant leader in the detroit culinary scene good luck
  4. i know it is a definite consensus to contact management to notify them of the problem, but i truly believe that in this case (based on numerous incidents including the dinner i originally posted about, another meal i had had there previously, talking to people who have worked there in the past, and a couple of other random correspondences i've had personally with staff members over the phone and in person) that they really wouldn't care. they have a very very successful restaurant that has a definite air of 'coolness' to it, and INCREDIBLE food. this has been enough to make them very very successful, and though i do believe that at some point that will wear out, i just don't care enough to give suggestions to someone who i am confident will not care to listen anyway. there are certain standards of restaurant service that any staff at a restaurant like that should know, and some think they are important and some don't. because i feel strongly about them, i was disappointed that such a successful restaurant wouldn't. i should mention that the meal was by no means atrocious- the food was amazing and the service was mechanically as it should have been with only a few exceptions. those few exceptions (waiting 45 min for our 9:30 reso, aloof-ness about wrapping 1/2 of a steak, crumpling the original check at the table) happened to negate much of the pleasure we got from the great food. as i said upthread, i have a hard time blaming servers for what i consider to be mgmt/upper mgmt issues- i tipped 20% of the original total bill (before the steak was taken off). i also don't believe that low tips are an effective way to tell a server you didn't like the job they did (they usually pass off the low tip as an expression of the person giving it rather than of their own service).
  5. i've only lived here a couple of months, but hot chocolate serves a great casual brunch and great hot chocolate w/homemade marshmallows. sweets and savories was incredible the one time i went there for brunch as well (though i walked in 20 minutes after they opened last sunday and they couldn't take us, so I would reserve ahead of time). as far as bars i was very impressed with the violet hour in wicker park- the first bar i've been to in a very long time where the fact that all of the bartenders took great pride in their drinks was very clearly evident.
  6. lately i am of the opinion that nothing is really the server's fault. any mistakes they make are a result of improper training, supervision, or hiring on the part of management. obviously there are bad servers, but i think in most cases they have not been trained properly and do want to do a good job and please their guests. the miserable ones who just have a bad attitude are certainly at fault but shouldn't have ever been hired in the first place. I suppose any management problems are the fault of the owner or upper mgmt for similar reasons. either way, if a manager was working that night s/he never visited our table, and aside from the food, we weren't really happy with any aspect of the dinner, and that should have been evident in our body language. that should absolutely have been recognized by either of our servers (we did have a front and back waiter) or a manager, without us having to say something. the fact that i am a manager as well makes me very critical of mgmt (i am equally critical of myself in this sense, too). the process of seeking out a manager and complaining to them is one that is totally uncomfortable to me, for whatever reason. i'd rather just never go there again and discuss the problem with my staff and friends (and everyone here)....
  7. yes. upscale steakhouse I used to work at averaged nearly 28k/week on cost of goods alone. plus 53k for controlleable expenses. plus rent. they did pull a nice profit relatively speaking but it is a pretty fine (and scary) line between successful and not
  8. as a former chain restaurant manager i can say that the idea of 'solving the problem while the guest is still there' is (at least in my experience) one of those lip-service mantras corporate constantly shoves down your throat. in this case it is one of many examples of a habit or rule trumping common sense.... funny when policies override a customer's comfort.
  9. right. i guess what i am confused about is the fact that there is no real way to determine how much the restaurant will take in in service charges as it is a percentage (even though there may be only one food option, wine selections obviously vary greatly in price). so is it just a very complicated point system with all staff involved or does everyone just have a set salary? if it is the latter than what happens if the service charges are more or less than what was originally budgeted for?
  10. i have read that restaurants like french laundry, per se, and charlie trotter's have systems in place where tips are pooled and then reallocated so that the kitchen talent can be compensated more from gratuities. does anyone know exactly how these systems work? i believe that servers (and the rest of staff) get a regular paycheck rather than getting paid each shift, but how is what they get paid determined? are they paid a salary based on their previous experience, or a specific percentage of tips or sales, or a combination of both? how about kitchen staff? IMO this is a much more fair and effective way to handle paying a talented staff fairly, but it seems to be perhaps a bit more complicated than the current system most restaurants use. would love to hear input from people with experience at these or similar restaurants......
  11. i think holly moore was totally right on. service is NOT easy, but it should be fun. having done it for 15+ years IMO the busiest times can be the most fun and rewarding- if you are properly prepared. this is where mgmt comes in. 3 of the most important functions of a manager are: being on the floor interacting with people and ascertaining guest satisfaction, leading by example in both aspects of work ethic and attitude, and having systems in place to ensure that staff can succeed mechanically. i think that the latter hasn't suffered too much, but when was the last time a manager visited your table when you went to a restaurant where you didn't know anyone? i would say a manager touches my table maybe 10% of the time (unless i know someone there). i also often notice what i consider to be improper attitudes among both staff and mgmt. basically i am referring to either the appearance of all staff wishing they were elsewhere (my recent dinner), or staff joking with each other and having a great time, but only with each other and not including the guests.
  12. after my dinner last night, i was reminded of the why does so much food suck? (it's not that hard) forum from awhile back. we went to one of the most popular and acclaimed restaurants in chicago and ate one of the best meals we've had in several years. the service, however, completely soured our perfectly prepared food and had us leaving disappointed and bewildered at what why service seems to have fallen far behind food in this age of the celebrity chef. it seems to me that in the past few years an abundance of restaurants with creative, delicious, and beautifully presented food have begun to flourish. they are often decorated with minimal/contemporary furniture and architecture and, more and more, characterized by stand-offish, holier-than thou service. i kept thinking about someone i spoke to once who sold shoes at a very expensive department store who said that if you rolled your eyes at people and acted like they were years behind you in terms of fashion, you'd get them to believe that you knew something they didn't, and that if they wanted to be cool they would have to buy what you told them to... though perhaps not as blatant, the restaurant i went to last night seemed to use this idea as their core philosophy. we waited 45 extra minutes for our 9:30 reservation, and the only acknowledgement was the hostess saying "people are relaxing a little more than normal tonight". the rest of the service (mechanically) went fine until we were finishing up our entrees. i asked the server to box up literally the 1/2 of my friend's steak that she didn't eat and he said no and took our plates. my wife was very angry, and i told her that he had to have been joking. when the bill came after our desserts, i asked if he wrapped up the steak and he said "you were serious?". when i said yes, he took the receipt out of the check presenter that was on our table, crumpled it in his hand, and said "i'll just take the steak off" and walked away. i suspect he may have been frustrated that we weren't drinking, but a) we waited 45 minutes for our reservation- this would have been plenty of time for us to have a few drinks apice next door, and b) my friend was pregnant! as i said this was one of the most acclaimed and busiest restaurants in chicago and though i am sure this was an exaggerated incident, i don't recall seeing one smile the whole time we were there (aside from the hostess who was actually friendly). shouldn't the restaurant that claims to be (or is rated) one of the best in the country at least appreciate its guests, rather than making them feel that they should be honored that they were given a reservation? i've been to this restaurant twice now and had the same feeling (though much more subtle last time). at the other end of the pendulum, alinea in the 2 times i've been there there is a noticeable effort among the staff to make their guests as happy and comfortable as possible. though their service is totally polished and professional, they keep the mood light and act as though they are with the guest and not above them. same goes for moto, though being chefs their service isn't quite as polished. am i being over-critical or biased in thinking that service is severely lacking and that food preparation has surged ahead of the FOH?
  13. French Laundry, Fenton Michigan I've heard of this place and just visited their website. Ironic that they have fine print warning against unauthorized downloads and a copyright.
  14. slightly off topic but i am proud to say that the wife and i realized a couple of days ago that our apartment doesn't have a microwave. we've been here over 2 months.
  15. san

    no shows

    in my experience, no-shows happen because there are no consequences for guests who reserve a table and don't show. though i absolutely don NOT believe that guests should be punished, i've found that simply taking a cc # and stating that we request that if you can't make it you would call as soon as you find out, coupled with the act of calling each reserved guest to confirm their reservation a few days before, eliminates 95% of no shows. if these 2 things are done properly, the only no-shows are the ones who refuse to give cc info and are insulted that we would ask. i've worked in restaurants with this policy for about 5 years now and though there are exceptions, this is almost always how it goes. i should also mention that i've never charged anyone's card for not showing. everyone has busy lives, and IMO it is a restaurant's responsibility to remind a guest that they reserved a table. what is frustrating is the people who (usually on the busiest nights of the year) make reservations at several restaurants and decide which one to honor at the last minute. doing that not only costs the restaurant a lot financially from the empty table that evening, but in the long run turning away a regular can really hurt. reminds me of the old yogi berra addage "nobody ever goes there anymore, it's always too busy"
  16. came in last night and had hands down the best manhattan i've ever had. hands down. my wife and i agreed that the speakeasy type theme is totally nailed... the all-but-hidden front door, the entryway that consists of unpainted drywall and a concrete floor, and the night and day transition into an elegant series of 3 'rooms' seperated by huge hanging curtain dividers, oversized chairs, and chandeliers. it was much more elegant of an atmosphere than we were expecting (we wished we would have dressed up a little more). the music was almost strictly Johnny Cash, which fit the mood perfectly (although we did hear 3 or 4 songs twice in the 2 hours we were there). the service was noticeably slow at first (took about 20-25 minutes to sit and it took almost that long to get a drink order), but once we sat our hostess and server both were much more apologetic, sincere, and friendly than we would have expected. Once we got our first round and tasted the drinks we fully understood the 10-12 minute drink time and realized that these bartenders really mean business. we happily attributed the initial hiccup to the bar being busy and left agreeing that this place is as great of a bar as we've been to in Chicago, or anywhere else. we can't wait to go back and try the rest of the menu.
  17. i know what you mean. the detroit area is really plagued with mediocre restaurants. though there are several very good restaurants, they are spread so thin over so great an area that getting to many of them is more of a journey than most would care to take. though I never had the chance to experience it, the London Chop House (based on everything I have heard) was perhaps the last great destination restaurant. IMHO the best restaurants there today are only very good, or V4 good, but there are none who provide anything that you can't get in most other large cities. the downtown area has been improving for several years now and i do believe that it is only a matter of time before detroit restaurants catch up to those of some of the other cities that have surged ahead over the past couple of decades
  18. i find that i get really accurate accounts (many times with pictures) from many people whose opinions i've come to respect on a website called www.egullet.org
  19. san

    I'm a fraud

    i've heard rumors that my grandfather continually poured smirnoff into an empty bottle of grey goose for when he had company.
  20. san

    I'm a fraud

    I know it says "Kitchen", but can we include FOH? My favorite is pretending to adjust the thermostat after a guest says it's too hot or cold. Come back in 5 minutes and "is it starting to get a little hotter/colder?". Has NEVER not worked, except for the times when the heat/ac was actually not working properly.
  21. san

    Restaurant Fire

    sorry to hear about this tough tough hurdle as hard as it is, its important to appreciate someone who enjoys their job so much that they are willing to overcome the toughest of obstacles in order to succeed in their field. sounds like you (and she) have surrounded yourselves with great people who have similar drive and love for the industry. in a few years this will be a great story of something that you all overcame despite very tough odds good luck
  22. thank you for helping me decide where to take my wife for dinner tonight
  23. http://www.allbusiness.com/retail-trade/ea.../4967800-1.html this article reports that buddakan's servers are trained for 6 weeks before they hit the floor Can this be true? The longest training period I have ever heard of for full-time servers is two weeks. How can he find staff willing to train for so long- does he pay them more? it seems to me that it would be impossible to find anyone over 19 years old to sacrifice 6 weeks of tips. From my experience, the service at buddakan, striped bass, and tangerine to be very professional. I have a hard time believing that a seasoned server would go 6 weeks without tips... Does anyone know the specifics of the training programs of any of these restaurants?
  24. does anyone have any recommendations for books on restaurant *service* rather than food/cooking? here are a few of my favorites: -Service Included- Phoebe Damrosch -Lessons in Service/Excellence from Charlie Trotter -Satisfaction- J.D. Power & Assoc. *Not specific to restaurants, rather a primer on customer satisfaction in general
  25. when i used to serve i always made sure to include a copy of the bill before the discount was given, and a copy of the bill after the discount was given (even if the latter detailed the 'promo-d amount'). i would respectfully explain 'this is your original bill and this is the bill after the discount was taken'. when i did this i would say about 75% of the time i was tipped on the original bill, when i didn't, only about 25%. i would also like to say that IMHO one shouldn't ever be offended by an auto-grat- there have been FAR too many times in which people have taken advantage of an optional tip on large parties and stiffed, grossly undertipped, or made an honest mistake and in my mind a server should never pass on an automatic gratuity on a large party. in my years as a server and a manager i have seen several instances of a server having to tip out more than they made on a 10 hour shift. even if that server did a subpar job, they should not have to pay to work an entire day. i can't think of another industry where a mistake (or an off-day) on the part of an employee comes directly out of their pocket. it should also be noted (though it may have already been upthread) that more often than not poor service is due to kitchen, management, or training mistakes. when people get what they percieve as above average service, however, it is almost always due to the server's personality, kindness, etc. While (in my experience) many servers have a cynical and negatively distorted view of diners, the same goes for many diners' perception of servers. serving (well) is one of the toughest jobs there is, and one of the least appreciated. i truly believe that many of the people who are the harshest critics are the ones who would fail miserably as servers. just my opinion
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