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How is your food tasting?


StanSherman
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I figure I’ve eaten at least 20,000 meals in restaurants, but more likely 40,000. Tonight we ate in a place in the middle of Central Nebraska. We have gone there while passing through for several years. The place seats a few hundred people, been around for over 50 years and tonight (Saturday) I doubt they will turn 100 heads.

This place had great, reasonable corn fed steaks for years. We had never been there on Saturday so had not tried their specialty of cooked overnight prime rib. We were seated in the romantic corner with the crooked table while 20 tables overlooking the pretty lake sat empty. Our Waitress, Sandy (17) assured us that the prime rib there was the best and it was her favorite thing on the menu. We both ordered the 12oz $17.95 portions and prayed. Our salads came out with the standard pre-portioned cups of salad dressing that is no mandatory at all restaurants in the mid-west plus a basket of 8 rolls we never touched.

As a joke I told my dinner companion that she would soon been out asking how our salad was tasting. I figure the NRA has recently decided that that was the proper way for uneducated servers to address customers. 90 seconds later as on cue she asked. How does a couple from Northern California respond to shitty iceberg lettuce with crappy dressing? She served what she was given. No comment on our part would ever produce a salad that we wished. We came for corn fed meat.

Before we had a chance to scramble our salads around the plates the meat arrived. Perfectly cooked lean prime rib. As good as any Dennys or Perkins. I knew Sandy would be out shortly querying on how our meal was tasting but she showed up early because of my companions giggles. Sharper than most, she figured out that we were not thrilled and asked if it was too “fatty”. I tried to explain to her that fat on beef was not always a bad thing. “Bummer” about the meal, and off she went. I now predicted she would return with a platter of 4 cheesecakes and something else. I told sweetie the offering with nuts will get the bad taste out best.

Out comes the platter of four cheesecakes since the sold out of the one chocolate item. One has nuts so we get that one. Guess was is on its way? How is your desert tasting?

Sandy did nothing wrong. The food now sucks and we will most likely never return. I don’t believe that restaurants are responding to the economy correctly.

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Simply curious - if you had dined there before and knew precisely what to expect (and that is what you received):  (a) why did you return and (b) if you got what was expected why do you complain?

In the past we have gotten a good salad and a great steak. Good enough that we went out of the way to return. Our disappointment is in the way establishments have reacted to the current economic conditions. I do not pretend to be a great writer, thus I don't convey my feelings as well as I wish.

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Sorry you had a bad experience - believe me, I grew up in NW Iowa/Nebraska and it is highly unusual to receive a "lean" prime rib. Further, most people in this area of the country do not need to be educated regarding the virtues of fat marbling in beef.

I'm responding to your post because I'm just curious - what would have been the appropriate way for the server to address your table? Would it have been better for her NOT to ask how your meal was? I don't get it. Also, what type of service were you expecting? I'm guessing this wasn't a "white table cloth" establishment. Finally, what do you believe the restaurant should have done in response to your experience?

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I am torn here

a shame you anticipated so much better and that did not happen That is always so disapointing...and for people who adore food it is hard to hide the disapointment that is for sure ...

did they change hands maybe?

I have to say I prickled with your anticipation of the server's concern that you have a good dinner.....she sounded like she was trying to do a good job ..have pride ..and may actually like the food ..there are lots of people who do like those kind of salads and lean meat ...

I think you write quite well actually.....the one thing I don't get was how do you relate your server coming to ask "how is your salad" to the economy? that point I missed... .. I clearly saw your disapointment when you walked in and the view seats were empty ..you knew and predicted exactly what was to follow..the server did not have a chance ... I am sure she could feel your displeasure and may not have understood..

Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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I am torn here

a shame you anticipated so much better and that did not happen  That is always so disapointing...and for people who adore food it is hard to hide the disapointment that is for sure ...

did they change hands maybe?

I have to say I prickled with your anticipation of the server's concern that you have a good dinner.....she sounded like she was trying to do a good job ..have pride ..and  may actually like the food  ..there are lots of people who do like those kind of salads and lean meat ...

I think you write quite well actually.....the one thing I don't get was how do you relate your server coming to ask  "how is your salad"  to the economy? that point I missed... .. I clearly saw your disapointment when you walked in and the view seats were empty ..you knew and predicted exactly what was to follow..the server did not have a chance ... I am sure she could feel your displeasure and may not have understood..

I'm with hummingbirdkiss, I don't quite understand the correlation between pre-portioned salad dressing and the economy. Or mediocre beef, at $17.95; that seems to be the appropriate price for the type of meat that you ate.

On a side note: why do you need to seek out corn fed beef? Usually its harder to find grass fed....

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Your post confuses me too.....on many levels.

First, I'm trying to figure out the math.

If you ate 40,000 meals in restaurants, by my calculations, if you ate one meal a day in a food establishment, 365 days a year, it would take approximately 109 years for you to accomplish that.

If you ate 3 meals day 365 days a year it would take you approximately 36 years.

Wow.

One could assume that:

-you don't cook much

-you have a lot of disposable income to spend on meals out

-you're well past middle age

-you'd be more than familiar with the way restaurants operate and what to expect.

Given that, I'd say I'm surprised that as a seasoned restaurant veteran, you are just now surprised (and annoyed?) that the server is checking with you to see how your meal is. I've eaten significantly less meals at restaurants and I'd be surprised if they DIDN'T ask that. Good economy or bad, that's the server's job.

As a food professional I can tell you that given the skinny profit margins that restaurants have in the first place, this recent turn in food prices, the price of oil, and the decline in consumer spending has us scrambling. Also consider that especially when it comes to produce, we have to pay more for product of a lower quality. Bad year for lettuce? The prices go up and the quality goes down. Could be that iceberg was the only decent lettuce they could get in that week. Or that the iceberg was the only lettuce they could get in that stayed within their pre-determined food cost.

What would you expect a restaurant to do? We're faced with the fact that consumers don't have a lot of extra money to spend, so raising menu prices is the last thing we want to do, and since people will balk at that, and we lose business.

To keep menu prices the same, we have to either/or reduce portion size or buy in cheaper quality food......this is the unfortunate truth.

It's a quandary.

Do you.......raise prices and risk losing belt tightening clientele,

OR

try to keep menu prices the same by cutting corners and hoping you don't offend or lose the discerning diner?

It's a question many a restaurant manager is wrestling with.

It's tough for a restaurant to stay in business.....especially now.

I think they are reacting to the economy as best they can.

Edited by chefpeon (log)
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On a side note: why do you need to seek out corn fed beef? Usually its harder to find grass fed....

I actually wondered that too. Cows arent meant to eat corn so they're pumped with antibiotics and drugs so they can injest it. Whats so special about "corn fed" beef?

I never ask a server what they'd reccomend or I'd never say " how is the fish" because I dont expect an honest answer. I'm sure when a server asks us how a meal is they dont expect to hear " it sucks". Do you always tell the truth when someone asks? I know I don't!! I suffer thru mediocre(mostly poor) meals in the area where I live because mostly all the food here sucks.

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On a more simple note, we hate the question "How is your food tasting?" It's a generational thing, servers in the their 20's mostly. It's just a bit crass. The overall dining experience is not limited to one sense. I'm tempted to answer "Like steak." Or if I am in a bad mood "Like crap."

Trusting a 17 year old for food quality assurance is like asking the 17 year old at the video store for a movie recommendation.

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Sorry you had a bad experience - believe me, I grew up in NW Iowa/Nebraska and it is highly unusual to receive a "lean" prime rib.  Further, most people in this area of the country do not need to be educated regarding the virtues of fat marbling in beef. 

I'm responding to your post because I'm just curious - what would have been the appropriate way for the server to address your table?

I'm not really sure.  The words were fine.  I just here the same words in any town or city we go to.  I spend 100-120 days a year traveling.  I give great care in finding local places to it's kinda wierd that they would all use the same words. 

Would it have been better for her NOT to ask how your meal was?

Of course not.

  I don't get it.  Also, what type of service were you expecting?  I'm guessing this wasn't a "white table cloth" establishment.  Finally, what do you believe the restaurant should have done in response to your experience?

The service was fine.  I was mainly commenting on how staff is trained these days.  This place is the nice place in this town, but calling it "white table cloth" would not be accurate.

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Your post confuses me too.....on many levels.

First, I'm trying to figure out the math.

If you ate 40,000 meals in restaurants, by my calculations, if you ate one meal a day in a food establishment, 365 days a year, it would take approximately 109 years for you to accomplish that.

If you ate 3 meals day 365 days a year it would take you approximately 36 years.

Wow.

My math was off.  but it averages about one meal a day, since I travel so much.

One could assume that:

-you don't cook much

-you have a lot of disposable income to spend on meals out

Lots of business meals

-you're well past middle age

-you'd be more than familiar with the way restaurants operate and what to expect.

Given that, I'd say I'm surprised that as a seasoned restaurant veteran, you are just now surprised (and annoyed?) that the server is checking with you to see how your meal is. I've eaten significantly less meals at restaurants and I'd be surprised if they DIDN'T ask that. Good economy or bad, that's the server's job.

It's the homogenized approach

As a food professional I can tell you that given the skinny profit margins that restaurants have in the first place, this recent turn in food prices, the price of oil, and the decline in consumer spending has us scrambling. Also consider that especially when it comes to produce, we have to pay more for product of a lower quality. Bad year for lettuce? The prices go up and the quality goes down. Could be that iceberg was the only decent lettuce they could get in that week. Or that the iceberg was the only lettuce they could get in that stayed within their pre-determined food cost.

I observed their business as being way off, but I'm not sure all the normal problems exist in the corn belt.  Corn farmers and their suppliers are doing well.  They surely understand the cost increases and I'm wondering if they are staying away because of quality.

What would you expect a restaurant to do? We're faced with the fact that consumers don't have a lot of extra money to spend, so raising menu prices is the last thing we want to do, and since people will balk at that, and we lose business.

To keep menu prices the same, we have to either/or reduce portion size or buy in cheaper quality food......this is the unfortunate truth.

It's a quandary.

Do you.......raise prices and risk losing belt tightening clientele,

OR

try to keep menu prices the same by cutting corners and hoping you don't offend or lose the discerning diner?

It's a question many a restaurant manager is wrestling with.

It's tough for a restaurant to stay in business.....especially now.

I think they are reacting to the economy as best they can.

I brought up the question because I wonder also.

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What else would you expect for 17.95 prime rib? Your not getting prime at that price, maybe not even choice...

Prime rib in not necessary any particular grade, but you'd be suprized at some of the quality that is served in some small mid-west town hole in the wall places. They are getting rarer though. Last year they were $15.95 for a great steak.

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Whats so special about "corn fed" beef?

My best guess is what your taste buds get used to at an early age. I personally like the flavor of corn finished beef. It's a treat for me not something to eat on a weekly basis.

I actually support grass fed beef for many reasons.

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Hi stan - I have to say to you that this crazy bunch of people on this society are real good about jumping on things literally of what you are posting - I could tell what you are saying and did not take it literal but amusing - The prediction of the waitress was classic. I love it when they ask and you tell them it was not good and they are ready with the response of " good if I can get you anything else" or "I will be back to check on you"...he hee!

I get jumped on all of the time for being a real professional chef and that I don't know what I am talking about - so keep posting I thought it was fine

Oh and by the way people - take a little money - go to a good market - get the same cut of meat - organic - grass fed - corn fed - Austrailian - whatever - cook them the same way and see what you think - they are all DIFFERENT - until you do it - don't knock it -

Oh and the classic - wait in until your mouth is loaded up "can I get you anything else right now" I want to just blow it on the floor and answer! Ha Hee

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So I have a question. What do you think the cost savings is between a plate of iceberg lettuce and a plastic cup of dressing compared to some mixed greens tossed with a nice local blue cheese dressing?

What does it cost to bring a steak dinner out on a cart with the baked potato fixings and dress it up?

Maybe this dinner should be $25 or maybe a nice salad and 8oz of meat instead of 12. I'd like to give the place some constructive information. In this case I may not be back and not only will they lose 4-6 more meals from me this year, The gas station and hotel will also not see us as we will be in another town where we want to spent our dinner after nine hours of driving.

I truly believe it's possible to serve a good meal at a fair price. The evening before this meal I had a great dinner in Rawlings Wyoming. 8 small grilled local lamb chops Thai style with a stir fry of green peppers, onions, broccoli, carrots and a wonderful sauce. Side of rice all for $15.

The restaurant business is in for some turbulent time IMHO but innovation may be the key to staying alive. Maybe a menu like "you don't want to look like a big fat pig" with more realistic portions. We are looking at a farm in Iowa tomorrow. Town of 36 and they have a place that serves a 20 oz cheeseburger for $6.50. It's a gimmick but it does drive traffic.

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Hi stan - I have to say to you that this crazy bunch of people on this society are real good about jumping on things literally of what you are posting -

You could have cut the tension with a knife!

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I'd like to give the place some constructive information. 

... How does a couple from Northern California respond to shitty iceberg lettuce with crappy dressing? 

This thread has interested me since it started. It is of course no more ironic or giggle worthy for a server to ask what would you like to order today as is the question how do you like what I brought out. Your prophetic powers surely shine brighter in other untold areas.

Here's your answer, say:

"Ask your chef/owner/manager if he's ever thought about getting some fresh local greens brought in for the salads. I bet the gardens and farmers around here grow some pretty amazing stuff. That could really liven up a basic salad. Not to mention boost the local economy. Generally once the relationship is begun, the farmers themselves might make deliveries when they travel by this way. Just a thought for you to pass on. Good service here. I appreciate your checking on us"

If you want a different table say, "Can we sit over there?"

Edited by K8memphis (log)
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Stan -

I apologize for immediately jumping on you as a result of your post. It just seemed to me that your post was more about stereotyping midwesterns than about the food or the economy. It's a soft-spot issue for me.

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I like when people move after they order or get food then change their minds! Haha

I know that costs are going up - Blue Cheese dressing has gone from about 31.00 a recipe to 43.00 as of last week. We make it and send it out for lots of things...so I think we are all in for a shock for costs and cutbacks - I just hope it does not last....

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So I have a question.  What do you think the cost savings is between a plate of iceberg lettuce and a plastic cup of dressing compared to some mixed greens tossed with a nice local blue cheese dressing?

You can buy 4 gallons of cheap blue dressing for 30 dollars.. Which equals around 500 servings.. Now divide 30 dollars by 500 hundred servings and you get 6 cents worth of dressing.. Do the same with the lettuce and you have yourself a cheap salad..

Now how much does a local blue cheese cost? Most local blue cheese I have come across whether its in Maine or NYC or whatever, we are talking about big money.. Local greens? I made me a six serving salad with mixed greens the other day that cost me at wholesale, 17 bucks for just the lettuce.. You are jumping from 30, 40, 50 cents a plate to 5-7 dollars to make.. Before employees and everything else..

I hear what you are saying but the the cost difference is ridiculous.. But like you say, the restaurant shouldnt be the most expensive restaurant in town then..

Edited by Daniel (log)
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I don’t believe that restaurants are responding to the economy correctly.

If I seemed rude or as if I jumped on you, I apologize; certainly not my intent.

But, I still don't understand the intent of the last line of your original post.

What would you expect? What would you consider to be a correct response? I just am trying to understand your point of view.

Restaurants are caught in the crosshairs of rapidly escalating food prices and diminished consumer spending.

That local blue cheese is going to cost a whole lot more than the industrial stuff that gets poured out of a gallon container, that's reality. Unpleasant but true.

The media is full of stories right now about how the US consumer is going to be feeling the pinch in his food budget. It's not a pretty picture.

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But, I still don't understand the intent of the last line of your original post.

What would you expect? What would you consider to be a correct response? I just am trying to understand your point of view.

Hey, I'm a guy I don't think that deep. I think my original intent was to gripe in general about the loss of some great places due to quality going downhill. I know in my business (unrelated to food) if we downgraded the quality we'd certainly be out of business. Its a tough place to be and I understand.

My other point was to discuss how wait staff all over the country now use the same exact words. It can be in CA, MA, Texas, Kansas etc. They all use the same generic phrase. Is it Sysco approved? Are people allowed their own personality anymore.

I'm not sure what the appropriate response for an unhappy customer is, but I do know a certain percentage are not going to return. Thus the reason for the question.

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well I am a woman and do not have a lot of deep thoughts either!

I think the reason wait staff all over the country ask the same words is because the words for "how is your food tasting? " is limited to "how is your food tasting?"!

when someone brings you food and puts it down in front of you ...what else would they ask when they return? ok they could say "is everything ok here?" or "is there anything else I can get for you?"

I say the same thing over and over all day at my work ...there are only a few words to say for some actions redundant as they are ...how do I ask a patient "how they are feeling today?" when that is what I really need to know?

I do however make fun of myself saying the same things over and oveer ... sometimes try to mix things up to make my patients laugh ...but the bottom line ..some jobs are limiting and some things are just hard to express when you are doing the same thing over and over again ..

she probably was bummed you did not like the meal ...

I do agree quality of food has gone down in lot's of places ..even a few high end used to be fantastic places we have been going to for years..the service recently has sucked and the food has really gotten quite awful as well as over priced ...it is sad ..but I think with some places they start off ambitious and the reality of the bills vs the amount people are willing to spend in this economy ...and paying for a great wait staff .well it is more shelling out than return I imagine

I hate paying money for a crappy meal when I know I can cook better food myself ....but I also believe in supporting my friends in the restaurant industry so I try ...my friend just opened a new place and she is having a horrible time just hiring someone good who wants to work for what she can afford to pay..not to mention drowning in bills trying to afford the best foods ...she is already cutting corners on the quality she promised she would provide ...because she needs to eat too!

ok enough StanSherman I am sorry your meal was ruined

but I understand that people say what they can say and should not be blamed for redundancy in a job that requires it! perhaps she just knew she did not have a chance with you and no skills or maturity to change the mood maybe?

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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