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Asking for samples from the kitchen


gfron1
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Final: The servers have to be able to explain succinctly why, so we put on the menu "Sample requests can not be accommodated due to time and portion restrictions. Thank you for your understanding." When a customer asks for a sample, the server responds, "I'm very sorry but as the menu points out we're not able to do that, but I can tell you that the ketchup is really good - lightly spicy with fresh tomato flavor." - being specific to the flavor.

 

So what do you all think of this? There are times when we could sample but it seems like its all or none - consistency. I love the reminder above that servers have a responsibility to describe the food in a way that gives the info that the customer needs.

 

Reasonable and well-done!

But it all hinges on the server giving the spiel with a smile and a kind heart.

I love the server being able to describe intelligently what's on the menu. Its even more important with what you are doing with challenging ingredients.

Really wish your place wasn't a continent away...I need to see what you are up to.

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I'm starting to get more and more guest chef gigs which is fun. Hard because we close down when I travel, but fun because I get to cook for new crowds.

 

Would you keep us apprised of your travels? Sooner or later you will be in town.

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... So what do you all think of this? There are times when we could sample but it seems like its all or none - consistency. I love the reminder above that servers have a responsibility to describe the food in a way that gives the info that the customer needs.

 

I think it has to be all or none for the sake of consistency. Otherwise your server(s) will be regularly explaining to some customers why the people at the next table get to taste the soup, but they themselves can't try the meat sauce, ketchup, etc.

 

When I'm at a restaurant and I've had a chance to look at the menu, the server sometimes comes by and asks, "Can I answer any questions you may have about the menu?" I appreciate the practice. In my experience, the upscale restaurants with unusual items on their menus are more likely to do this.

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I cannot fathom anyone asking for a taste from the kitchen.  It's rude, crude and socially unattractive.  I'd guess those that do are cheapskates AND hard-to-please and not very likely to return to the eatery, anyway.  

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There are times when a taste would be nice. For example, in a Mexican restaurant, I'd sometimes like to know how spicy a specific salsa is, before I order a dish that I may or may not be able to handle. (And if the dish turns out to be intolerably hot to me, then I'd have to order something else, and wait for it to come, and presumably pay for it.) This is particularly the case if I'm visiting somewhere and don't have a grasp on how "hot" the taste buds run there. (The "hot" where I live now would barely qualify as "medium" in other places I've lived.) If the server can correlate the heat level to something I've already tasted, such as maybe the salsa with the chips and salsa, that helps. But in this case, just telling me that it's medium hot doesn't really help me, as much as just a taste would.

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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I'm in the camp with those that think it's incredibly presumptuous to ask for a 'taste'.  If one wants information about a dish or sauce, isn't that what the server is for?  And I'm impatient with folk who anguish endlessly over a menu choice, unable to decide.  I think to myself, "for god's sake, it's just one meal out of your entire life, take a risk!"

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I work hard to have my staff get to the real question. When someone wants a sample or something on the side, I wish the customer would just say, "I'm afraid the salsa might be too hot for me, could I have a taste?" Then my server could give a better answer than when they hear "I'm afraid I won't like the salsa, could I have a taste?" I know, I'm an overly post-modernist pragmatic German so I I don't like frilly conversation or words. I like to say what I want to say so there's little room for confusion.

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I'm in the camp with those that think it's incredibly presumptuous to ask for a 'taste'.  If one wants information about a dish or sauce, isn't that what the server is for?  And I'm impatient with folk who anguish endlessly over a menu choice, unable to decide.  I think to myself, "for god's sake, it's just one meal out of your entire life, take a risk!"

EXACTLY!!  

 

In fact, many of my most memorable meals are the ones where afterward, I find myself saying, "I really didn't think I'd like this."  

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would never even occur to me to ask for a taster (though I do occasionally play with the idea to ask for ketchup if I ever make it back to the French Laundry, just for fun...). I don't think I'd even put the disclaimer on the menu, never saw it anywhere. I'm sorry, we can't offer samples, with a nice smile should be plenty.

 

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"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Come on! If you are a doctor, a lawyer, or an architect, people always ask you for free advice.

 

dcarch

 

Maybe at a cocktail party, but if you call a doctor's office, the answer you'll get is 'make an appointment.'  Lawyers/architects may as a business strategy offer an initial 'free' consult, but those meetings are pretty vague, filled with lots of 'I can help you with that.'  They aren't going to file a writ or give you blueprints for free.  

 

From a customer standpoint, 'tastes' will bog down restaurant service; picture a few tables of 6 where everyone asks to taste a different salsa, a sauce, a salad dressing, a soup, while the rest of us customers wait to get our orders taken!  And where does it stop...."I'd like a taste of your prime rib to see if it's tender enough for me."

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  • 4 weeks later...

I've never asked for food samples at a restaurant, and it would never occur to me to do so. A couple times when dining out I was uncertain about which wine by the glass to order, and the server offered to give me samples. I declined, because I didn't want to be bothered and I was willing to wing it.

 

Since you've already started giving free samples, and the word is out, I suggest that you back away graciously from this policy. Perhaps decide on a few items that you are willing to let people sample, e.g., the soups. Everything else can be No, because it is too difficult for you and the kitchen, and/or too costly, and you should tell customers that. Right now people are asking for these samples and they don't realize what it's like for you to dish 'em out.

 

You can also stop giving samples altogether, and tell customers the truth: it was OK when there were only one or two requests, but the whole matter has gotten out of hand and you can no longer do this as a regular policy.

 

When I'm uncertain or unknowledgeable about a dish at a restaurant, I ask the server. Comments like "this is absolutely delicious!" (sell, sell, sell) are unhelpful. Servers who tell me enough so I can imagine it--ingredients, cooking method, flavors, texture, even richness--are very helpful. Comparing the dish to something else I may have tried is also very helpful. Perhaps more attention from your servers so customers can rely on their descriptions and no longer ask for samples?

I especially like your last paragraph.  Our first visit to Babbo a few years ago, I asked about the beef cheek ravioli with crushed squab liver and shaved black truffles.  I don't like a lot of liver.  The server said that s/he feels the same about liver and that it was very, very mild.  And it was.  Experienced servers have eaten the food and hopefully can discuss.

 

Like others I can't even imagine asking for a sample of anything.

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Come on! If you are a doctor, a lawyer, or an architect, people always ask you for free advice.

 

dcarch

I have a doctor friend, now retired, who when asked for free advice he would suggest that he and the 'patient' step into another room and 'patient' take off their clothes.  Usually stopped that dead in its tracks.  Trying to think of something comparable in a restaurant :)

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  • 4 weeks later...

I give an ice cream tasting spoons worth, one taste nothing more.  You are not out of hand, do not give away your product.. but make sure you entice them and let the server know which item you would like to push that may accompany what they are tasting.

Chevan, apparently. 

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  • 3 months later...

The servers have to be able to explain succinctly why, so we put on the menu "Sample requests can not be accommodated due to time and portion restrictions. Thank you for your understanding." ....

I suddenly remembered this topic yesterday. Has the note helped?

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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