Monday, December 15, 2008

Saw this blog on

"The one the great things about this great city is the great places we can eat. No matter what day it is, or what time, it is possible to enjoy a great meal and a great glass of wine. In a city that has more than 1,500 restaurants, there is something for everyone, even those with the most particular tastes

Not only do I love dinning in Milwaukee, but I love serving in Milwaukee, well most of the time. I have been working in and loving the service industry for many years now and have earned my current serving position by years of hard-work, but as I have adjusted to the fine-dinning, high volume restaurant life, I have come across many things that a restaurant of this magnitude can do that others can not, and most obviously is special requests.

When looking over a menu, I always see dishes that I know I would love if there was a small change, for example substitute balsamic vinaigrette for ginger sesame dressing, or substitute vegetable for a starch, and I am not afraid to ask- after all I am their guest and the restaurant wants to make me happy. At the same time, when one of my guests would like Bearnaise sauce with their steak instead of poivre, no problem, absolutely. When a guest would like no artichokes with one of their fish dishes, also not a problem I would be happy to.

The question I am then posing is: When does it become too much? If I am at brunch and would like fried eggs instead of poached eggs, am I going to be upsetting a server, or even worse a chef? At my current restaurant we can do, and will do almost anything for a guest if he/she asks, but is this really necessary? At 700 on a Friday night, when a guest asks for a steak without a marinade, with a different steaks preparation and his dinning partner wants a special salad that we used to have on the lunch menu as their entree, do we always have to comply? Trying to organize with the chefs and the cooks and the customer to create their essentially personalized menu, is no problem, I'm happy to do it- unless it takes all of my attention away from my other guests. Would it be unreasonable to suggest to the guest more feasible alterations? How would I feel if a server suggested that to me? Granted, I know well enough to be reasonable with my requests, but as a very dedicated server I don't want to upset anybody, but I also need to think about service.

Also, if a table has a special request, or many special requests to their dishes I don't think it's unreasonable to understand that it may take longer to come out of the kitchen. When the cook on grill has to spend extra time and attention to create this made-up steak dish, it may take an extra couple minutes, is that also unreasonable?

Just a couple thoughts on the issue, I find it becoming more and more prevalent not only with my customers, but myself as a customer as well.

From a Chef's standpoint "sauce on side" or no pepper etc is not big deal but I draw the line at requests that are so distracting that they interrupt the rhythm of the line. If I have a spare body or if things are going very well we'll be more than happy to do an oddball request but if I have to pull a guy "out of the zone" to make it happen and I NEED him in that zone I'll say no. Any one who has worked the line knows what I'm talking about. That special place cooks go in their head when they are busy as hell and cranking it out.

1 comment:

Michael Walsh said...

I think the customer needs to be educated in how thing work in the kitchen and in a restaurant as a whole. As a cook you can't blame a chef who pushes you to adjust a dish for a special request, like wise you can't get too upset about the 4 top that sits five minutes after you close. In these tough economic times you do absolutely everything you can to get butts in seats.

Does this mean the customer has free reign to turn our restaurant into their own personal after hours joint with a create your own dish menu? Absolutly not! But how can you turn away that check?

At Nemo we have alot of 'regulars' who feel free to order what ever it is they like, and since we accomadated them once, on a slow tuesday night, they think it can be done for their whole table at 7:30 on saturday, and that is when things go too far. I can think of 3 things for certain that we stock for 'regulars' frozen green beans, frozen chocolate molten cakes, and chicken wings... all for differant ppl who just boldly demand these things.

It just blows my mind how self centered and incosiderate customers can be! As a young cook late dinners and/or substitutions really irk'd me. I have a better understanding of the economics of things now, but i'm still amazed by the gaul of some customers.