Making a Difference

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Hey guys could we get some saucers?

The weekend is upon us.  Friday and Saturday nights get busy and take a lot out of us.  The pace is faster, the side stations are more crowded, and all of the saucers in the restaurant seem to hide.  The guests do not seem to understand any of this and have far less patience.  This leads to frustration on our part and the feeling of  a battle.  A normally nice restaurant turns into a fortress.  The staff fortifies as an army defending against the invading hordes.  Trying to get them fed so they will retreat.  The evening ends with the restaurant looking like a battlefield.  We gather our wounded at the end of the night and plan our invasion of someplace that stays open later than our restaurant does.

Friday and Saturday nights are called “amateur hour” because the guests are less restaurant savvy.  They are not as aware of the burdens they place on us by all deciding to come out to eat on the same night.  They are less patient, less informed, and less generous.  We wish for one moment they could step in our shoes and know our struggles.  Yet, how often do we extend them the same courtesy?  Take a couple minutes to watch this video before answering.

Read the full post at Tips For Improving Your Tips

My Response: 25 Things Chefs Never Tell You

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Like I would pass up an opportunity to post this picture

I am trying to fight through the worst bout of writer’s block I have had since I started writing this blog.  I started at least three different posts yesterday that ended up in the recycle bin.  In my last post I promised to get back to some server related posts, but my brain has forced me to break that promise.  In the meantime I have been holding this one back for just such an occasion.

An article recently came to my attention that I am surprised none of my fellow bloggers jumped on.  The Food Network recently did a survey of chefs around the country.  They wrote up the results in an article titled “25 Things Chefs Never Tell You.”  For the most part I think it was a balanced and informative article.  There are probably a number of points that most diners are not aware of.  I recommend the article for those of you who have not put in time working in a restaurant.

Read the full post at Restaurant Laughs

Top Five Posts You Probably Missed

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R. Charles Pennington IV is best known for his role as the Zoloft rock, but also was the lesser known character Ronnie the Roll

Being less than a week away from my 100th post has left me some time to think about how I want to recognize that milestone.  I thought about a grand countdown.  I thought  about an retrospective on all of the changes I have seen in the restaurant business in my years.  I had an idea sent to me for a very controversial point/counterpoint.  I even considered just waxing poetic on the business as a whole in a pretentious and self absorbed way.  I decided to skip that last one so as not to steal a certain someone’s shtick.

Instead I decided it was okay for me to phone a couple of these in.  100 posts in under 5 months is a pretty feverish pace for a blogger considering the size of most of my posts.  Posts that require research have hours poured into them to try and produce something worth reading.  Occasionally, I get really excited about the result.  In my opinion yesterday’s post about ranch dressing might be my favorite.  However after I finish this one, it may take that title.  My favorite generally is the one I just wrote.

Read the full story at Restaurant Laughs

Ranch Dressing and Why We Love It

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Some people really love their ranch

When Escoffier defined his five mother sauces, he did so based on a proud culinary tradition that dated back to Careme and others.  These were flexible sauces that stood the test of time.  Fortunately, he could not predict how boring the average consumer would become.  In most modern chain restaurants the mother sauces would be redefined as marinara, alfredo, ketchup, gravy, and ranch.  It is said that if you stand perfectly still above Escoffier’s gravesite, you can actually feel him spinning.

Of these sauces the newest and most commonly used is ranch dressing.  It became America’s favorite salad dressing in 1992.  It has since only gained popularity as a dipping sauce and suspected beverage (“the lady at table 24 wants another side of ranch, what is she doing, drinking the stuff?”).  Ranch’s rise to the top is a modern day success story.  The reason behind it will change the way you look at food.

Read the full story at Foodie Knowledge

A Food Critic Intervention

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Above My Computer

There have been several instances while writing posts for this blog where I have felt the need to place blame for the things that drive me crazy about the restaurant business.  I have always managed to stop short of that because I do not want this to be a blog that complains about the problems we are all aware of.  My mission is a little different.  I want to help servers make more money by exceeding their guests’ expectations. Whenever I find myself kvetching too much I only have too look at the Woody Guthrie quote that I keep hanging above my computer to get me back on track.

I consider myself fortunate to have worked with some great “old school” waiters who instilled in me a respect for the industry and the way things used to be.  I have heard tales of the days when people dressed for dinner, left the kids at home, and did not ask for ranch on their Caesar salads.  Since I did not cause the mass corporate casual restaurant to become the norm, I do not complain about it.  I try to adapt to a world where anyone with a yahoo username can be a food critic and hundreds of cooking shows allows everyone to consider themselves a chef de cuisine.  I do so because this is an industry that I love and respect.

Read the full post at The Manager’s Office

How To Memorize Orders

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brain

I know that order is in here somewhere

(Note: In yesterdays post I discussed why I feel it is beneficial to memorize orders.  I will not recap to avoid redundancy, which itself if redundant in this post.)

I am terrible with names.  Not particularly good with faces either.  I will forget three things every time I take a trip.  I promise I will remember to bring that CD I was telling you about next time I see you.  I have left the house in my slippers.  This seems like a good chance to wish a happy belated birthday to everyone who had one before the days when Facebook reminded me.  There was a point to this paragraph, but I am not sure what it was.

If you ask most of my friends, they will gladly tell you how forgetful I am.  If you ask my guests, they will tell you I am some sort of memorization genius.  Memorizing orders is skill rather than a talent.  A talent is something you are born with.  A skill is something you get better at through technique and practice.  I am an absent minded person who has trained himself to be highly proficient at memorizing orders.

Read the full post at Tips For Improving Your Tips

Regional Barbeque Styles

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Christmas is just around the corner

As a rule I attempt to be unbiased in my writings on this blog.  When I express a controversial opinion I try to balance it out with a contrasting opinion.  The advice I give on serving comes solely from my experience, testing, and observation.  Opinions just convolute the message and make it less applicable for the reader.  Today however I do not think I can be objective.  I was made fortunate through the grace of whatever power you believe controls this universe to have been born in Kansas City, the greatest Barbeque city on the planet.

Wherever you are from is no doubt a wonderful place too.  I am sure you do many things as well or better than we do here in KC.  Barbeque simply isn’t one of them.  There are some regions that would dispute that though.  In an effort to be fair, I will address their styles too.  Each of the main barbeques regions has a different style that lead to a very unique taste.  Knowing what style of barbeque you prefer will help you easily pick the restaurants serving that style.

Before we breakdown the regional styles of barbeque, a glossary of BBQ terms is probably in order:

Read the full post at Foodie Knowledge

Seafood During Pregnancy

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If you sell seafood at your restaurant, you will inevitably come in contact with pregnant women concerned whether or not it is safe.  During pregnancy the only thing you get more than designer baby clothes that the child won’t be able to appreciate is advice on what not to eat.  Seafood is confusing to expectant mothers because it’s health benefits are touted as frequently as it is warned against.  The key for servers is being able understand what the warnings are about and what seafood to caution against.  Being able to concisely explain to expectant mothers what is and is not safe is relatively easy once you understand the reason for the warnings.

Seafood contains a great number of benefits for both mother and child.  Seafood contains DHA a type of Omega-3 acid that actually helps with a child’s brain development.  Seafood can also be high in calcium, iron, and vitamin D.  It has also been linked to delaying premature births.  For mothers, seafood is low in fat, but high in protein.  The Omega-3s in seafood have even been shown to reduce post partum depression.

Read the full post at Foodie Knowledge

Cost vs Profit

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In a previous post about why restaurants charge for different extras, I discussed the difference between the guest’s perception of profits and reality.  It is not uncommon to hear a guest say, “I can buy this for half as much at the grocery store.”  The problem is that food in a restaurant carries far more costs than the price of the food on a plate.  I thought of a number of different ways to address this.  The easiest way to explain a complex topic is in relatable terms.  For this reason I have decided to look at the topic by addressing the most common item on restaurant menus: The Cheeseburger.

A friend in the business was able to supply me with the actual numbers from a Midwestern restaurant that is part of a far larger national chain.  These are the actual costs broken down to their individual components on a hamburger.  I won’t name the chain for obvious reasons, but it is fair to say that their volume allows them to buy these items for less than their independent counterparts.  Here is how the actual cost of a half-pound cheeseburger and fries break down.

Read the full post at The Manager’s Office

Supply, Demand, and Chicken Wings

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I only chose this picture because I heard she was an economist

Yesterday’s post on extra charges for the various items a guest requests caused me to ponder on a larger scale.  It is remarkably common to hear guests say, “I could buy that steak/wine/etc at the store for half that much.”  This is the same principle as walking into a car dealership and demanding a price based on the total price of the steel, glass, and plastic contained in the car.  In both cases, the price of production goes far beyond the cost of the raw materials.  Next week, I will be addressing in detail the difference between the actual cost of an item as simple as a burger and also the actual price of production.  When the cost of labor and overhead is factored in, a burger is far less profitable than the average consumer would imagine.

First, it is necessary to establish as a premise that food is a commodity.  A meal is comprised of many components each of which has a finite supply.  There are only so many acres of wheat or corn being produced.  There are also only so much beef, poultry, pork, and seafood being brought to market.  This means that supply is more of less the same and therefore demand is what determines the price restaurants pay.  The commodity we are all most familiar with is oil.  When demand for oil rises worldwide the price rises as well.  This is followed shortly by a rise in the price of gasoline.  We as consumers understand why this affects gas prices, but rarely do we relate it to restaurants.

Read the full post at The Manager’s Office

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