Monthly archives of “November 2014

Restaurant Server
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What Skills Should Servers Have?

Thanksgiving and Black Friday can be true tests of your waitstaff’s ability to cope with pressure. Great income, but highly stressful. If they didn’t do so well, it may be time to take a look at your training systems. Under pressure, bad habits can come out and these need to be nipped in the bud even if they only pop once or twice a year. What should you be hashing and rehashing to your servers?

Learn the Signs

Your waitstaff should be able to read the signs that a patron wants something. There are specific signals, like making eye contact, that they must learn.

Learn About Your Customers

You’ve probably heard about the 80/20 principle. 80% of your income is probably made from 20% of your customers. Your waitstaff should learn to recognize the regular customers and learn their likes and dislikes. It not only keeps them coming, but an attentive waitperson can earn a lot of tips this way.

Be Careful With Your Words

The wrong word can turn off a customer, but so can the wrong tone or level of formality. Even with people who are regulars, there’s a certain decorum that must be maintained. The necessary level will depend on your style of dining, but in general it’s best to be more formal than less formal. Even when stressed, your waitstaff should maintain composure.

Be Aware of the Basics

When someone has worked in a job for a long while, they might become too comfortable with it. Their uniform might be dirty or their hair might be askew. Clean servers are necessary for great service. A dirty waitperson is one of the biggest complaints at restaurants.

Give Out the Attaboys (One for the Restaurant Managers)

Or attagirls.  Don’t be afraid to praise the people who work with you when they’re doing a good job. They’re busting their butts to make sure that your customers receive the best possible experience. Praise goes a long way. It shows that you’re noticing their efforts and that you’ve got their back. And the happier your people are, the more likely they’ll spread that joy to your diners.

Face the holiday season with happiness and joy, and you’ll be set to not only fill your coffers, but make customers for life.

Thanks go out to Alan Light on Flickr for the Creative Commons use of his picture.

Restaurant Sign
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Top Customer Complaints For Restaurants

Today, we’re going to take a look at the complaints that are most often received in restaurants.  I think that everyone’s had at least one of these things happen to them.  Do you consider these to be dealbreakers for your returning to the restaurant in the future?

At 76%, the biggest complaint that people had about their restaurant was that there were dirty utensils or the table was dirty.

73% complained that there were dirty or ill-equipped restrooms.

72% complained about impolite or condescending servers.

67% had servers with a sloppy appearance or poor hygiene.

66% had meals or beverages served at the incorrect temperature.

62% didn’t receive what they ordered.

61% were feeling rushed to finish by the server.

59% complained about the server removing the plate or beverage before finishing.

54% had food that did not look or taste like what it was described like in the menu.

51% had a slow server.

50% claimed that their table wasn’t ready 15 minutes or more after their reservation time.

50% complained about the 18% gratuity (or higher) being automatically added to the bill.

48% had an inaccurate calculation of the check.

38% had a poorly situated table near the kitchen, near the air conditioning vents, or some other location that made the environment uncomfortable.

27% complained about servers not bringing water until asked.

With a little more attention, training in customer service, and the right restaurant supplies, these issues can become a thing of the past for your kitchen.

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What Type of Bakery Are You Opening?

One of the best things about a freshly baked cake is the love that goes into its making.  It’s hard to encapsulate what ‘love’ tastes like, but you definitely know if the love is in your cake, cupcake, or any other pastry. In honor of National Cake Day, we’re going to talk a little bit about starting your own bakery.

Like with any business, you have to start somewhere. Before they go pastry-crazy, many fresh bakers decide to start their careers by setting up a cottage business and baking their delicacies at home and then bringing them to the rest of the world through food trucks and art shows. Most early business is initially gotten through word of mouth, and the business usually expands from there.

While you know that you like to bake, you may not be completely sure as to what type o bakery that you want to open.  There are several types, and the type you open depends on many factors including available money and your location.

Online Bakery

These bakeries will get their licenses, put up a website, and sell their baked goods online. Cupcakes, cakes, and pastries get shipped all over the country. The challenge is getting people to buy who can’t see or taste your wares first.

Specialty Bakery

Specialty bakeries are the bakeries that specialize in a certain type of pastry.  These are usually boutique stores that have only cupcakes, only cakes, or perhaps only puff pastries.  These types of bakeries really take off if there is a lot of foot traffic in the area.

Food Truck

This would be a hybrid of the online bakery and the specialty bakery where you travel around to where the customers are.  You bake your goodies in the commercial oven at home and take them on the road.  Now, if you’ve got the space, you can even install all of your baking equipment on the spot.

Traditional Bakery

This is a brick and mortar bakery which offers traditional breads, pastries, cookies, cakes, and more to the public.  They might have perfected a roll recipe, but there’s nothing that speaks to the specialties that the baker might have.

Bakery Café

These bakeries are the ones that you’ll see in more upscale neighborhoods.  You’ll see them serve coffee to their patrons, maybe little homemade candies, all within a European cafe environment.

This is going to be your bakery, your baby. Before you make the investment of your time, energy, and money, it’s always good to know what the vision of your final restaurant will be. That way you’ll have something to aim for. Happy baking!

Serving Worse Breakfast in Town
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How to Spot a Bad Restaurant

I love going to new restaurants. It’s a real treat when we are able to land on a treasure.  Most of the restaurants that we go to are really solid C+/B- style restaurants.  They’re reasonable all the way around, but nothing’s outstanding either way.   I do have to admit that I check out their restaurant equipment, too – it’s a bit of a habit.

Every once in a while, we stumble upon a restaurant that is remarkably bad.  The care isn’t there, the love isn’t there, or something is just so far out of place that we never want to return. Sometimes we can spot the warning signs early and avoid a bad dining experience. Here’s what we like to look for.

  1. Funky odors

Occasionally, the scents of the restaurant are going to make it outside.  You can often get a hint of this when a place cooks a lot of bread, or if you drive by a place that grills.  If something sours your tummy and there’s no paper mill in the area, just stay away. Thankfully, this is a rare problem.

  1. Read the Reviews

Reading reviews is sometimes a dubious practice, because there will often restaurants who pad their reviews toward the ecstatically good.  Look up your prospective restaurant and see what the overall impression is across multiple sites – certain themes will make themselves known when you take a look.

  1. Personnel

If the people who are working at the restaurant don’t seem to care, there’s a high likelihood that attitude will have spread throughout the entire place. The person might be just a simple bad apple, but if there’s more than one take heed.

  1. Look at the health inspection

Health inspectors come by and see if restaurant owners are living up to federal, state, and local standards. These standards include guidelines about temperature, sanitation, hygiene, and more. We try to stay with places that are rated 95% or higher.

  1. Check out the dirt

If you’re looking around and you feel like you’re in a dirty dining room, like the place hasn’t been vacuumed in a while, like there’s a lot of items which haven’t been washed, you are probably in a bad restaurant.

  1. Trust your gut

You’re the expert on what a bad restaurant is.  If you go into the place and you feel that it’s a bad place, it’s a bad place.  First impressions mean a lot, so go with your gut.

Landing in a bad restaurant is a waste of time and money. Fortunately, with the power of social media, you have every chance to warn others about the experience – and with your warning, the owner might get the idea to shape up.

Thanks go out to Chris Blakeley on Flickr for the Creative Commons use of the picture.

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How to Sharpen a Knife With a Sharpening Steel

One of the things that all chefs have to contend with is the sharpness of their tools.  Having a knife that doesn’t cut through fish, meat, or vegetables without sawing through them doesn’t do any good. Also it can be very dangerous to cut things with a dull knife. A dull knife can skip or slip through food and accidentally cut the user’s fingers.

In order to keep the edge of a knife in top condition, chefs regularly hone their blades using a sharpening steel. This keeps the edge in good condition. Knives will also be sent in around every year or so for a more thorough sharpening by a professional. Every chef or aspiring chef should know how to use a steel.

Here is how to sharpen a knife using a sharpening steel.

  1. Hold the steel point down with the end of it on a wooden surface like a cutting board.
  2. Using your other hand, position the knife with the part nearest the handle touching the steel.
  3. You want the knife and the steel to meet at a 22 degree angle.  Remember it as half of a 45 degree angle.
  4. While you keep the angle, lightly pull the blade upward and toward you.  You’re going to be pulling so that the entire length of the blade touches the steel.  You want to do this around ten times for optimum effectiveness.
  5. Do the fourth step again, this time using the other side of the blade.

Good chef’s knives can last quite a long time but only if they are maintained right. The steel grinds out imperfections in the blade’s edge that have formed through normal use. Proper honing allows the blade to perform in top condition.

Have you had to use a dull blade? Did it take you a long time to use a steel properly? We’d love to hear more about your culinary adventures in the comments.