Friday, January 04, 2013

Starting Off The New Year

Can anyone keep their days straight this week?  Here it is, Friday already.  Wednesday was Tuesday, Thursday was Wednesday, so how can this be Friday?

We were incredibly slow this Wednesday night, prix-fixe or not, as is fitting for a post holiday week.  The menu was mildly popular, there just weren't enough guests to appreciate it!  It was so slow we closed a bit early - 7:45 - and cut short the Gates' chances for a nice dinner after a long meeting.  We hope they were okay with making due with the limited offerings we provided, but it was just that kind of night.  I don't think anyone even looked our way after 7:00, which was why we cut our losses when we did.

Anyway, menu takers started with a plate of SBF beef shank ragu on our hand-cut fettuccine. 

For the entree, Kevin paired a piece of the arctic char with a sea scallop and mushroom sauce.  We served the almond torte from the NYE menu for dessert.  It was a quiet evening, which frankly most of us were not sorry about.

And then there was Thursday night.  A little bit busier.  We had a reservation for 16 scheduled, along with a party of six; when a request for an eight came in a little before we opened, the only tables left to to offer were the tall tops.  All of this made for a pretty busy dining room, and many, many burgers.  We sold out by 7:30, a very rare (ha!) event.  We served a total of 50 burgers!!  that is a record number, the last record being 37.  Of course that meant Kevin had to grind more meat this morning, and more buns had to be made as well, so we could be ready for lunch service today.  Hop hop hop!

One encounter of the unpleasant kind last night.  We had a guest - who is a regular - ask to have a fritter to go.  When I heard the request, I reminded the server that we don't do the fritter as a to-go item - they don't travel well, and Kevin will not send out something that he knows will not be the way it should be when the customer eats it.  I went to the gentleman and told him that we don't do the fritter, or the romaine salad, as carry-out, for the reasons I just explained.  I apologized but said that it just wasn't available.  

Later in the evening - after the party had left, of course - I was told that he called the server a "stupid ass" because of this.  A stupid ass.  What kind of grown man calls a server - who is herself a grown woman - a stupid ass because he cannot get something he wants?  When that decision is made by the owner/manager, not the server, who has no control over this type of situation?  If I had heard this tale before the group left, I probably would have confronted him over his rudeness, which may not have ended well.  As it is, I may still explain our business process that restricts carry-out to items that travel well, protecting the guest from a bad experience...

Speaking of such things, did anyone see Tom Sietsema's list of resolutions for restaurants and diners in last week's Washington Post magazine?  He was mostly spot-on, on both ends of the spectrum.  I recognize a resolution or two that we could implement and several that guests could work on as well,  the suggestion to Speak Up being first and foremost. Tell us about your dietary restrictions before we put your order into the kitchen.  Let the manager know about the poor service while you are still at the table, or about the cold soup or hot wine, while we can still do something about it.  Tell the manager directly if you think some rule or policy is "stupid ass".  Many times servers do the things they do because they are directed to do so by management, and perhaps that would change if enough customers declared that they don't want to be asked "Have you dined with us before?" each time you sit down in their dining room. 

On our end, I think training is one of the most important aspects of getting it right, for both back and front of the house.  I sure don't want to have to teach the busser how to clear my table when I go out to eat, or show the server how to open the wine (although I have done both).  And trying things out before they reach the table - be it the sauce for the fish or the silverware - is critical.  We failed that lesson with our large platters, which look great but don't let a knife rest on the edge without crashing to the table or into the food.  Obviously we had never actually used the two together before we opened.  As usual, the comments following the online version of his article are almost as enlightening, with the cry for "stop with the 'guys'" being one common rallying call.

Peace out. 

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