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Zwiefel
08-27-2014, 07:12 PM
One of our esteemed members shared this article elsewhere and I thought it would be good conversation fodder:

http://onmilwaukee.com/dining/articles/trustthechef.html

I'm definitely sympathetic to this perspective with the **** I see some people doing at restaurants. My former FiL was a prime culprit. He didn't want to pay $1 more for the a la carte prices to get what he actually wanted, so he would order a combo special and request 6 different changes to it. embarrassed the **** out of me every single time and I needled him for it...usually in front of the waiter.

But, we also all have our own peccadillos. To give only 1 example, I cannot stand to mix sweet and savory...I've tried quite a few versions of it and I find it rather unpleasant..not unlike how unpleasant 95% of people find my level of chile preference! So I will request to have any honey/apple/pear/whatever glaze left off of my pork/fish...I will get a separate pizza if someone wants pineapple...etc.

I examine the menu carefully to see what appeals and what I could be happy with, while keeping any changes to 1 (very rarely, 2). In probably 20% of cases, my alternative would be to leave as every single menu item has something I find....whatever the opposite of appealing is, disappealing maybe. In the other cases, I would just have an experience that was sub-par and probably would end up not coming back. This also happens 2-3 times a year as I can't find anything that I'm comfortable with requesting the number of changes I would need to enjoy it.

I also see there being a difference between fine dining and a taco truck/burger joint/etc. on this question. I have generally found that fine dining restaurants tend offer something that I don't want to make changes to, or that it's done in a way that I can just ignore the part I find objectionable (sweet glaze served on the side, perhaps).

How do you guys feel? I put this in BOH, but I'm interested in everyone's thoughts.

jared08
08-27-2014, 09:24 PM
I have to disagree, as long as the chef composes in the proper way. I do enjoy peach or Apple with my pork, or sour cherry or raspberry with duck, aslong as the chef knows how to compose the flavors properly. Granted, a lot prolly cannot. Not to knock them, but it's a matter of maturing and understanding how to cook with the product you have. Not "going off" a concept or theory one has that sounds right, but truely understanding.

My 2*

panda
08-28-2014, 02:26 PM
kitchens HATE HATE HATE modifiers. order as it comes, or get something else!

Zwiefel
08-28-2014, 02:33 PM
kitchens HATE HATE HATE modifiers. order as it comes, or get something else!

Even if that means dining somewhere else?

panda
08-28-2014, 02:44 PM
yes, cant please everybody. rather have people who are going to really enjoy my food than try to cater to every palette out there.

Chuckles
08-28-2014, 04:29 PM
I find much easier to say no or get mad when the restaurant is a busy one. When the restaurant is half full it is very hard to play the 'my way or the highway' routine.

Additionally, my restaurant has a ton of business groups. Many of these diners are traveling. (This should sound familiar to you Danny!) When I get an order for three scallops and some grilled asparagus I try to picture someone that is forced to eat out 5 nights in a row and can sympathize with them not wanting to become obese. I figure they would order a protein shake if they could.

And I can picture what the owners of my company would say if they knew I was denying special requests. 'So they asked for a substitution. And you Could do it but you Didn't do it. And this is the HOSPITALITY business.'

It's not rocket surgery. Honor the special request but make them $$PAY$$ for it.

I like Panda's post about not catering to every palette out there. I just don't have control over the concept of my restaurant and catering to every palette definitely seems to be part of the scheme of my spot.

Lizzardborn
08-28-2014, 06:39 PM
On the question of trusting someone to do their job - one of my professors in engineering school once said to us:

"When I know what kind of engineers you will be, I am terrified to go to the doctor"

On the other hand, I also work in an industry where requirements change daily (the joys of IT) with management saying - "I know its not huge, can you replace "core functionality" with "3 months of programming for new stuff" by tomorrow. We already promised the customer", so I make my best to eat the dish as is. It is rare to find menu where every item is incompatible with my taste.

Just tell your FOH staff what kinds of requests are unacceptable. ******* up other customers orders and wasting everyone's time just to please a special snowflake is not good for business too.

rami_m
08-28-2014, 07:31 PM
I was tempted to troll this thread with some silly remarks around customers being always right or I know my taste buds better than the chef or some such rubbish. But on a serious note, I am an eastern Christian orthodox, that mean that for some times of the year I am either
A) vegan
B) vegan but allowed some fish.

I try to go for the vegan option but sometimes it's not possible. What do I do then. I can't walk to the back and explain to chef. I know people have an entitlement mentality these days but it's either change the dish or walk off.

JDA_NC
08-28-2014, 07:34 PM
I think there's a balance to strike.

If you're running a destination, chef-driven restaurant with accolades then sure, you can get away with saying that this is the menu you're going to receive and that's how it is (although many/most will be accommodating).

For 99% of the other restaurants that are out there, it's an on-going dialogue between guests and house. No one like it's when someone builds their own menu items (like your FiL - subbing 6 things etc), especially when it's busy, but part of our job/goal is to make people happy. Sometimes that involves dumb sh*t we don't agree with.

A lot of the cooks/chefs you'll see throwing hissy fits & declining simple things (butter pasta for kids - in an Italian restaurant - for example) just on 'principle alone', are simply sissy, egotistical pricks. And this profession/field has no shortage of those.

I've seen chefs put out absolutely horrible vegan/veg dishes just because the restaurant's food is fat/dairy & protein centric and it would take a bit of effort to throw together something decent. I think that's weak.

CoqaVin
08-28-2014, 10:06 PM
I think there's a balance to strike.

If you're running a destination, chef-driven restaurant with accolades then sure, you can get away with saying that this is the menu you're going to receive and that's how it is (although many/most will be accommodating).

For 99% of the other restaurants that are out there, it's an on-going dialogue between guests and house. No one like it's when someone builds their own menu items (like your FiL - subbing 6 things etc), especially when it's busy, but part of our job/goal is to make people happy. Sometimes that involves dumb sh*t we don't agree with.

A lot of the cooks/chefs you'll see throwing hissy fits & declining simple things (butter pasta for kids - in an Italian restaurant - for example) just on 'principle alone', are simply sissy, egotistical pricks. And this profession/field has no shortage of those.

I've seen chefs put out absolutely horrible vegan/veg dishes just because the restaurant's food is fat/dairy & protein centric and it would take a bit of effort to throw together something decent. I think that's weak.

Wow couldn't have said it better myself, everything you said was on point, especially when you said the egotistical sissy prick comment Right On brother right on

Chuckles
08-28-2014, 11:14 PM
Doing something well even when you don't want to do it.

A mark of professionalism in any field.

Salty dog
08-29-2014, 06:59 AM
I worked with Marty 20 years ago. He's still Chefing to.

Our mentor wouldn't do substitutions.

marc4pt0
08-29-2014, 07:18 AM
Read: well done steak. It's a terrible crime, but in the end the guy with the money paying for something he wants is usually correct.
And that's all it is to me. Hard to argue with a guest wanting to change up a couple things. There's a limit obviously, but it still bills down to the guest's stand point of "here's my money, which I want to give to YOU tonight in exchange for foods that I want. I chose you tonight, and clearly I have many choices but still chose you. You are a talented chef, right? You can make this vegan/well done steak/dairy free/gluten free dish, right? I'm trusting you. And by the way, did I mention that my money is just as green as everybody else's?"

I just suck it up and make it. Make it well. If my cooks or under chefs complain about it, I make a very quick point to share with the rest of the team that this cook/chef has a weeping vagina and can't cut the "stress". Sure, I don't mind the joking about special requests, some are just simply and stupidly outrageous, and deserve the jabbing. But I will for the most part make sure the request happens, and that the guest pays well for the extra service provided.

One exception-

To that lady out there who ordered the vegan omelet and explained to us (stupid us) that vegan just means healthy, duh- F*ck you.

Adirondack
08-29-2014, 09:14 AM
To that lady out there who ordered the vegan omelet and explained to us (stupid us) that vegan just means healthy, duh- F*ck you.

Vegan omelet? ***? Is that an egg dish made with parts of free range vegans?

From a non-chef:
I might ask for an ingredient to be left off (ie., hate avocados) but don't do substitutions unless I am asked if I want one.
I think part if it is education. I usually know enough to realize when an ingredient is integral or integrated into the dish. (Most NE clam chowder has bacon in it and they're not going to make me a separate serving without it. I'm not going to get paella that has no chicken unless there is also a seafood only version.)

I think serial substituters need to be educated (gently but firmly) about what is and isn't possible/realistic or they will feel free to keep doing it. Then again, some people don't want to be or feel they don't need to be educated.

Geo87
08-29-2014, 10:53 AM
I agree that it really depends on the restaurant. From a cooks perspective In a busy restaurant mods would be an absolute nightmare... They could actually screw up your entire night. Here's an example:
Saturday nights at a previous job we did 200 every week. all high end fine dining stuff. Wait time for mains during peak time is about 30-40 mins. If even one big table was allowed mods that would slow us down and we would start getting behind... Soon it would snowball and wait times would go past 40 mins and **** would hit the fan. It would be a horrible night. That's why that restaurant never allowed ANY mods.
Dietary requirements like Ramis are different and as long as they are mentioned at the booking completely fine.
On the contrary I love looking after people and making then happy if there's time. But sometimes in some restaurants there really isn't time!

labor of love
08-29-2014, 03:27 PM
Line cooks can be real babies sometimes. It literally takes 2 seconds to serve an item S.O.S. yet everytime we see that modifier someone complains about it. If youre a manager/chef, surely you realize you can sell some a vegan pasta dish for $20 that probably cost $1-3 to make, so why worry?

Exactly. At the end of the day, your paycheck isn't backed by the kitchen staff, but by the patrons.

CutFingers
08-29-2014, 05:55 PM
Leave the gallery if you don't like the art. People think substitutions are no big deal but it really holds up service. Last week we had a table of six come in....they were mentally handicapped. We had to puree the meals. This is something I can forgive. The woman who was working as a caregiver got to sit down for a good meal, and her patients drank every drop.

I think splitting entrees is annoying as all hell. I think asking for a dish without even trying it is downright rude. Sure we can suck it up to customers and do what they ask. But isn't part of being a culinary artist not selling out? Sure I'll do this, sure I'll do that...but at some point the special requests do detract from the other diners having to wait longer.

Our business is friendly to special requests. Most clients are not out of town tourists. But just down the street is a restaurant that does not do special requests. The menu is as it stands and for the most part they are booked solid for months.

Sure some arrogant chefs won't do butter noodles for kids...but the parents didn't have to bring junior if they weren't going to let him explore and discover what he does and does not like on his own.

Somebody told me that they ate at the famous French Laundry in wine country. They thought the food was not seasoned enough and asked for salt. They were hesitant to bring it, but they finally caved in.

On the bill was 14$ for salt...now that is pretty shallow.

Lizzardborn
08-29-2014, 07:38 PM
I think asking for a dish without even trying it is downright rude.

Can you explain what kind of situation is that? I really don't get it (English is second language, and I am not well versed in US dining etiquette).

Vesteroid
08-29-2014, 10:44 PM
From a very well traveled man...I live on the road, often 3 weeks at a time.

I manage my calories by portions and selections, not substitutions. I have asked for sauces or dressings on the side before, and if suppose every now and again just asked for a plate of veggies...whatever they had....but that's about the extent of it.

I personally can't stand sitting with someone who has to ask for a series of accommodations at each meal.

Of course I can't stand hearing people take 5 minutes to order a cup of coffee at Starbucks either lol....so maybe it's me.

panda
08-30-2014, 12:42 AM
combining components from 3 or more different dishes to create your own dish is a god **** Insult and flat out annoying. not to mention how the hell are you supposed to know what to charge?
what really irks me are the cheap asses that try to undermine the menu just to get stuff for less or free even. for example, asking to substitute a garnish for an entire side item. ok, but you're paying the full side upcharge. then there are people who complain and make things difficult just to try to get their meal comped (order well done everything, ***** that it's taking too long when its only been 15 minutes). to those people, i say i don't want your business.

modifiers are fine so long as they are reasonable and not slowing down service.

dough
08-30-2014, 12:22 PM
interesting topic. i think it depends what kind of restaurant and as has been mentioned how packed is the place. i certainly think we all think like panda... hell i sit down with my cooks/owners and menu plan... most dishes are run through some trail and error process... we come in early to prep said menu and sure some prep items that take a day, days or longer. so in that sense yes its a little disconcerting to have someone just sit down and pretend they are a chef or feel they are entitled to be the chef just because they spend x about of money at your place or any place or even dumber i just dont like how that sounds. plus im a firm believer you cant please all the people all the time and trying to in many ways diminishes your whole effort.

however got a soft spot for pleasing people and making them happy bc i know so well going out to eat with someone who is super picky or actually has an issue with what they can and cant eat but i cant tell you how nice it was to have a kitchen take care of us and ensure we had a nice time out. having a nice time out in those types of situations is not always easy to come by so sometimes their extra care makes all the difference in the world. btw i dont think the picky person really got the benefit... it was always me saying thank god this wasnt a fight and the food tastier because of it.

so with that said i definitely take the stance that if its possible we will do it. what annoys me most is when someone custom creates some dish and then they are disappointed. mind you i have zero problem with someone taking a chance on a dish and not liking it... well that happens thanks for trying and can we get you anything else on the fly but the alternative you asked me to put those things together that way. im gonna make you pay to fix your mistake and usually those types of people can afford to pay for their mistakes. i have also made people one off dishes had them come back in and not be able to do it in timely fashion or at all and had the customer tell me how infuriating it was to them. company reply to those types of people was to simply tell them to call ahead and let us know so we can assure you get what you want.

obviously we get our fair share of customers that like to pick and choose but we also serve 5 course dinners paired with wine and in those situations a lot of the same customers dont change a thing. i always think this goes into why is a person even going out to eat in the first place. obviously it serves different purposes.
i tend to go to places because i want to try what the chef is cooking. i want the chef to cook the food he planned on cooking not create some ridiculous chopped tv show type situation. to each their own though and gotta pay the bills.

marc4pt0
08-30-2014, 03:55 PM
I would never consider accommodating guests "selling out". I got a good chuckle reading that.
Working in the kitchen is hard. Some days harder than others. If something comes down the shoot making it more difficult, congrats- you're a cook. This is what you signed up for. Making the impossible possible.

TurdMuffin
11-20-2014, 02:42 PM
I think it's okay to ask for X to be left out if possible. I really, really don't enjoy tomatoes in most cases (on burgers, tacos, salads stuff like that) and I order items without them if i can, but I also understand when they can't reasonably be removed (chili with tomato chunks, marinara with chunks)

On the other hand, I don't think I've ever asked for X to be replaced with Y. Even before I wanted to get into this industry I always took the stance of "this is your restaurant, I chose to come here, if I don't want to play by your rules then that's my own fault"

Pensacola Tiger
11-22-2014, 12:29 PM
http://assets.amuniversal.com/1ebbc42050bb0132ae8d005056a9545d

Zwiefel
11-22-2014, 07:33 PM
Ha! Well-played Rick!


http://assets.amuniversal.com/1ebbc42050bb0132ae8d005056a9545d

Bonertyme
04-20-2015, 06:07 PM
modifier sucks but as a chef, you do what your customer request. But i recommend trying everything first or ask for "very little"

bogeybrown
05-19-2015, 06:02 PM
I used to do the best I could under the circumstances (how swamped we were) without totally crashing a kitchen to please one person. However, if they made a sub that I KNEW was going to suck, I made sure that the server conveyed that to them. Classic example was a chick who wanted the whole-wheat pasta with a very delicate cream sauce. I explained that I'd gladly do it, but that we did not make that pairing ourselves because the wheat pasta could not "grab" the sauce, and the the bitterness of the pasta would overpower the sauce itself. She was insistent so we did it for her. We got it back after one bite and she wanted the menu version instead. I positively insisted that she be charged (a portion of) her experiment.

One of the biggest pains we ever had to pull off was an entree consisting of an entire speckled trout that was deep fried. The menu clearly stated "Whole fried fish". We send one out and FoH comes back with: "The customer didn't want bones in it." We are totally weeded but the caliber of that place demanded that we attempt to make the guest happy, so the Exec himself (the only set of free hands) de-boned the entire trout and sent the new dish out. We get it back again with "he thinks it looked better the way it was served before". No amount of common sense was going to get that guy to understand that we couldn't make it look like all the bones were still in it after he had us de-bone it.


I'd get pissed at some of the goofy crap, like "can you do the marinara without garlic?" or something along those lines, but where I would absolutely lose it was when I'd find out that a server was pimping our asses, as in: "If for some reason you don't see anything you like on the menu, I can have the chef do something special for you, no problem".

keithsaltydog
05-21-2015, 03:32 AM
Being told ahead of time about mods helps. At Kahala we would get return guests. Actually know ahead of time likes & dislikes. I like certain foods and spices. Some people cannot stand any spicy food at all. As a cook you know your tastes, however customers come in all kinds. As one of the posters said does not care for tomato's. I love tomato's. Was eating with one of my nephews he was pulling the tomatoes out of his sandwich.

We would get mods during in ala carte. Some of the banquet sheets border on :dazed: with the special requests

Adrian
05-21-2015, 05:07 AM
Most of us will see this from both sides. I own a fairly high end restaurant with limited covers, and I work the line when it suits me, but my real job is in the finance business. I can actually work as hard and fast as any of the other guys there and working with them teaches me a lot about how they react to customers. I am of course also a customer.

In the restaurant we serve a limited seasonal menu. We have no issues with simple substitutions - the pre-requisite being that the sub must be on the menu anyway. For example, my own hang up is I dislike mashed potato. I will ask for that to be substituted for any other form of starch that they have elsewhere on the menu (fries, saute, roast, whatever) and we will accommodate that kind of request gladly in the restaurant. We also respect that certain customers have bona fide allergies, and we will do our best to advise on alternative dishes that eliminate the risk. Our ethos is we are providing excellent customer service, and we will be as flexible as we can to accommodate customer desires as long as we have the ingredients and as long as the customer accepts that it may take us a while. Staff usually :happymug:see this as a constructive challenge and sometimes will go out and discuss the altered dish with the client. I guarantee you that client will be back and will recommend the restaurant to others.

I also think there is no harm in saying "no" to customers; what matters really is the way in which front of house staff do this. It needs to be reasoned, helpful and constructive. We train ours to understand the menu properly and be aware of the ingredients and what we can and cannot do to modify. There is almost never a time when we cannot at least offer one alternative.

However, it can be disruptive and I respect that when I am out. Hence for business or social, I tend only to go to places where I know they have stuff on the menu that I will like and will be happy to order unmodified. That said, I like almost every type of food and enjoy seeing combinations that others come up with! . The internet can help here in unfamiliar places. Chef's can be prima donnas and that is probably a media creation arising from the phenomenon of cheffy superstardom. I don't have much truck with that: as someone said earlier in this thread, we are in the hospitality business and should seek to achieve a sensible balance.

JohnnyChance
05-21-2015, 12:52 PM
It's easy to say, it's just a simple request, why would you get bent out of shape over a simple request? The problem is not your request, it's allllllll the ones before it. Sure, some are simple and straight forward. Some are weird, or difficult or downright gross. Some of them are traps or scams. For every simple and reasonable request there is a complicated and unreasonable one. Just be reasonable. Don't go crazy. Don't throw a temper tantrum when I can't make you an entire side out of a component of a different dish. Maybe I *gasp* need that for the dish it was designed to go on. Maybe you are a grown ass man and it's time start eating tomatoes, avocados and pears.

I believe this all stems from restaurants having too large of menus and trying to have something for everyone all the time. You just end up with too many items, lots of mediocrity and the things you do really well get lost in the chaos. Then starts the musical chairs of components. Just pick 8 dishes you make really fcking well and put those on your menu. I have gotten a lot less requests on smaller, more "restrictive" menus than on giant "please-all" menus. When people see a 45 item menu, I think they give up, say "I want this with x, y and z." Have a handful of items, make them approachable but interesting, people are more willing to be trusting.

keithsaltydog
05-22-2015, 06:39 PM
Keep the best selling items, ditch the ones that don't sell no matter how you feel about them. Seen too often Chefs or Food & Beverage managers that want to change everything on the menu, getting a lot of request for the best sellers that have been taken off. Not against trying new items you have to do that some will sell others will not.

panda
05-22-2015, 06:59 PM
well said JC. and might i add, you let one person get away with ridiculousness many more will follow suit. for example someone wants an entire side order of a GARNISH in which you get 3 more right after it and all of a sudden you are out of mise..

what really gets me are the people who do it because they are cheap. dont Fking go out to eat if you are a cheapskate and trying to get free shT! you don't deserve good food.