Do Chefs/Owners want to hear suggestions from Clients?

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by amw5g, Sep 18, 2003.

  1. amw5g

    amw5g

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    I am of the opinion that a chef and/or owner would welcome constructive criticism in conjunction with positive comments. A colleague of mine tells me that I'm wasting my time and making enemies if I do so and that the staff "is not looking for advice from a peon like" me. True I'm not a professional and don't play one on TV, but if I represent any significant portion of the population's restaurant go-ers, would my suggestions not be appreciated if polite, well thought-out and accompanied by lots of "I liked this and this and this"?
    So I turn to you, the real pros to see how you run your shows.
    Much obliged!
    Andrew
     
  2. anneke

    anneke

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    That's a very interesting question and I'm glad you brought it up.

    In my experience, few chefs will take customer comments seriously, positive or negative. However, most will pay close attention to the dirty plates that go to the dish pit, and observe what people leave behind.

    The chef I work for finds that people who write their customer reviews on-line are people who have nothing better to do with their time, and therefore their opinion doesn't count. I find this attitude really unfortunate. He also argues with the waiters when people return their meat if the colour isn't right (as if it were their fault) and he responds to criticism with the old "they don't get my concept" line.

    Playing devil's advocate here, I'd also have to say that we get many comments from people who really don't have a clue what they are eating, who think that braised rabbit is a seafood etc. So credibility will be a factor after getting a few too many comments from such customers. Another factor to consider, is that we do have customers who come up to the pass and chat it up with the chef in hopes of getting special treatment. (and, I'm sad to report, they sometimes do)

    So, all in all, observing dirty plates is probably a more objective quality index than customers' comments. Personnally, I do listen very closely to what people have to say, and a know a few chefs who do too. The fact is that the minute we get all prima-donna about it is the the minute we forget why we're cooking in the first place. Customers may not always be right, but they are paying our bills, so we need to listen to what they have to say and what makes their experience a happy one.
     
  3. panini

    panini

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    Over the years, I've found that leaving an open mind and entertaining all comments is productive.
    We actually encourage all staff to never let a comment get out the door. They are to get one of us for a face to face with the customer.
    Sometime we get so into the forest, we can't see the trees. It's always good to hear things from the outside looking in.
     
  4. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Chefs who think that the general public is just stupid should work in a country club for about a year. You want your ego battered around? Try working in a private club.

    In general, you should listen to your customers but sometimes they just don't have the right words. They may need a little coaxing.

    Kuan
     
  5. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    Kuan, I work in a country club and it has only proven my theory that most people are stupid!!!!!!

    Seriously though, I agree, for the most part with what has been said already. I think chef's do need to listen to their customers. Afterall we are there to serve them. I also agree with Anneke. Chef's should watch plates coming back to the dishmachine. That tells the real story. Most chef's have a problem listening to their customers due to ego and pride. They have sweated and toiled to put out their best and it is awfully hard to listen to someone make suggestions to change things, but chefs do need to put aside their pride and ego and listen. On the other hand, chefs will and should tune out ranting customers or those that have ''suggestions" everytime they come in.
     
  6. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    I have found myself in an interesting situation....One of the most impressive chefs in town has the WORST service, it is pulling them down. I have told mutual friends that have the ear of the owners but as a whole I donot think they are listening hard enough. I took the editor of a major mag there and the service was horendous, they did not bring out the charcuterie platter, they substituted wine instead, they paid for their selection of dessert and even when we said point blank BRING out the platter the service thought that freebies would make up for forgetting at Ap time.I later heard from a PC customer they would not serve the sauce for the fish on the side, nor did they know that the pave had CREAM in it...my client asked if there was butter, cream cheese and the serversaid No. ...my client will not be back and her circle will have spread taht story BIG time. Most of the other restaurants I donot give a fig about if therir service is loosy, but this one could be the shining star of the city....I am food all the way and it kills me to have to by pass it because of service.
    oh yeah we never got the charcuterie platter.
     
  7. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Heh, Pete. :) See in a restaurant, people still feel a little inhibited if they feel something's not right. In a country club, they feel it's their constitutional right to tell you anything they want!

    Kuan
     
  8. amw5g

    amw5g

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    Let me lay out for you just what happened. As an anniversary present, my parents gave my wife and me a gift certif to a very well-respected and highly regarded restaurant in our city. We went and could tell that the kitchen was either slammed or just having a really off night. I won't go into details, but there were some obvious and egregious errors. So we wrote a letter to management telling them very politely about our experience. They quickly qrote back and sent us a voucher for a free meal. It was not our intention for that to happen- we would have been ovwerly satisfied with a "we regret any mistakes, please give us another chance".

    So we went back this past weekend. Wrongs were righted, the meal was very pleasant. Since we wrote a letter when things were off, it was definitely our duty to let them know when things were on. So I drafted what I thought was a very nice letter thanking peopel in person, relating what we had chosen and why we enjoyed it, etc. The one suggestion I did give them was that I would appreciate seeing more cheeses on their cheese menu- they work with a california cuisine theme and I simply stated that Ias a big fan of cheese, I couldn't see enough artisan butter fat on their menu. I then listed a few that we had recently come across at other establishments and enjoyed. This was perhaps 2 phraes out of an entire rundown of the meal.

    I work in a service industry and we welcome any commnts/suggestions, especially when well written and phrased curteously. We may not implement them, but I couldn't imagine discouraging communication. In your opinion, would this situation be frowned upon or cause for anger?

    Thanks again for your much appreciated expertise!
    Andrew
     
  9. miahoyhoy

    miahoyhoy

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    I don't think any Chef truely "likes" critisism but we must respect it for what it's worth. Guests who point out wrongs and rights need to be listened to with open ears.
    Now as for your cheese opinion, that would fall on deaf ears. I personaly am not looking for advice on menus. I appreciate opinions and comments but on the tail end of all these goings on the cheese comment would be too much and most probably ignored.
    Again, I think all other points in your dealings were spot on. But leave the cheese for another time.
    Jon
     
  10. amw5g

    amw5g

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    Fair 'nuff. I'll keep that in check.
    Many thanks,
    Andrew
     
  11. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    Though I believe your heart was in the right place, I would have left your suggestions out of the second letter. With your suggestions, in the second letter, you became, in the eyes of the chef, someone who can't be pleased and he will ignore every suggestion you made. I am not saying this is how you are, but am merely pointing out how the management is going to view things.

    Kuan, have you ever noticed when things are going right, you are the best thing that has ever happened to the club and if you happen to screw up slightly or one person is unhappy with one of your dishes suddenly you become the scapegoat for most all of the club's problems, or you did because "you have a personal grudge against someone".
     
  12. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    The other time when you're the best thing that has ever happened to the club is your first week. :) Everybody is always all excited about the "changes" and is willing to give you exactly two weeks to produce miracles. After that they're whispering behind your back.

    After a few years they get tired of it and either you go or the GM goes. Doesn't matter actually, if GM goes you go too. In most cases your replacement lets you know. :)

    Kuan