To nice of an owner?

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Joined Jan 29, 2017
The establishment I have been executive of for a few months now is owned by a really great guy. He has owned the place for over four decades and is always at the restaurant. It is amazing, honestly. He is also a very level headed , smart person, and always gives thanks to the workers and myself. He has been very supportive of me, and it is tremendous . One thing I have noticed though, is that he is very, very, nice in times of customer critique. For instance, we had a lady order the fillet well done. We temped it to 163 and sent it out. She returned it with one third of it ate, and said it was impossible to cut. So we did it again, and it turned out she didn't like it either. The owner comped them her meal and her husbands. I mean, not a huge deal, but it was strange.
The wine manager came in with her husband and two friends. She asked for broccoli instead of our current veg. I obliged and got it going. Mind you, were we getting hammered. We sent out the food, it all left quickly, they ate it and complained. They said the beurr blanc sauce was lumpy, showing a tiny lump to the server, after it had been poured over cracker meal crusted sole. They said I didn't cook the broccoli properly. I blanched it in boiling water four 45 seconds, dunked it into a ice bath until frigid. Then threw it in a hot pan with butter, shallots, salt and pepper, hit it with wine and minced garlic..... Not sure what they wanted, but they had ALL FOUR MEALS COMPPED !
There are tons of other examples, but it is baffling. I mean, I worked under a few different owners, and usually comping a meal was my call, and i have reservations against comping a meal that was fully eaten, or mostly eaten. Maybe I am being overly concerned about nothing, but assuming my instincts are correct, and this is bad behavior, what or how would I go about getting the owner to see his actions are sometimes more hurtful to the business than good? Or should I just not worry about it?

They hand out comment cards , and I often get a few every day ( 3 - 8 ) that will say the food was "kind of boring" or "not that great" , which will be baffling because other than it being dated, I tasted everything and everything was well seasoned and cooked right. Yet, it is perceived as a "problem" . All I can do is reassure the owner I tasted everything and made sure it was good. Just confused on what I should do?
 
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Joined Oct 10, 2005
Yeah, Ive seen a lot of that with one particular owner at one of Vancouver's better known places, like yours, he ran the place for over 25 years.
Mind you this owner was not a nice guy, shrewd and hard as a stale bagel when it came to staff, but he would comp. quite a bit, drove the servers more crazy than the kitchen staff though.
 
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Joined Oct 31, 2012
As a general guide, comping is the last resort. I think if your stomach is full when you leave, then you got what you came for and owe the restaurant compensation. As an employee and/or owner I'm more than happy to replace or redo a meal or part of a meal. Sometimes I had people complain but say "No, that's okay". My response was "No it's not. You have the right to complain and I have the right to fix it."
Some people just feel the need to boost their ego by making up complaints about nothing. Working through objections, concerns and issues is SOP and usually ends the issue when they realize comping isn't your first response.
On the other hand, the owner has been there for forty years. Why not just find a few moments to talk to him about why he comps so much. He must have thought it through a long time ago. Perhaps he knows how much he loses and decided it is worth it for some reason or perhaps he doesn't know how much he loses and never considered it.
 

kuan

Moderator
Staff member
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Joined Jun 11, 2001
Sometimes you don't see what's actually going on outside. Sometimes the communication from customer to server to owner to you might be missing a few things.

Also, the owner knows more than you.
 
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Sounds like you're looking for something to complain about. Weren't you in here before complaining about horrible owners not too long ago? Now this one is too "nice?"

Maybe he's a little too quick to pull the comp card, but he's been in business for 40+ years and you like working for him except for this reason. Seems a small price to pay for an otherwise good work environment.

You could also, I dunno, talk to the owner about it. Maybe he has his reasons?
 
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Joined Feb 18, 2007
whether the owner choose to comp or not comp a meal is his decision to make; and you can't or shouldn't take it personally. Unless those comps are somehow affecting your food costs, is it something you need to be worried about? It's a business choice he makes in the moment.

If he had a problem with the way you are cooking, it seems as if he would bring that to your attention, right? Are you concerned about the comment cards and the feedback they are providing? That's something you can address; how do they treat these comment cards? Do they go over them with the staff or ignore them? What do you mean when you say you are reassuring the owner you are tasting everything and making sure it's cooked properly? Has he addressed this with you?
 
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From an owner's perspective, comping a meal is our prerogative and, when necessary, the prerogative of the executive chef, especially if the owner is not around. If the owner has hired an EC, that implicitly means the owner trusts the EC's judgement. Sadly, however, that is not always the case. Nevertheless, the prerogative to comp or not comp a meal is one of the perks of being an owner.

That said, I have to agree with @someday here. This guy you work for has been in business for 40 years which tells me he knows what he's doing. There aren't very many of us who have been fortunate enough to have a culinary career that spans more than four decades. You definitely aren't going to last that long by not knowing how to sidestep a few landmines.

For my part, in the rare times that I've comped a meal, it didn't matter to me how much of the meal was eaten or not eaten. If the customer did not like it, its always worth the cost of the meal or, if necessary, the entire ticket to make sure they leave happy. If the problem was a legitimate issue with the kitchen staff, the matter was dealt with as quickly and constructively as possible. If the problem persisted after that initial intervention, the employee and I had an "office" meeting during off hours to discuss the problem and why it keeps happening. That was the meeting where I decided if they stay or go. But, this is just my process.

Your reaction to the comps is not out of the ordinary nor is it unique. Chefs and owners will always have differences of opinion in terms of when to comp a guest. But, I think the path to your peace of mind is through the fine art of detachment. Having your food sent back for whatever reason, legitimate or not, is frustrating, especially when you're busy and have gone our of your way to accommodate a guest. I get it. Been there, done that. Just plate up a new order, send it out and drive on. That's the job. As long as the owner understands the problem is not with you or the kitchen, that's all that matters. That's the boundary.

Cheers. :)
 
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We comp A LOT. More than I've ever seen...BUT we are still growing rapidly among all the virus craziness. If you make them happy, then they will return. That's the owner's philosophy and I have to say it works, despite cringing at the discounts when we close EVERY night.
 
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Joined Jan 29, 2017
Yes, he has been in business for over four decades, and that fact alone puts me out quite the amount of experience. I am not complaining ( @someday ) , just asking for advice. As usual, my thoughts I had during the time of these events have been confirmed by some experienced chefs ringing in with their experience.
Ironicly, I had a cook quit on me, who was a trouble child, and the complaints have ceased. I don't believe it was the cooks fault, but clearly I was being distracted by keeping a closer eye on this fella than the food. I quickly realized I had a few kinks in the line after the trouble child left and things seem to be running a lot smoother.

The owners reasons are obvious, if we make them happy, they will return. There is no arguing that. I do wonder where the phrase "when you try to please them all, you please none" comes in, but I have enough on my plate managing the kitchen, I will leave the general management to the guy who has been running it for four decades.

Your right, @someday , I was just on here complaining about shitty owners. I got screwed and have been working through that trauma. This owner is awesome beyond belief, and I am extremely grateful ( as I had mentioned ). There is always a caveat with every establishment and this place I have inherited a four decade old menu that I am not allowed to change ( though I have made changes to quality - such as brining the chicken and blanching the carrots in the 'chef veg' ) . I am not complaining, I am asking for advice.

Thank you all for your advice :)
 
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I am not complaining ( @someday ) , just asking for advice.

Eh, I mean, you're doing both. But I'm not even really trying to call you out on it (at least, not in a "mean" or aggressive way), I was more just trying to give you perspective on your current issue. Seems like small potatoes compared to what you've described before.

Complaining is, like, the #1 reason to visit the professional chef forum, lol.

This owner is awesome beyond belief, and I am extremely grateful ( as I had mentioned ). There is always a caveat with every establishment and this place I have inherited a four decade old menu that I am not allowed to change ( though I have made changes to quality - such as brining the chicken and blanching the carrots in the 'chef veg' ) . I am not complaining, I am asking for advice.

Of course no job is perfect, but it seems like this one is a good one, all told.

I'm sure as you and your new boss become comfortable with each other and develop trust you might be able to change the menu slowly. Improving the flow and the standards is a good start. I imagine if he's been successful for 40+ years he's a tough nut to crack about changing things.

Maybe start running some specials and using that as R&D and to solicit feedback from your dining room. Show the owner your vision of what the food could be.

Continued good luck!
 
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