Strategies to Define Your Restaurant's Culture

Posted by Patrick Maness +

In India it’s considered unclean to eat with your left hand. In Japan, you’re expected to slurp loudly when you eat a bowl of noodles. Many Europeans find it odd how Americans don’t eat with a fork in one hand and a knife in the other. And at one time or another, children were scolded for putting their elbows on the table.

Each culture follows its own rules of etiquette, its members avoiding any number of food faux pas that might not make sense to foreigners. For instance, why are the French shocked by someone cutting bread instead of tearing it? Who knows, they just are.

While almost every restaurant owner will adhere to certain legal restrictions, like asking customers not to smoke or requiring that dogs wait outside, there are plenty more everyday faux pas — or annoyances — that every restaurant owner must face.

Perhaps your neighborhood restaurateur doesn’t like when a patron orders a steak well done or asks to have their bill split 20 different ways. Or maybe they get peeved when a large party comes in five minutes before closing time. These are minor annoyances, of course, but they can seriously affect the staff’s morale and the quality of service they offer.

Nowadays, the primary offender in restaurants is the phone. Whether people stare into their phone instead of ordering, standing on their chair to get the perfect Instagram shot of their food or spend their meal swiping and clicking instead of laughing and talking, phones can be a major nuisance.

As a restaurant owner, how can you handle these annoyances? This isn’t so much a question of how to set up “rules” that your guests must follow. Rather, it’s a way to think about what kind of culture you want to create in your restaurant.

Food and culture in your restaurant 

Many restaurateurs have found creative ways to counter some of these faux pas. One Vermont cafe, for example, saw sales soar after it cut the public Wi-Fi and banned laptops. Another restaurant, Dick’s Last Resort, took the constant challenge of rude and difficulty customers and decided to embrace it by responding in kind. They trained their servers to be rude, sarcastic and insulting to their guests. While their menu is nothing remarkable, their unique style earned the owners a distinct reputation, not to mention success.

The takeaway here is that creating your own style of etiquette, your own restaurant culture, is a way to stand out and drive business.

And let’s face it: If you’re running a successful restaurant, you’re probably running a pretty boring restaurant. Your host greets and seats the guests, the server come out with ice water and then takes orders for drinks and appetizers, checking in regularly and apologizing if something isn’t just right. Well, you know how it goes. There really isn’t much to say about the standard dining experience. And in an industry that thrives off word of mouth, you might be missing out on a huge opportunity. We’re talking about creating a culture that’s sure to get people talking.

To understand how this might be done, we’ll take the time in this blog series to explore the following topics:

Microwaves? In a nice restaurant?

Many people cringe at the thought of using a microwave in a restaurant, but let’s face it — a lot of soups, braises and sauces are just fine out of the microwave. What do professional chefs think about microwaves, and how do you set yourself up for reheated-food success to ensure your customers are happy? Check in to learn how.

Cubed or crush ice: A serious topic for serious people.

Many people have come to blows over salted or unsalted butter, but is there a preference between crushed and cubed ice? When is the best time to use each? How can you be sure you get the ice shape you want? What is the perfect ice-cube shape? What are the best ice machines and how do you choose them? Read this installment for the answers.

What to do when a customer sends their food back

There’s always somebody who will send their food back, but what do chefs themselves consider OK to send back? What foods are most commonly sent back? How can you train your staff to react to these requests, and how can you prepare your kitchen to handle them? We’ll explore these questions in more.

Prepare on site or pre-prepare?

Do the majority of restaurant workers feel it’s OK to bring in pre-prepared foods? Is it safer to pre-prepare your produce? Many claim buying pre-prepared produce helps reduce costs by freeing up staff time. What should businesses consider to improve their processes while keeping customers happy? We’ll explore these questions and look at some tools you need to safely store pre-prepared foods.

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