Hospitality in the Kitchen: Where to Draw Lines
Any employee, manager, and owner of a restaurant is truly in the hospitality business. While guests may enter your doors as individuals - different tastes, different appearances, and different preferences - they should all feel the same sense of hospitality as any other guest. Satisfied guests are what keep your restaurant in business! While hospitality entails that you cater to your guests, there are in fact limitations that should be considered. Learning where to draw the line when it comes to hospitality and sacrifice is key to keeping your customers happy while keeping true to yourself and your restaurant.
What do we mean by keeping true to yourself and your customers?
Hospitality sometimes entails that you substitute menu items for guests. Whether it be for medical reasons or customer preference, you need to decide where it is that you’ll draw the line to maintain your own integrity. If you’re willing to make any and all substitutes, then you may, in fact, be sacrificing the true flavor of your restaurant’s menu offerings. Substituting rice and beans for a side of broccoli may, in fact, take away from the Mexican flare of one of your dishes. Alternatively, if someone has a nut allergy and the change is merely keeping a nut garnish off of a salad, you may want to consider this request due to its simplicity and your customer’s condition. Keeping true to yourself and the dishes you’ve spent so much time perfecting is key to maintaining the heart of what you’ve chosen to do!
Consistency can impact your prep line.
Dishes you’ve spent substantial effort in perfecting has also been perfected in your cook lineup. Chefs fall into a rhythm, especially on busy nights. Being hospitable and catering to special requests can impact the assembly-line setup and cause a road bump that may in fact lead to a traffic jam in your kitchen! Understand what substitutions can do to your prep line and make decisions with these aspects in mind. When you don’t feel that your prep line can handle substitutions (especially during peak hours), the hospitable thing to do may be to just inform guests that substitutions are politely declined at this time.
The overall flavor of your dish can suffer.
Heat, acidity, texture, and spices all play a role in the overall flavor of any given dish. Many chefs spend countless hours perfecting this balance, and substitutions can destroy the delicate ambiance. Your dishes were made with intention, and every part has a purpose. Don’t allow your hospitality to get in the way of your items. Drawing the line at unreasonable requests (which is subjective and based on your own individual restaurant) may make the difference in maintaining your menu’s integrity.
As you can see, drawing the lines when it comes to hospitality boils down to both the logistics and the integrity of your menu. Hospitality should be in constant practice for all of your staff members, so doing what you can to reasonably accommodate your guests is of top priority. Cater to your guests while staying true to your craft, and practice a little give-and-take! This method is sure to keep both you and your guests as happy as possible.