Restaurant Ethics

I have worked for many restaurant owners, chefs, manager, etc., who seemed to have been raised on a different planet than myself. It looked that way, anyway. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I think that if your menu says that you have Carlton Farms Pork, you should probably be serving Carlton Farms Pork. If the menu says that you serve Cascade Organic Beef, you should probably be serving Cascade Organic Beef. But, like I said, maybe it’s just me.
I worked for Wolfgang Puck when the fire extinguisher system accidently was set off and his response was to scrape the toxic white powder off the top of the sauces and serve them anyway. Twice. I also watched a piece of chicken be sent back to him because the woman who ordered it didn’t like it, only to have him cut off the piece she had taken a bite of and send it out on a plate to another table. How many times did I witness him serve Pritikin Diet Pasta–loaded with olive oil, butter and parmesan cheese,,,,,? Don’t even get me started on the number of times I watched him pick food up that had fallen on the floor and serve it to his valued customers.

Double Tip?

I worked other places that had lobster ravioli on the menu, and I can promise you that no lobster ever set a claw in the joint. I watched while managers looked the other way when waiters took the accidental double-tip after the automatic 18% had already been added—of course their service deserved a forty percent tip. I have seen chefs take that ammonia smelling fish, coat it with Cajun spices and try to pass it off as fresh, ‘blackened’ fish.
It is, after all, a tough business. So, I guess that it justifies such action. What will you do in these situations? Are you going to serve farm-raised fish, even though your menu says you serve wild fish? Are you going to offer Genetically Modified faire? Are you going to pour cheap Tennessee Whiskey into empty Jack Daniels bottles and try to pass it off as JD? It’s okay if the customers are just mixing it with Coke anyway, right?

Tough Business

Like I said, it is a tough business, and I don’t mean to come across all high and mighty. But, you will be faced with these ethical questions from time to time in your businesses lifetime. What will you do? It is easy to sit on the sidelines and say that you would never do such a thing. However, when you are faced with the prospect of not being able to make payroll, you’d be surprised at some of the decisions you could make in those circumstances. Maybe you can sneak an extra day or two out of that fish….If you do try to, will you be okay if it shows up in the newspaper tomorrow for all of your friends and family to see?

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. I know it’s a tough business, but like you, Tom, I am often horrified at some of the practices I see in our industry. The kind of behavior you have cited is not only unethical, it is illegal. Very illegal. And the potential cost of that kind of action exceeds any possible savings by orders of magnitude. We buy from people we trust, and when that trust is destroyed, so is your business.

  2. david dixon says:

    I appreciate the self reflection called for. In the end its about character isn’t it, no matter what planet you are from.

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