Learn the Food!

Many years ago (many years ago), I was a server at the new ‘hot’ place in Los Angeles. The chefs went on to win a James Beard award, but that is not really the point of this particular tale.

Every day before we opened the doors to the public, the dining room manager would line us up and pepper us (food pun) with questions about the current menu.  And you had better know the answer. Heaven help the server who could not tell the manager what exactly was in the Thai Melon Salad. Or the Stuffed Rigatoni. Or the Mezze plate.

I could still tell you…

It is rather sick to admit that I can still recall what was in those dishes–20 years later–but that is better than not knowing!

Too many times I have gone out to restaurants, asked a question about the menu, and the server did not know the answer. Actually, that is not so bad. “Let me find out” is significantly better than, “I don’t know.”

C’mon chef

You want your food well represented? Who do you think the customers see as the representative of the restaurant? That’s right, the servers. You want your servers to be able to talk about your food to the customers? You want them to talk about it in a way that you appreciate?

It’s up to you

Then talk to them about it. In a restaurant, the chef plays a significant role when it comes to suggestive selling. This suggestive selling is an important part of any successful restaurant. Servers need to be able to talk about and suggestively sell the food. It is how check averages go up, and many times is the difference between success and failure of a place.

The chef’s role:

  1. Create a menu that is attractive to guests
  2. Maintain quality and consistency
  3. Train the front of the house staff!!!!

Train the front of the house about your food

I have known far too many chefs who get mad about the way their servers talk about their food, without giving them the proper guidance or training. Show them the right way!

I worked at a place that changed the menu slightly every week. Once a week the kitchen would cook up the new dishes, and the chef would discuss these dishes with the servers and then let the servers taste the new food.

That’s what I am talking about!

I’ve never understood the places that don’t allow their servers to ever try any of the food on the menu–and there are plenty of those places. How can you possibly expect your servers–the ones representing your food–to do your food justice if they have never tried it, or never had anyone talk to them about it?

Take charge of your restaurant

Don’t get mad at them for saying something that is wrong about the food–teach them. It is your food, and it is your restaurant. Not only will your staff be more knowledgeable about your food, so will your customers. AND, you will doing a lot to end that front-of-the-house/back-of-the-house divide that dooms so many places out there.

A knowledgeable staff that sells more, understands your philosophy of cooking more, and gets along with the back-of-the-house because they have a new found respect for what happens in that kitchen of yours. Sounds too good to be true? It needn’t be.


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