Ruling out the Unknowns (ukns)
Ruling out unpredictable variables can be half the job sometimes. The ukns are what you can’t anticipate on any given day, such as, which dish will sell better, or how many daiquiris will be sold in one night. But one can learn patterns overtime, and the best preparation for ukns is to be ready for anything at all times.
So give yourself this little piece of homework everyday. See if you can identify the particular patterns of your establishment. There are seasonal, weekly, and daily patterns to any operation. One day computers will help sort this out, but for now, try. And then SHARE IT.
If you prepare for everyday as if you are gonna get destroyed, you’ll get destroyed a little less,or at least feel that you had more of a fighting chance. It’s a small thing that will do much for your sanity.
So a good mise en place (‘a plan to have things ready,” in french) is key. Have all of your items, like sugar bowls, polished cutlery, etc., ready to go. That is why the house makes you do it, it’s not work for work’s sake.
DIET RESTRICTIONS, TRENDS AND HANDLING
Dietary restrictions, handling them and your sanity.
Granola Crunch: The ‘Flexatarian’ to ‘no honey’ spectrum and what’s what?
Vegetarianism is an interesting ethical / moral / lifestyle choice that people in North America and Europe are embracing more and more. Baby Boomers getting older seem to do it for health reasons, X’s and Y’s adopt it for fashion or ethics. Millennials have been recently embracing it too.
Why people choose to become vegetarians is a lengthier conversation.For now let’s say that they do come from all walks of life, but my experience has shown a particular demographic embracing it much more than others:
Educated, middle and upper-middle class, centre and left-of-centre, interested mainly for the health benefits. Anti-aging and all that is highly touted.
Another peculiarity of the Granola-crunch crowd is that not everyone goes angry and preachy (an unfortunate correlation, it seems). From more conventional to radical monk lifestyle, we have:
FLEXITARIANS (flexible about what they eat, meat is not a feature all the time)
NO MAMMALS (will eat all other things but no mammals —like cows, pigs, etc.)
PESCOVEGETARIANS (will eat fish, seafood in general. Butter and cheese ok)
BACON VEGETARIANS (will not eat animals, but make exception for bacon and random delicious meat treats they choose, no rhyme or reason to this)
OVOLACTO VEGETARIANS (will eat eggs, dairy, etc. but still no meat)
VEGETARIANS (will eat almost everything but meat; butter and cheese included)
VEGAN (no to anything animal product, no even delicious cheese ;_; )
‘NO HONEY’ VEGAN (they believe that exploiting bees for their honey is not cool)
FRUITARIAN (only eat fruit . . . no nuts or seeds. . . coconut is popular, I hear. Not so sure how real this is)
So each of these groups will have a different take on what’s acceptable and how far they will flex on their food choices. Also be aware that, for whatever reason, people on the no-honey side of things seem to be more demanding and harder to please. Know your menu, roll with what they want and make them happy.
Veggies are cheaper than animal protein, so putting together something for a vegan shouldn’t be that much of a loss to an operation, even accounting for the extra labour. You will be also pleasantly surprised at how many amazing dishes you can make from classic cuisines (Mexican, Indian, Italian, Ethiopian).
For the record, I do say Granola-crunch with endearment. My mother is a vegetarian. I am in the no mammals camp (and more vegan these days). So I don’t really judge people for what they eat.
THE OTHER ‘ALLERGIES’
All over nations a wild epidemia of food allergies has been spreading. Whether it is statistically possible that now everyone is allergic to gluten is a matter of faith and believe, I think. But we still have to deal with the issue as professionally as possible, AKA, not bat an eye.
Allergies oscillate from severe (in which case people have the fear of God in their eyes when they tell you) to flavour-of-the-month trend (they will finish other’s plates without caring what’s in them, as I have seen).
All said and done, this wrench in the works can really screw over a kitchen on a busy night. How can this be minimized? Can it be avoided?
The answer has to be in several steps, but this can all be part of your strategy.
- Listen carefully and repeat after. Not so different from what you should be doing anyway. Pay special attention to things that they may leave out (ie. the severity).
- Empathize. Offer your support in this righteous cause, and let them know that you’ve understood the issue. Try to approach them as one-to-one cases and be discreet in the tone of your voice. Don’t embarrass someone —things like allergies are beyond a person’s control.
- Establish if it is a severe allergy (ideally they have their Epipen with them!)
- If not, it likely is a preference or an intolerance. Very different ball game.
- List other potential allergens that are associated. Allergies sometimes come in multiples (and people will forget the less severe ones). Example: peach and other stone fruits, strawberries and kiwi.
- Allergies, food intolerance, and dietary preference can be worked around and neither will kill your guest (like an allergy would). Here is where your menu knowledge should be on point.
- OVERALL DO NOT TAKE CHANCES. GET THE MANAGER INVOLVED IF YOU CAN
- List the items that you are certain to contain the offending item, but I find always useful to mention that, ‘there are ingredients that MAY not be listed on this menu. Please let me know if there is something that you’d like to have and i’ll check’. Simple as that.
- FIND OUT IN THE KITCHEN WITH 100% ACCURACY IF THE ITEMS ARE SAFE OR NOT.
- Modify as needed to the kitchen. USE CAPS LOCK PEOPLE PAY MORE ATTENTION LOL.
- IF possible chat with expo or chef ASAP to confirm that kitchen received and understood
- Before you run the food, check. Always double check before delivery.
- Always remind the guest, simply but to the point, that you are here to make their life easier.
- Always remind the kitchen in writing of the allergy items!
After the meal is over, make sure to note the interaction and all allergies and changes made to dishes in the CRM (the place where you should be able to make notes about a guest).
This will save time and effort for next time, make your team like rockstars that care. Everyone wins.