THE OTHER ‘ALLERGIES’
All over nations a wild epidemy 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.
SERVICE POINT: INFORMATION IS KEY. WRITE, SHARE, USE.
Entire civilizations have been lost because people didn’t write down their thoughts, ideas, and ways of doing things. A restaurant or any kind of enterprises cannot operate, nor should you, without sharing information.
Every item on a menu can be broken down. This will make it easier to remember and to speed service. If management is not doing it already DO IT FOR YOURSELF. Keep a binder or notebook with ALL the menu items. A computer spreadsheet is handy for this (Google docs FTW!).
Make notes of all the components of the items on the menu. Everything:
|Oil used in the fryer||Weight of the protein||ALLERGENS|
|Can it be modified?||Spice level||Spices used|
|Seasoning||Done how? R,MR,M,W etc||Cooking technique(s)|
|Temperature (hot/cold/room)||Hot line or cold side?||Time to prepare/ETA|
This way you will be able to answer ANY questions a client may have.
This is also why daily briefings with the kitchen are so important.
For years I took my notes from the menu, in the same order as they appeared on the menu. Breaking down the menu items as they were written, and adding along the extras above mentioned.
This way I could note the item, its ingredients, and possible changes as I explained the menu to a guest. Writing it out also helps to remember.
|Menu Reads:||Roast chicken with potatoes and jus|
|My notes:||Roast chicken (½) (free range, marinade of lemon and evoo, rosemary) (butter basted), potatoes (yukon gold, dairy-butter, cream, chives, garlic, onion) jus (reduction of juices, wheat flour, red wine) NO VEG. Most wine will work. 30 mins.|
Write down the specials, the notes about the menu changes and all other relevant info and have it all in one single place for other co-workers (or kitchen staff) to check. That way when you forget or someone (staff or guests) has a question, you can consult the notes and avoid unnecessary chatter in the middle of a Saturday night at 8 pm (and plates thrown at you for asking silly questions). That way you also avoid the dreaded “I didn’t hear that”; “‘he said / she said” situation.
FEED THE CHILDREN
Paying attention to children can pay back far more than you think.
Whether it’s a family complete with kids, or a mother eating alone. Get this kid some food right away. Suggest what’s the fastest option on the menu and get it ordered before you even bring drinks. Kids these days have the attention span of ferrets so they will get angry a lot sooner than you think. And they may get bitey too, for all I know.
Bottom line: get them something to eat fast, and a coloring book if you have it (which, of course, you do), and they are happy campers.
HANDLING STRATEGIES OF KIDS BY AGE
|Infants:||Try to seat them in a quiet spot if sleeping. offer a more private table if they seem the loud and squirmy type (i.e. under 6 months old or so).|
|Younger kids (under 3)||Can be amused for hours with a crumpled sheet of paper. Really, I’ve done it. Make them a hat out of a napkin, that’s always fun too. Crayons are good, but check with parental units. Like waiters, they love bread too. Magic tricks are always good.|
|Older kids (4+)||Same thing, get their order first, fire out, then order the adult fare. Coloring books are great, older kids may want to get a tour of the kitchen (depending on timing, your chef, and insurance regulations). Magic tricks +++|
|Young teens (11+)||Hope the parents did a good enough job to tame them. Usually will eat with the adults. May have weird food fixations or themes.|
|Teens||Abandon all hope. But seriously, offer them the wi-fi password and hope for the best. Do treat them like adults that can’t drink for having a DUI. And feed them fast AND large!|
For the adults:
Suggest the adults dishes that are faster and easier to eat. Unless they are eating with older children, the last thing they wanna do is have to wrestle with complicated food and wrappers on one hand and a screaming child on the other.
Also, get the check while they are still eating. Be ready to drop at moment’s notice.
Do all of the above and be a hero to the parents. Showers of money should follow.
Classic lines that charm.
Every waiter and bartender (and anyone in customer service) should have a repertoire of classic, snappy, and witty lines that charm. It’s basic wisdom for those who interact with people everyday. Why are they important? Because they make people smile, feel special, and maybe even chuckle a little. It means that someone cares. At least in North America it seems to have become a standard and expected part of the kayfabe of most interaction in restaurants and bars.
Tame the caveman instincts that people have and you will have much more rewarding social interactions. . . By this I mean that people, instinctively and unknowingly, may react against certain behaviours and gestures, like proximity of someone unknown, removal of food, casual physical touch or eye contact and other situations that may put people on edge or make them uneasy or uncomfortable. This is very culturally determined. That is why charm comes very handy.
I suggest having lines for all of the occasions I have mentioned, from the greet to the farewell. Ask old timers, or pay attention next time you go out.
Ideally you will develop your standard lines, like every comedian. What matters is that your lines make sense coming from you and that they are appropriate to where you work. They can’t come as too stiff or canned, they should be honest reflections of your personality. So if you are chirpy, be yourself. Just say something that matches you and the kayfabe of the place.
Think about something nice you would say to someone you know, like an older uncle or grandparent.
Puns are great —though people will groan, I don’t know why! White jokes are good. Avoid any blue humor or toilet jokes. . . Unless it’s that kind of a place.
Dad jokes are my bread and butter. Pun intended.
Like every good comedian knows: ALWAYS TRY NEW MATERIAL FIRST WITH COWORKERS, AMIABLE GUESTS, FRIENDS AND FAMILY. Not on a Saturday night with a grumpy couple.
Some favorite lines:
“Smoking or non smoking?” (this is great for older guests, nobody smokes indoors anymore)
“Good evening and welcome, I’ll be your tour guide here”
“I’m your personal concierge”
“Let me give you quickly the highlights”
“Good evening, looks like you found your way to the thunderdome! . . . Oh, wait, that’s tomorrow. . . Welcome in any case!”
“Good morning, can I offer you an eye opener? Coffee, espresso?. . . shot of Tequila?” (great at brunch)
“Anything to drink, perhaps a pint of gin? It’s not only for breakfast anymore you know?”
“Welcome to Willy Wonkas’ factory!” (kids might love this one, also sets the hint & tone that bad behavior is not tolerated here)
“Good morning, let’s get you a coffee or 5 to get your day started?” (great for brunch)
“This on the left, that on the right, and I’m here for whatever you need”
(While taking the order)
“No problem, we are here to make you happy”
“You’ve got it!”
“Right away boss” (careful here)
“On the double”
“I’m happy to help”
“That’s what we are here for”
“I’m all ears”
“Yes sir / ma’am / miss” (can’t go wrong being too polite, don’t be sarcastic about it though. Especially with older crowd)
“How elegant, eh?” (For something with great presentation)
“I’ll bring you a spoon, it’s better than a fork for soup” (or a variation as you put down the spoon)
“If you need anything please let me know”
“Bon appetit / buen provecho / itadakimasu etc.”
“Here you go boss”
“If you need anything, don’t hesitate, any of us would be happy to help”
“Delicious, wet, and fits in every glass. Can’t go wrong!”
“Just to be social”
“What you need. But not too much”
“Enhances the pleasure of living”
“Better than water, for sure!”
“It evaporates on its own! amazing!” (as you top up someone)
“Makes everything better!”
Lines about Food:
(when asked about a particular item) “It’s Terrible, but very popular!” (careful with this one)
“So good you’ll tell your children / grandchildren about it”
“Hang onto your socks, this is stellar”
“Wildly delicious, one of our best sellers” (this is classic, influence by popularity)
“It’s pretty silly”
“It’s small but fantastic”
”Let’s have a little indulgence”
”So small it hardly counts”
”Its gluten free / organic chocolate”
“The house is generous and will only charge you for what you had”
“Thank you, and I’ll be here all week!”
(Things along those lines)
This is one of the most important skills to have. Knowing when to approach, serve, and clean is absolute basic.
- NEVER INTERRUPT A CONVERSATION UNLESS YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST. Stand nearby, they will sense you and stop at some point.
- If it seems like an intense conversation, let it cool down a bit.
- If you are pouring don’t expect recognition or thank you.
- Try to make eye contact with the guest, but avoid glaring or staring too hard.
- Never join the chat, however amusing it may be, unless they are involving you, and you already have a good vibe going with the table.
- Specials? Always give a little “ladies and gentlemen, I have delicious news you’d like to hear . . “ once you get at least some attention. Stand by the side, stand proud and graceful as if you are delivering an important speech. Wait for everyone before starting to recite specials or menu rundowns. Eye contact is key. And remember, it is your job, but it’s not a State of the Union kinda speech. Throw a joke in there, a positive comment, make them comfortable. And do it QUICK. You have other tables waiting.
- 30 seconds to a couple minutes max, answering questions included.
If you must interrupt
Sometimes you will have to interrupt. Nothing wrong with it, as long as it’s done with grace and a soft touch. Imagine you are a surgeon getting rid of unwanted bits or extras. You have to get in, get it done, and get out on your way. See below.
Explain and Address
This is another silly trick, but it’s very effective. You don’t always have to, but it’s polite and most guests seem to enjoy it (unless they are the impatient types). If the conversation is very intimate or the flow may be interrupted if you interject, then don’t. Some restaurants will not be into this technique. That’s ok too, but it is useful to have it in your back pocket.
Wait for a pause in the conversation and explain to people what you are about to do, for example “If I may . . . I’m bringing fresh glassware / taking the finished plates out / or sugar,” etc.
Ever seen those TV shows where they explain the features of a dress / chair / shoe? Even though it may seem obvious that the item is pleated / broken / worn out I still encourage you to describe and explain.
Add a little hand flourish before you do, pointing with extended arm and your palm out towards the items in question (adapt as needed in tight quarters). Simple, but it looks great.
Why is this good? My methods work because they make people:
- Pay attention to your actions, which may temporarily make you seem more important in their mind.
- Notice that someone is doing something for them at some point of contact.
- Notice that the efforts you make have an impact on their immediate surroundings and on their well-being while asking nothing in return, unlike relatives, friends, or lovers.
- Justifies you “being up in their grill,” as they say. Why are you interrupting otherwise, you perfect, charming stranger? It’s another subtle caveman appeasement move.
HOW TO OPEN A BAR, FROM THE BEST IN THE WORLD
As things look up, and you start wondering how can you improve your bar and become one of the best in the world, a short and sweet guide comes out from the mixologist of the best bar in the world for 2020, The Connaught
Thank you Giorgio Bargiani for sharing your insights on what makes sense for bar operations and even how to find a good bartender: “Being a bartender also means being a host and in order to host people, you need empathy, sensitivity and humbleness.”
I agree with you 100%. Thank you for sharing!
As always, not paid to post, we do not know this company, not affiliated. Our mission, as always, is helping talent rise.