The Inside Story From Inside The Kitchen
There was a time when the quality of the food, service and ambiance were the driving factors of being successful in the restaurant business.
But with the emergence of social media, that’s as out as day-old bread.
Today, it’s all about presentation and reviews, and PubClub.com has the inside scoop on what it’s like inside the kitchen and how social media – Yelp and Instagram in particular – have changed how chefs and restaurants do business today.
This post also contains some juicy elements about picky customers and what goes on between the waitresses and chefs behind those swinging kitchen doors.
The comments are from the head chef of a 5-star restaurant in a major U.S. city.
I will not reveal the name of the chef because he is not authorized to talk with reporters without the restaurant’s prior approval. I will also not mention the name of the restaurant or even the city in which is it located.
The format is simple – there’s a subhead followed by the chef’s comments.
‘Everything Has To Be Visually Perfect’
“I don’t do any cooking anymore. After doing the prep, all I do is look over the cooks’ shoulders. Before the food goes out it must look perfect.
“These days, the presentation is more important than the taste. In fact, in many ways the taste doesn’t matter. And our food is fantastic! It’s all about people (the customers) getting that perfect picture and then putting it up on Instagram or Yelp. And if it does not look prefect, we’ll hear about it.”
‘I Dread Having To Read The Yelp Reviews In The Morning’
“The first thing I do every day is read the Yelp reviews from the previous night. I hate it. In fact, I dread having to read the Yelp reviews in the morning. Some people just post negative things for the sake of posting negative comments.
“If we get a low-star rating, I will look at what else that person has posted. Not to read their reviews but to see what they have reviewed. If it’s only 5-star restaurants, then I will say ‘oh, well for some reason that person was not satisfied with their meal.’
But if their reviews – and this happens a lot – are of Joe’s Tire Shop or a pet grooming place or something other than a good restaurant, then I’ll have a far different opinion of their review of our place.
“This is a huge part of the job of the modern-day chef. And no, I do not respond to any of the reviews. That is up to the restaurant management.”
Is Yelp That Big Of A Factor In A Restaurant’s Success?
“It’s huge. I would say about 80% of our first-time customers come from Yelp. You want five stars. So you’ve got to have good reviews.”
What Meal Service Of The Day Has The Toughest Customers?
“Breakfast. By Far. We get tickets in this long (he holds out his arm) and every single order has some modification to it. It’s really hard on the sever, because they just want to punch in an order to the computer but must then type in ‘no this, that on the side,’ or whatever.
“For dinner, a lot of people make reservations ahead of time so you can somewhat take your time and prepare for the meals. Breakfast is almost all walk-ins and people are in bigger groups and always seem to have adaptations to the menu. Back in the kitchen, things move this fast (he waves his arms frantically in front of his face).
What Technology Is Making Its Way Into The Kitchen?
Our servers put orders into the computer but it comes printed out to us. There is one major national restaurant chain in which the cooks have a monitor. The whole order does not come in at once; rather it is timed to the cooking of the food. Say a customer orders a steak. That takes 12-14 minutes for a nice, thick cut. That comes in first, then with about two minutes left, comes in the order to make the salad.
“It’s pretty cool, actually, but the cooks spend the entire time in one area looking at a screen.”
Are There Any Dirty Little Secrets Between The Chefs And Servers?
“Oh yeah. We share laughs and stories about customers, how picky some are, how difficult they may be or how every single person in a big group wanted some variation of the menu.
“We have a good relationship with our servers. You have to, really.”