Thursday, August 15, 2013

What Has Our Restaurant Dining Experience Turned Into?

What Has Our Restaurant Dining Experience Turned Into?

Being in the hospitality business for over 25 years, I have seen some of the best and worst at their trade.
From the hardworking, studious college kid that was very driven and worked as a waiter 6-days a week to put himself through school; the gravelly-voiced divorced mom of 4 grown kids that needed to pay her bills and get her life back on track; the “hot” chick that thought her looks was her ticket to fame and fortune and that being a waiter was only a temporary setback for her; and the overweight nerdy-guy that really couldn’t relate well with his customers, continually came in late and never got a close shave but always found time to play dungeons & dragons.
They all had one thing in common, they wanted to earn as much in tips on each shift as they possibly could! And why not?  That’s why they have a job. 
But whatever happened to customer service?  What happened to the dining experience we used to receive?  Where are all the waiters of days gone by?
It seems like all the “nice” restaurants have been replaced by themed restaurants, ones that think the way to decorate a restaurant is to hang countless photos of actors, sports memorabilia, and even small boats on their walls.  Regardless of the atmosphere of the establishment, service has definitely changed over the years.
With very few exceptions, gone are the days where a waiter will ‘de-bone” a fresh-caught fish tableside.  And frankly, not many people are interested in this anyway.  But don’t they still desire fine service?  Can’t we still tend to the needs, wants & desires of our customers that come to dine in our restaurants?  It seems that very few establishments strive for this.
Now it seems that the primary goals of many restaurants are to “turn” as many tables as possible during their service, make sure that there is no staff overtime and hire managers that are inexperienced and too afraid to come out of their offices and check on their staff, let alone on their guests. More money is spent on designing eye-catching and colorful menus then is spent on training the staff.
We are used to seeing waiters wearing buttons on their lapels, flowers in their hair, not being closely shaven, and waiters that crouch down at the table when they are taking the order.  Then there is my personal favorite choice of tactless behavior; calling all the guests ‘guys”.  “How are you guys today” or “What can I get you guys to drink”, the waiter may say.  These phrases roll off the tongues of most wait & bar staff today and it has become the norm.
This is not service, this is not the way to greet your customer, your guest, at the table.  Does the waiter know the menu inside and out and know what options there are for substitutions of the starch or vegetables?  After serving your food, did your waiter check back with you within two minutes or two bites?  Probably not.  
This is one of the basic industry standards of service, but it’s almost never taught.  Does your waiter continually refill your water glass or bread basket, or does he wait for the minimum wage busboy/busgirl to do it?  But they still want a big tip from you of course!
Today’s waiters are taught to wear the “focus-group determined” uniform, to form a conga line when it’s time to sing happy birthday to some soon-to-be-embarrassed patron and taught that wearing any color of nail polish or multiple dangling ear rings is OK.  It’s OK to come in late, it’s OK to come back from a cigarette break and still smell like a chimney, it’s OK to be indifferent to the very same people that you are relying on for your livelihood.
I seek out restaurants sometimes just to see if their silverware is preset on the table next to a freshly pressed napkin.  But that has been replaced with spotted, cheap silverware rolled in a paper napkin.
Then to make matters worse, customers have been accustomed to this lower level of service and have been willing to accept it.  You waited 10 minutes for a waiter to take your order, that’s OK.  You’re not happy with how your meal was cooked and can’t find your waiter, well “it’s OK, he will be back soon”.  You want a second cup of coffee but all the waiters are hanging around the service station in the back.  You’ll just wait.  This is not why we go out to dine. 
If we just want to fill our stomachs then this level of service is fine.  But if you want more than that there are fewer and fewer affordable restaurants where the average person can go without spending a small fortune.
I just want to be taken care of, to be catered to on those all too infrequent nights out with my family.  Is that too much to ask for?  I hope not.  Is that possible in a restaurant that is less than 5 stars?  I hope so, I know so.
Remember: Only by making your guests feel special, feel as if THEIR enjoyment is YOUR primary concern, will you make the big tips. All else is not important.
You see, that’s the key.  Any waiter can get to their ultimate goal of making bigger tips but only if the customer service is there first.  Good food can only keep your customers for so long, but good service will keep them forever. 
Author Biography
Author Steve DiGioia has been in the hotel & restaurant business, in one manner or another, for 25+ years.
From booking agent to catering sales manager, to restaurant director and director of banquets, he has seen some of the best and worst at their trade.  Using a hands-on approach, he has developed multiple training programs and personally mentored countless employees that have successfully moved on to supervisor and senior management positions.
Still active in the business, Steve has put together this collection of those same straightforward no-nonsense tactics that he continues to use, that will improve the customer service mindset of your employees.  When that happens, the result is bigger tips for the employees and increased revenue and repeat business for your company.
Steve DiGioia is the author of “Earn More Tips On Your Very Next Shift…Even If You’re a Bad Waiter, available at Amazon.  Follow this link to the book:
The above was a guest post that I was thrilled to be approached about.  I am excited to say Steve has another great article to look forward too and hopefully more to follow.  Please leave your thoughts and comments below.  Your feedback and involvement are highly encouraged!
Thank you Steve and you are welcome to return as a guest anytime!
Love Food, Live Life!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Easy Family Style Empanda

Like most foodies I am addicted to watching cooking and restaurant related T.V. shows of all sorts.  I found one called Made in Spain featuring Chef Jose Andres.  I really enjoyed his energy and he was also very informative.  Spanish food looks exciting and fresh and full of flavor.  When I saw him use a pre-made, store bought puff pastry sheet to make a baked, family style empanada I was floored.  The concept is just so simple and can be the base for so much more, I am thinking quick meat pies!
I decided I was going to make my own version of this Empanada.  I started out how I usually do, with a trip to the market for some inspiration.  I often just walk around the grocery store looking at all the products.  I not only look for new and exotic ingredients, I look for deals, cooking as a hobby can get costly!  I found this beautiful Pork Shoulder for $5.00 and knew right away that it was bound for my Kitchen and my Empanada. 
I am not going to post an actual recipe with this one.  What?!?!?!  Yea that's right.  I want you to build your own and come back and share with me what you did!  Just leave a comment below with the recipe and or a link to a recipe.
I started by scoring the skin on pork, and seasoned it with some salt, black pepper, thyme, and rosemary.  I baked it  to perfection then let it cool so that I could pull the pork apart by hand.  In two hours I had the most tender and juicy pulled pork just waiting to be knocked up another notch or two.
I decided I would use a chicken stock and simmer the pulled pork with Carrot, Celery, Onion, Red Bell Pepper, and Green Bell Peppers.  When my Veggies were cooked aldente it was time to put this bad boy together. 

     Be sure to build this on a non stick baking sheet and you need to poke holes in the top to let the steam escape or you will have a pastry that you can't move and will be soggy after baking. 

Roll or pinch the edges together, make sure to form a good seal.

Follow the baking instructions on the packaging of the pastry that you bought and you are done!

You can go all crazy or keep it simple, just get in the kitchen and have fun!  Cooking is only as difficult as you make it!
Be sure to come back and share what you made!
Writing this blog has connected me with some wonderful people.  One such person is Steve DiGioia.  He has a wealth of experience in the service industry and has written blogs and has a book published (Earn more tips on your very next shift...even if your a bad waiter).  I have the awesome opportunity to let him do a guest post on Wichita Falls Foodie!  The next post will on this blog will be a guest post by Steve and I think those of you who are passionate about the service industry will find it very entertaining, interesting and informative.  Come back soon and check it out and follow the links above to take a look at Steve's LinkedIn profile and his book on Amazon.
Love Food, Live Life!
Wichita Falls Foodies Group Page where everyone can share their favorite recipes, restaurants and anything food related, anywhere in the world.  It is not limited to Wichita Falls residents.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Rustic Sausage and Pepper Sandwich, a mobile post!

Hello!  :D Wichita Falls goes mobile! I am posting this from my phone! Here is a quick easy sandwich idea and it is one of my favorites.  I always try to find the stand at the County Fair that serves these.

For every person you need 1/4 red and green peppers sliced lengthwise.  Equal parts sliced onion and at least one Italian Sausage link per sandwich.  Sautee onion and peppers with salt, pepper, thyme,  & rosemary.  Bake sausage at 450 for about 10 min. Make sure internal temp. is 165°.  Slice sausage and add to your veggie mix with your favorite red sauce and bring to a simmer.  Let simmer until your happy with the temp. and texture of your veggies. Spoon onto your favorite bread or roll and in 15 minutes you have a hearty sandwich bursting with classic Italian flavor!