The customer may not always be right, but the least restaurant staff can do is listen.
I don’t normally leave the house for French toast, as well fed as I am. But every now and again I find myself ordering some in a cafe. Much like a brunch venue’s way with eggs, French toast can tell you a lot about a place.
I was recently served the eggy bread in the form of new-wave building block squares dipped in cornflakes. It looked like deep-fried tofu and had an arid heart to boot.
The French toast and I didn’t see the distance, but I got over it. Regardless, I still felt it was my community duty to ask the waiter at the end of the meal: “Is this French toast pre-made? It’s really dry.”
“No one’s ever complained about the French toast,” the waiter (also one of the owners) said curtly.
“Really? Well, we eat a lot of French toast. You really need to soak the bread for a bit.”
I didn’t even talk about the sin of premature preparation.
I’m not expecting replacement toast or a free coffee in this situation. I only want my feedback to be received. I expect the kitchen (at large) to be derisive about customer’s food knowledge, but front of house staff should at least ask what I didn’t enjoy about a dish and say they will let the chef know. You would be surprised how often they don’t.
I was probably pushing it to tell a Frenchman (transposed to Adelaide) I didn’t enjoy his establishment’s croque monsieur, but his reply of “everybody loves our croque monsieur”, only made me want to say “au revoir”.
There are some places that will never demonstrate care factor with their product, let alone the customer, and you should perhaps temper your expectations and save sharing your wisdom.
However, if a restaurant has invested a large amount of money into its fit out and menu, and risked a play in the Barangaroo waters of Sydney or Spotswood in Melbourne, then I say have a chat when things go awry, especially in the early life of the joint.
Chefs are on the grind to cook consistently great fare – I’m not diminishing that Herculean haul. But dining is a push and pull between kitchen and diner – let’s volley from time to time.
Ask me questions and in turn I might concede when I am wrong, fussy or smug. If management fails to demonstrate basic customer service and tells me the dish in question is their most “liked” Instagram post of the year, however, I will find it really, really hard not say: “That is why you need to listen very carefully to what I am about to tell you.”
By Melissa Pearce
Melissa Pearce is a freelance writer.