As a Chef's Widow I get asked many questions regarding the restaurant industry that I have absolutely no answer to. However there is always one question that pops up, "What is my ideal restaurant?" that I should be able to answer effectively. I usually hem and haw and bitch about service but I have never really come up with a concise somewhat intelligent sounding answer. So here you go...my thoughts on what a restaurant should be:
My ideal restaurant could be described as one that is both simple and intelligent. I believe that a restaurant should keep all things as least complicated as possible while presenting themselves as very knowledgeable of their craft. There are five qualities that I seek in my ideal restaurant.
1. Simple Decor: I cannot stand kitsch. It takes away from the restaurant. The whole concept of having pieces of flair on the wall was created to distract the diner from how the food actually tastes. I like to walk into a restaurant that makes me feel like I was invited. I want warmth and comfort.
2. Knowledgeable Staff: I believe that all employee’s of a restaurant must know what they are taking about. They must act as professors of the concept as well as the food. When I have a question about the food, I want a complete answer, not the runaround.
3. Taste: Obviously I want the food I am paying for to make my taste buds beg for more. I want to taste something that is unique and pleasurable. I do not want to feel like I am eating at Friday’s.
4. Menu: Menu’s can be overwhelming with two many choices and poor descriptions. I like my menu concise and to the point. I don’t want to have to choose from 30 appetizers and 30 entrees. Keeping my choices simple keep me coming back. I think a simple menu that changes seasonally is perfect to keep the diner interested. I have been to way too many Cleveland area restaurants that never change their menu’s. I dot understand this. Variety is the spice of life people.
5. Chef/Customer Involvement: I am a huge fan of knowing or at least meeting the person who is creating the dishes I am either enjoying or possibly not enjoying. I really think that it shows the character & passion of the Chef and the restaurant if they are directly involved with the community and it’s people.
There are some things that make me insane at restaurants. This list could probably be longer but I’ll keep it short so you don’t fall asleep.
1. I absolutely cannot stand when my empty plate sits in front of me for two long. I understand that some restaurants wait for everyone to finish their meals before they bus the tables. However, if I am finished eating and I am speaking to a friend or colleague, do I really want my elbows sticking in my pasta dish? If a busser is good, he/she can clear the table without you even know they were ever there. I think I have the answer. Kung-Fu bussers.
2. Music Selection & Volume: Every restaurant I have ever been in that is located in Northeast Ohio plays the absolute worst music ever at the worst volume ever. Seriously. Every single one. Don’t try to introduce me to what you & your establishment thinks is ‘good’ music. Keep it in the background. The food show be the main show, not the Portishead album from 2002.
3. Pretension: For some reason, the food industry has turned into the music industry. I hate it when I land a server who thinks they are the Courtney Love of restaurants. Sometimes I have come into contact with the uber server, someone who makes me feel bad because I don’t know what fois gras is. That is a no-no in my book. Every customer should be treated with same respect no matter what kind of culinary background or knowledge they possess.
4. Lack of information: All I have to say is GET A WEBSITE. If you can charge $20 a head you can afford a website that is updated. I am an internet gal, that is how I get my information. I don’t call for reservations, I book online.
5. Food: If your food and the presentation is not up to par eventually I will turn on you. I understand that all dishes cannot come out perfect. I do understand that people have bad days and sometimes things just don’t work out. However if this is my third time eating in your establishment and my chicken is raw pink yet again we may have a problem. I am also not a big fan of over seasoning. I like my food simple and you better believe that I can tell the taste isn’t there when you smother it in salt.
That’s it. That is all I ask of my dining establishments. It’s really not that much...keep stuff off your walls, make your food taste good, have your chef make an appearance, don’t play crappy ambient music at loud volumes, don’t hire Courtney Love, invest in a website, clear the table when appropriate and with kung-fu like silence, and you are golden. You are my perfect little restaurant.