Sometimes I wonder if a guest, or even the hotel manager, has thought of all the work and human interaction that it takes to serve a great meal in the restaurant. However, that certainly does not excuse bad service, less than perfect taste or horrible plate presentation. As I have written, the absolute last line of defense (LLOD) is the waiter, but there are many other stages in the production ‘line’ where mistakes can and should be caught before the meal is presented to the diner.
Diners reserve tables, march in, order drinks and food from beautiful menus and sit happily for an hour or more during their restaurant experience. They know that work goes into their meal production and service, but do they really realize what exactly went on behind the scenes to get that plate in front of them? Have you stopped to think about where it can all go wrong?
LOD1: It all starts with procurement. Here the meal either starts off well or not. Whether perishable or not, the best product must be bought for the best price. No compromise. The end game depends on the quality of ingredients, and if that is less than perfect the meal will be too. Here it is up to the Chef to ascertain on arrival that all the products are indeed what he ordered. Products must be bought so that turnover means that they are all fresh all of the time.
LOD 2: Now comes a very important part. Storage. We all know FIFO, but is it practiced in every kitchen? You all know the answer. All it takes is for a lazy kitchen attendant (Commis) to arrange the storage by just loading the new onto the old in the refrigerators. At some stage the older products will be used, but by then they will be far from their freshest. So make sure that all products are stored with availability of the first in first out.
LOD3: Preparation. It is hugely important that the Chef oversees the preparation of all the dishes he has planned and written recipes for. All too often the kitchen brigade will prepare food according to the recipes, but if a certain ingredient is missing….well, they don’t really care, just get the cooking done. Cooks cutting corners can be the death of a good meal!
LOD4: The taste test. Qualified cooks must taste ALL food before it is served to the diners. Sure, it has been produced according to the standard recipe, but that is not enough. Take a standard recipe from a cook book and give it to ten different cooks to make and there will be differences in taste. Guaranteed. The Executive Chef or Sous Chef must taste in order to give the thumbs up for the particular dish.
LOD5: The meal service. This stage is where all the careful work and production of the perfect meal can be undone in a second. A hot meal must be served on a hot plate, the food hot and the presentation perfect……don’t forget that we eat with our eyes first. All plates for the same table should be ready at the same time if all diners are to enjoy their meal together. The Chef that is on the issue line must take care to satisfy these rules.
LLOD: There is one and only one Last Line of Defense. The server. The restaurant manager must instill in the servers their inalienable right and confidence to return dishes that they suspect are less than perfect to the eye, not hot (or cold) enough, or look or smell strangely. A server who either could not care or is frightened (yes, frightened!) to return or question food that he/she must serve may mean at best a dissatisfied customer, at worst a case of food poisoning. Your server is your last Firewall!
There are of course many other events and interactions that go into a daily routine in the kitchens across the world. Training, friendly service, creativity, hygiene, cleanliness, good refrigeration and air conditioning, and so many more, but the LOD’s above illustrate what main points must be followed consistently to be able to keep diners satisfied and keep them coming back.
The LOD and LLOD rules are an open secret, but how many restaurants and dining establishments follow them consistently?