What can you learn from a restaurant food experience that can apply at home?
Recently we were invited to the soft opening of a restaurant. A soft opening is a testing period for a restaurant before they are open to the public. They’re trying to get people in to test the food and service, and give the wait staff the opportunity to train and learn what customers want.That gives the wait staff time to get into the rhythm and motion of managing as a restaurant. They can understand how things need to be cooked and served, etc., and fix any issues.
When it’s a soft opening, you know there will be bumps and problems. You can expect there will not be the same service as in a well-established restaurant. The restaurant is still working some things out.
Sometimes the restaurant give discounts during a soft open so people can come try the food and the restaurant can receive feedback. You go there knowing that it may not be perfect the first time around, but you can get an idea what they’re serving and the environment. You may not have the perfect experience, but you can go and give feedback.
During our experience at the restaurant, the management was very open to feedback. There was ample opportunity for feedback. Not only with each dish, but how the food comes out, and service items such as refilling water, or coming by to check how everything is doing.
Quality and Presentation
One of the dishes we ordered was grilled salmon. The first time they brought out a piece of salmon, for example, it was very small and very dry. If we were in a regular paying restaurant, it would not have been worth it to buy that dish. The second time around the salmon was much better. They put more thought into the quantity and quality of the meal.
How a meal looks does not have to be super fancy, but you should have some presentation so people will want to eat that food item. The restaurant we attended did not have any presentation whatsoever. The food was placed on the plate, and that was it. There was nothing to entice someone to eat the meal. There was nothing to motivate you to say, “Wow, that looks amazing!”
You want the dish to look appetizing. The cooks and other staff have put a lot of time and effort into that dish. You want the customer to want to eat that dish. Just placing food onto a plate doesn’t do that.
Make the dish look appetizing.
In terms of service, meal was definitely not up to par compared to other food experiences that we have had. The restaurant could not deliver the complete meal at once within a reasonable time of ordering the food. We didn’t get the appetizers we ordered until later in the meal. We received a baked potato but nothing else with it (such a sour cream, chives, etc.). It was complete chaos.
There was also a lot of random wait staff constantly coming to our table. There was not a designated waiter or waitress for our table, as is found in the most well-established restaurants. The service was not consistent. No one even introduced themselves. They just randomly showed up at the table. If I was in a regular restaurant and I had anything close to that type of experience going on, I would have left. I would not have wanted to deal with that situation.
What can you learn from this food experience at a restaurant that can apply to your home life?
Be Receptive to Feedback
Being receptive to the feedback is key.
The restaurant received a lot of good feedback from us. Including what the food quality and service should be, portion sizes, etc. Everyone should be wanting to make things the best they can. What is it that may not be the most enjoyable, and what can we do to make it better?
When you are comfortable in giving and receiving feedback about food quality, healthy eating, etc., that attitude stretches into other topics as well. Life starts at the dinner table, so to speak. Once you appreciate feedback and see feedback as an opportunity for growth, you can teach those principles to your family.
Feedback is similar to making a recipe for the first time. The first time you follow the ingredients and instructions exactly. Based on feedback (what you and others think), you can make adjustments when you make that dish again. Ask yourself and others what you can do to make adjustments as necessary. If it’s a recipe that we have had before, you may have made changes thinking that everything would be fine. But it turns out doing something a certain way may not always work. The outcome is not the same. Even though you want to take a shortcut, that shortcut may not always work. But you have to talk about those things. You need to be open to feedback.
If it’s a new recipe, talk about how to make it better. If you have made that recipe before, ask what is different about it this time. We made this before and we loved it, so what happened? Then you realize you forgot a certain ingredient, or you try to do a shortcut and you the dish turned out a little different from what the way you expected. You may have used a different technique because you thought it might work with this recipe. You may think you don’t have much time, so a shortcut may be appropriate. Sometimes, however, those changes completely change the flavor, consistency, and structure of the meal.
Sometimes you don’t realize what a big impact a small change really makes.
Another example is if you are cooking for young children. You may make something relatively unappetizing, and think, “Oh, it’s just for the kids. I’ll just throw something together. I don’t have time. They will just have to deal with it.” How are the children going to have good quality food experiences in life if you choose to give them subpar food? You then are teaching them that food doesn’t matter. You are teaching them that you are not open to feedback, and you do not care what they eat. How will that experience translate into their own lives as they grow into adulthood?
Don’t Become Overwhelmed
A lot of people tend to become overwhelmed with regard to mealtime. They are so busy with work, school, or other activities, that they may not be in the best mood when they come home and then have to make dinner. It’s very stressful for a lot of parents. Busy schedules sometimes overshadow the need to not only feed the family but also teach the family.
Feedback is a key ingredient to overcome that feeling of being overwhelmed.
Put some thought into meal planning and preparation, and engage family members in that food process (depending on their age). Teach them not only about food choices, but also how to plan and prepare food, and how to manage time. Teach them to be self-sufficient. Teach them to appreciate feedback. Part of the food experience is giving and receiving feedback.
Make Quality Food Choices
What does it mean to make quality food choices? How can you make quality food choices no matter where you dine?
At the new restaurant we went to, for example, they did not serve strawberries with a certain desert (although the dessert supposedly came with strawberries), because the strawberries they had were not of the best quality. They decided to eliminate it in order to not give customers a poor quality product. From a quality perspective, that was a good decision. From a customer perspective, that did not meet expectations.
If a restaurant does not have a certain ingredient for a dish, they should not offer that dish to begin with. Doing so sets them up for failure in the eyes of the customer. You don’t serve something unless it is of quality and is the way it was meant to be served. Don’t just give them a partial meal because you ran out of an ingredient. The restaurant could simply say a certain dish is no longer available. They could offer a different food selection instead.
This experience can teach your family to learn what quality is. What does quality food look like? Is sub par food okay? Serve food in a way that you would like to be served that food.
Teaching and Learning Go Together
The food experience involves being a learner as well as a teacher. Teaching and learning go hand-in-hand. When you learn something, you can then teach it to others. As your children learn, they can teach it to their siblings or other people. Teaching and learning are about being observant as to what should happen and what actually did happen. It involves making adjustments in those situations to improve. Be open to feedback, as well as teach others to be comfortable with that communication exchange.
Feedback Helps You Be Part of the Food Experience
Don’t distance yourself from the food experience. Be a part of it.
Learn how to make healthy food choices, and help others to do so. Build those connections and bonds with your family through food. Make food a priority. Taking control over your food choices can help you now and in the future.
Food for Thought: Be open to change. Just as you are open to feedback at the dinner table, be open to changing your food experience to create a healthier you!