Did You Know?......
It is calculated that on average, 148million meals are consumed within the UK, per year with a steady 0.5-1% increase year on year, resulting in an excess of a £40 billion market.
It is also believed that as an average, one in nine meals per week are taken outside of the home, and the mean spend per meal is £12.75.
Big numbers, which will be knocked out of the proverbial park next year when the Olympics begin.
Obviously, some of those diners are made up of Critics, Mystery Diners, and people from within the trade resulting in the situation where the humble trade is under professional scrutiny quite often without the staff ever realising.
Critics are loved and hated for numerous reasons. Some are well respected and often invited to dine at an establishment in the hope that their food and service satisfies enough to gain praise and bankable words from which to gain business. Some are despised because of their acid tongues and far too high expectancy, where nothing ever seems good enough and their damning verbalisms jeopardise the effort that has been put into the whole restaurant et al.
Mystery Diners are usually employed to seek out specific answers and grading for the Companies’ own insight into branch quality of service and delivery of product. These are usually welcomed as a way to improve in areas that are lacking, although sometimes poor results are met with Management excuses and appeals.
Professionals within the trade dine out for two main reasons:
1) Just part of a normal way of life, just the same as anyone else would.
2) To see what the competition are doing, and rate alongside their own work.
It is very difficult dining out if you are within the trade.
For those outside the business of Catering, it is a way of eating food prepared by someone of (usually) trained ability therefore as long as the food is good and the service is personable the experience is enjoyed.
For those of us within, there is the problem of not being able to fully switch off from reflective practice succinct to your job role. We don’t mean to. We would be far happier to be able to be ‘normal’ and relax, enjoy and walk away content........
But we can’t..........
From the welcome when we walk in the door, the time it takes to be served at the bar, the seating at the table. The table layout, the staff member selling the specials and highlighting dishes on the menu, the way the menu is laid out and worded. The length of time it takes to place the order. The offer of wines to compliment the meal, jug of iced water on the table.
The time it takes from ordering the food to receiving the first course. Having the correct cutlery already placed. The appearance of the dish and if the plate is hot or cold. The check back (if it actually happens), is the clear down done in a timely fashion? Time to next course? Offer of further drinks. Offer of the dessert menu/Coffees/Teas/Brandies? The issuing of the Bill and subsequent handling of the payment and finally, the actual feeling that you were a valued guest and they truly look forward to receiving you again.
All of the above is mentally ticked off in most customers heads as the dining occurs, yet tradesmen examine every particle under a culinary and servitory microscope, highlighting each flaw with a sigh, a tut and a smug smile knowing you do better yourself. Each slight negative is smothered in a smudge of blackness adding unfair minus points large than they actually are.
I used to be like that, back in my cocky youth for a small amount of time. It may have been more for the reason of trying to impress the girlfriend at the time, or to inflate my own ego or even both at the same time. It is an unhealthy way to dine out resulting in an expensive way of not cooking for yourself. I soon changed my ethics with regards to eating out, and now if anything, I have more leniency towards mishaps during my time at another’s table.
.....But not too much.
I am, after all a fellow diner who does want what should be more than the bare minimum for my hard earned money. I am also a champion for the Catering & Hospitality business being the best it can be and the best it should be.
I abhor those that believe it is easy to run a Pub/Hotel/Restaurant or any other Catering business without prior knowledge and experience only to mar us with a very poorly run unit. It is an insult to the Industry and those who work within it.
This often results in the lack of professional finesse and the theory that service can be done using cheap labour without training or need for career motivation. Most all places I have had poor to awful experiences have been in Pubs and the like that was run by wannabe big wigs. (This is not true to every person that comes into it from the outside, some are very able, understanding the level of skill and service needed and creating the perfect team to execute the tasks).
On these occasions when the overall experience is so poor I will complain, bitterly. I exchange words with them befitting of an Edwardian man defending the honour and virtue of his family. If I feel the trade and myself do not receive adequate satisfaction I will place comments (where able) ensuring other potential diners are aware.
When national statistics are created, the whole is cross sectioned and a means is found to give an approximate of where things officially lie. Taken as part of this statistic are the afore mentioned week links, resulting in down marking overall scores, percentages and overviews.
To those that do this to us listen up.......
Either get in line, respect the hard work, effort and commitment of the professionals within, or get the Hell out of My trade!