Blog from the kitchen

Thoughts and words from the chefs upstairs in the kitchen at The Bookshelf.

October 22, 2013

Tales From the Pass

This past week has been a busy one for the Greenroom. Events and new specials were in motion while at the same time we were sorting out new ideas and planning. One night presented a unique opportunity for customer service that left everyone involved feeling great. I thought I'd share this tale with you.

Most people that work in the service industry are very friendly; some aren't, it's true, but I'm sure they're trying. Here at the Greenroom we have a completely open kitchen:

 There's literally nowhere to hide.

This isn't an issue for us, however; we try to use this to our advantage when we can. All of our chefs are friendly and happy to help, and of course our knowledgeable serving staff. The latter has the advantage of being able to move a little more freely, and is more often presented with questions than (we) the former. Enough of that, on to the story. I'll start by painting the scene for you:

A busy dinner service has recently ended, I'm cleaning up and doing a little prep for the next day while I prepare to close, and I notice in my peripheral vision someone approaching the pass.
More often than not, this is someone just asking where the washrooms are, or if they can acquire a beverage from me. This time it was someone who had some questions, maybe more than a few. They asked in advance if I had some time to help them, which I did. After looking over our menu they asked about the details of a number of items. All legitimate questions any discerning customer may have, that I was happy to answer.

Footnotes, preparation details, ingredients, and portion sizes don't all fit on to a menu. At some places when you ask these questions you just get a blank stare, or a cloud of cartoon dust as the person runs away to maybe ask someone else and possibly return with an answer for you. Many times have I faced that problem when dining out, and it's not something I let happen if I can stop it.

The customer, not finding too many items interesting, suggested maybe just going somewhere else. I said I'd understand, but that I wouldn't mind continuing to help trying to find something for them here. I had gathered a few notions based on what they didn't want, about what they might like and not like; I asked what they had in mind with a bit more detail.

They wanted a balanced meal, nutritious, involving some protein. Understandable. I suggested our Veggie Burger, explaining that it's made from a seasoned, roasted vegetable blend with chick peas and lentils in it. After getting a few more details about the preparation they asked what it is served on, and with. We offer a plain white bun normally, but since we had just baked some Foccacia there was enough that I could substitute. Settling that, we talked about sides, which are included with the burger in this case. The customer asked if combining two sides was possible, salad and fries. It's something we offer and is ordered fairly regularly. After a few more questions about how we prepare our Caesar salad, it was all settled. In case you were wondering too, our vegetarian Caesar dressing is made in house, as well as vegetarian croutons, fresh parmesan cheese and double smoked lardon goes on last.

The customer asked where they could pay, and if it was alright that they ordered from me instead of a server. I said it's not something we do regularly, but in this case (my already being involved in assisting) it was fine. I spoke with a server and explained the situation, the order, and they promptly prepared the customer's chosen table and provided some water.  After eating, the customer wanted to tell me how much they enjoyed the whole meal. They said everything was perfect, and they can't remember the last time they had such a good Veggie Burger. It might be worth bragging at this point, that we often hear customers tell us we have the best Veggie Burger in town; and personally I wouldn't look any further.

We chatted for a little while after and I found out that this particular customer was having a very bad day. They seemed to be in decent spirits, and didn't explain too much to me, but they did say that the positive experience and good food had really helped them feel better. This caught me a little bit off guard, because I can usually tell when people are having a bad day. I said, genuinely, that it was my pleasure and wished them a good evening. As I was mopping I considered the whole situation. It felt great to make someone's day like that, and if on such a bad day someone could still be so polite then on any regular day there's no reason I couldn't be kind and affording.

You don't get these kinds of meetings in closed kitchens.

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