Foodie noun | food·ie : a person who enjoys and cares about food very much.
We live in a culture full of foodies, seeking new food tastes and experiences. Many times, people go to restaurants only because it’s the “cool” thing to do, or they order a specific meal because they saw it on TV or all over the internet. Restaurants tend to do the same. They will pick up a new trend just because they see that others are doing it, but without thinking about whether or not it actually fits in with the vision or culture of their restaurant. While some restaurant trends are certainly worth jumping on – free refills, not charging for extra sauces, etc. – there are other trends that your restaurant business should avoid.
Iceless Table Water – Just because this is a thing in European countries, doesn’t mean it needs to be a thing here in the United States. Room temperature tap water is worse than a flat soda. Sure, maybe some people like lukewarm water, but before you assume that’s what the whole table prefers and put iceless water in front of everyone, maybe just take a second or two to ask if the customers want ice or not.
Communal Tables – These usually exist in big cities, where restaurants want to squeeze as many people in as humanly possible. But let’s face it, how can anyone really enjoy their meal when they’re rubbing elbows with someone they don’t even know? Communal tables also get pretty awkward when someone is at a restaurant alone and is looking to be friendly with an intimate crowd. Who wants a stranger butting into their date or family event? And on that note, some restaurants without communal tables pack their customers in like sardines as well. We understand that restaurants want to accommodate as many diners as possible, but is it necessary to squeeze tables so close together? Give your customers a little privacy and enough room to get in and out of their seats without disturbing other diners.
Charging Petty Fees – Is your restaurant that strapped for cash that you have to charge your customers for splitting a meal, dividing up the check or for a bread basket? And if servers would just ask beforehand if the customers want separate bills, then they wouldn’t have to print the check more than once. Similarly, asking your restaurant customers to pay for bread is another annoying trend that many misguided restaurants are adopting. At this point, diners expect bread to be included with their meal. So charging for a bread basket will be seen as a petty, penny-pinching annoyance. Maybe it takes a little extra time and effort to do some of these things, but they don’t warrant a fee. Instead, consider these things as easy ways to keep your diners happy.
Pushy Servers – Some people are on a time constraint when they go out to eat. They might be trying to get back to the office, or have an appointment to make. Others might want to just take their time and relax while they eat their meal. It’s up to the server to read the customers’ body language to determine how to treat the table – with quick service or in a more relaxed fashion. Clearing plates before people are done eating is a HUGE no-no that can annoy diners. It’s understandable that some restaurants want to get people in and out in order to get more business for the day, but when customers feel rushed by their server, their experience isn’t going to be a good one. And speaking of servers, make sure your restaurant’s servers are properly trained and are very familiar with every item on the menu. When a diner has a question on a particular menu item, it doesn’t look good when the server has to run back to the kitchen because they don’t know what is in a dish.
Running a restaurant is not an easy task and it’s easy to make mistakes. While some restaurant owners are constantly looking for the next big thing to keep up with foodie diners, some trends aren’t appropriate for certain dining establishments. Remember that you don’t have to do what’s “cool” if it doesn’t fit your mold. Do whatever you agree with, but try to steer clear of these overdone or annoying restaurant trends. Most importantly, do whatever it takes to keep your customers happy while staying true to your restaurant’s roots.