I’m often asked that question. I always respond – well, nobody has ever asked me that question. But if they did, I’d probably tell them all of the things below the next paragraph.
First, be open. I’ve gone places to do a review and they’re closed. Don’t you watch Gordon Ramsay, anything on CNBC, or one of dozens of shows that talk about restaurant business? You have to be open to have me come in and eat.
Now that the basic door deal is over, I have a simple guideline for doing any review on this blog: nothing less than 4 out of 5 stars. Books, music, movies, restaurants, or products I purchase. I never want some idiot quacking about how horrible my blog or books are (they are coming, I promise) when it’s a matter of taste. I don’t like certain things, and so unless it really strikes me as well done, I don’t go after it on the blog. That means I read, eat, visit, watch, buy a lot of things that never make it to this page, but are under consideration for some period. It’s simply a variation on the whole “if you can’t say something nice…” concept.
Have clean bathrooms with toilet lids that are permanently affixed. I check that stuff. Not in the ladies room – screaming bothers me. But if you have a dirty bathroom, or a broken john, it’s likely to be your death rattle. Same thing if I see staff coming out with dry hands and a dry sink. Yuck.
Pretend my business matters. I’m amazed at the number of servers and counter people who don’t seem to see my 350 pound bulk standing right there, or seated at a table. I, as a customer, should not have to wait while you finish your texting. I put the phone down when you come to my table, or apologize profusely for having to take a business call. I generally go outside if my phone rings, so it’s rare. Seems that’s not the case for servers.
Lights. There should be enough light to see the menu. Amazing when there isn’t.
Menus. Flyspecked is not a good motif. Clean them, replace them, update them.
“We’re out.” Unless it’s the special of the day, I never want to hear that phrase. Especially for something like rice in a Mexican restaurant.
When I ask how something is made, tell me the truth. “Yes, we bring it in from a bakery.” See, that wasn’t so hard. Lie to me and get caught, you’ll never see me again.
Use spices. Even in vanilla ice cream, there must be flavor. When you do the classic Minnesota “we dare not offend anyone with flavors” thing, I figure you don’t know how to cook. Invest in cooking with spices. Lars may not like it, but he’s not likely to be in your seafood restaurant anyway. The fish fry at the Lutheran church is more his speed.
Don’t let my soda/water run dry, double for coffee. If I’m thirsty, I’m suddenly looking for my check.
Don’t miss the opportunity to tell me about the special. Or your deserts. Or your favorite. Up-sell me. Make me aware of all the neat things you have on offer. If I have to ask, don’t look like I questioned your parental validity. You are being given a second chance. If you vanish for ten minutes to find out if they really do have caramelized persimmons, I will hand you the visa card when you get back. That’s a yes/no deal. Your only forgiveness for the delay will be the following phrase: “We were out, but Chef is making some just for you right now, and I’ve put on a fresh pot of coffee. I’m sorry for the delay.” You don’t have to comp me the desert, but explain the delay. When you wander back and say, “Nah. We’re out.” ten minutes later, you are indeed out.
Please, please don’t make me wait for my check. At least one pretty good review died on the host stand when my check took fifteen minutes during a very slow night at the venue.
Smile. I know that’s a lot some days. I’m not being sarcastic. Some days you just don’t feel it. But at least give me a hint of a smile when you greet me. I’m not looking for seduction, merely a facial expression other than the one seen in dialysis clinics.
There you go. Obviously the food has to be pretty good, but more than anything your major hurdles are listed above. Not that tough in my opinion, but I’m a bit of a loon.
More reviews coming soon. Today’s didn’t work out after a promising start. Like school, you might ace the midterm, but if you blow the homework and the final, you’re not getting an “A” from teacher.
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I have a favor to ask of my readers: would you kindly share this blog with your friends, family, and colleagues? We hit a million views in 2014, and while the readership continues a nice growth trend, it could be a lot better. Just hit the Facebook like button, share it on your timeline, tweet the blog with a link, and tell that person at the next desk that there’s this lunatic who writes about all sorts of stuff that they might like.
I appreciate your help. When we hit 2,000,000 readers I will give away something cool to a drawing from the subscribers (that’s the box on the right toward the top) who have helped promote this mess. No used sheets, probably not honey, more likely gift cards. Be a part of it. I’ll update from time to time where we’re at in the count. Thanks.