Substitutions – why even have a menu?

Here’s a thread on Chowhound that Erin sent me a link to this morning, maybe knowing just how pissed off I’d get.

Yet another reason I left my recent job was the amount of substitutions that our customers requested. The only reason to me to request a substitution is if you’re allergic. An attitude of “I don’t like it” is not a justifiable reason – either order a different menu item or eat at another restaurant.

Chefs, sous chefs and line cooks have gone through a painstaking process to create a menu and many of these folks have years of experience. And presumably the more you pay on a meal the more care has gone into the food you’re eating. The customer attitude of “I pay your wage” is totally passe and total bullshit. Go eat at fucking McDonald’s then.

My favorite line in the above thread is “if the customer wants a wedge with another dressing in your cheffy repertoire, give it to him; what’s it to you?”. Condescending attitude and lack of capital letters aside, it is something to me. The customer has no right to the chef’s work except in a fair exchange – you pay me I and I allow you to taste the fruits of my labor. Until this exchange has taken place there is no understanding, and even after that, it’s the fruit of my labor, so don’t ask me to do something I don’t believe in.

If as a customer you don’t like it, then find a restaurant that lists all the ingredients it uses and allows the customer to design their own dishes. Good luck.

Maybe I was lucky in Chicago where I had my first restaurant job, where the dining public is pretty easy going and fairly adventurous. We didn’t take temps on meats, we never substituted anything, and any time someone requested meat to be well done, they were instructed to order something else.

I’ve noticed people in Raleigh have a totally different attitude, which is the attitude of most of the posters on the Chowhound thread. If you think you know better, then by all means step back into the kitchen and show me how it’s done.


2 thoughts on “Substitutions – why even have a menu?

  1. The thing to sort out is what type of business model you want to have. No, the customer is not always right. In fact, the customer is typically a dumb ass. But if you want to have repeat customers, which are essential to most successful restaurants, then you do need to make accommodations. The most successful restaurateur in NYC is unquestionably Danny Meyer. He always does everything in his power to take care of customers’ special requests. His chefs understand this, and they pack them in.

    The bottom line is that we’re talking about a service industry. I’m in a service industry, and I have to be very careful when I tell a client, “No.” I will do it on occasion, but my job involves a lot of sucking up and accommodating the clients’ needs, even if they’re wrong. They pay the bills.

    When a chef starts acting too high and mighty, the customers will stop coming. Unless we’re talking about a very special chef.

  2. Pingback: Bad taste in my mouth from stupid diners « Rants of a misanthrope and other musings

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