AJAR.id – Hello Ajarian! The degree of assistance needed will vary between premises and may be dependent on the degree of description of dishes provided in the menu itself. Some menus can carry a very elaborate and comprehensive description of all the dishes, while other menus have no explanation of menu items at all.
The more ‘basic’ the description, the greater the need for explanation.
Some properties give no or very little description of the dishes on the menu to encourage a relationship and rapport to be established between diners and staff. The degrees of assistance may depend on several factors:
1. The style of cooking
Many people eating in a restaurant featuring a particular ethnic theme can be expected to ask lots of predictable questions about what to eat.
Lots of restaurants will feature a special menu or selection that enables new diners who are unfamiliar with the menu, foods, terms or cooking styles to ‘graze’ over a variety of dishes in order to provide a sample of all the cooking styles, flavors etc.
2. The nature of the dishes featured
Where the dishes offered are meals served in select countries such as roasts, steaks, schnitzels or pasta there is little need to explain many of the items featured to Western customers as they may already be familiar with them, but detailed explanation may need to be offered to others who may not be familiar with the items.
Even these dishes can still require explanation even though they are well known by customers. For example, you can expect many diners to be familiar with lasagna and perhaps fettuccine but they may not know the difference between penne, rigatoni or farfalle.
3. The range of items offered
Usually the more extensive the menu, the more explanation needed. There are no laws that govern how many courses you should offer or how many the guest has to eat.
The traditional ‘3 course meal’ remains the most popular with diners at dinner, with a single or two-course meal being most popular at lunch.
4. The age of the diners
Children sometimes need to be tempted by attractive descriptions, whether verbal or written. Some children’s menus feature color photos in the same way that fast food outlets advertise their products and make them look appealing.
Older patrons who are familiar with dining out traditionally require little or no advice, but may seek information about specials and the origin of products.
5. The ethnic background of the diner
Where the diner is, say, an international tourist it is to be expected that they will require more advice and assistance, especially in situations where they are seeking a local experience.
In an ethnic restaurant, the questions from people of that background will tend to be different to the non-ethnic diner.
The ethnic diner is more likely to understand what a dish is but will tend to ask more incisive questions teasing out information about cooking styles, ingredients, length of cooking, seasonings etc.
6. The nature of the group being served
This is an element that varies enormously between individuals and different parties. Business clients who are dining in a group may seek to question you extensively, perhaps just to impress their colleagues, while other diners may just want a ‘quick meal’.
Similarly, people in groups may be ready to accept a group decision about what to eat, while others seem to want to show off with the questions they ask before placing their order
7. How quickly they want to eat
Those who want to eat a quick meal are less likely to ask many questions apart from “What’s quick?”
Nearly anything will satisfy these diners providing they can get it straightaway.
All the above can impact on both the assistance that will be sought, and the extent to which you may deem it appropriate to offer suggestions. As with other aspects of customer service, you should adopt a ‘horses for courses’ approach which recognizes and addresses the individuality of each customer rather than using a ‘one size fits all’ orientation.
When assisting your guests, you must remember that all you are doing providing them with information. Never try to force your preferences or the kitchen’s requirements on them. By all means assist, suggest and recommend but never force, cajole, misrepresent or coerce!
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Written by: Alan Hickman, Nick Hyland
Subject Matter: Provide advice to patrons on food and beverage services