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Lists like this tend to be self-perpetuating vortexes. The people that vote are also the kind of people that eat at restaurants already on the list. The list feeds on itself, burps itself up and envelops other food tourists in its hazy garlic breath. Lists have darlings, they are voracious, they ghost, they are hungry for new blood – is it silly or admirably broad that a list of 50 goes to 120? If a list were a person, they’d be a hair-flicking bully with a killer smile.

Melbourne hosted the World’s 50 Best awards in 2017 after Tourism Australia bought the event for $800,000. That investment wasn’t just for the cork-popping sheen of the ceremony. It was to get international food influencers into Australian restaurants so they would vote for them, write about them, and attract more visitors in their wake. It hasn’t worked in terms of 50 Best cachet but tourism is on the up and at least it’s fun to drink champagne.

There can be material outcomes to the World’s 50 Best. In 2014, Shewry told The Age that being included on the list for the first time “was like a lightbulb being switched on – thousands of new customers descended upon us”. I believe it because I’ve spent my own money at restaurants because they ranked and because Attica is always dotted with 50 Best tourists, some of whom tick off listed restaurants with the same joy they’d strike mould spray off a shopping list.

Will being 84 not 20 on the list make a difference to Attica? Yes, probably, but only to the length of the waiting list. Attica will still be full. And if the diners that do go are there to take the restaurant on its own terms and not just to notch it up, then it’s a win all around.

Dani Valent reviews Attica in this weekend’s Sunday Age.

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Available at Lazy Dog Restaurants

Costa Mesa, CA  (RestaurantNews.com)  With summer just around the corner, Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar is cooking up some delicious new menu items and adding new seasonal house beers. Available now, Lazy Dog’s late night and happy hour menus will feature three new limited time menu items that are perfect for sharing.

Lazy Dog’s new seasonal menu showcases guest-favorite ingredients like beeler’s family farm pork belly, Lazy Dog’s signature bacon candy, flavor-packed jackfruit and more.  Here’s a look at Lazy Dog’s summer additions:

Pig Candy Grilled Cheese – featuring Lazy Dog’s bacon candy, slow-braised beeler’s family farm pork belly, havarti, goat cheese, cream cheese + housemade hatch pepper jelly served on grilled parmesan sourdough toast

Jackfruit Falafel Tacos – crispy jackfruit patty seasoned with Baharat spices, housemade hummus, feta, cucumber-tomato-caper relish, + green goddess dressing served in lettuce wraps

Peking Pork Belly Pancakes – beeler’s family farm pork belly, housemade hoisin sauce + spicy carrot slaw piled on four mini charred sweet corn + scallion pancakes topped with micro cilantro

One of the best parts about summer is spending hot days with a cold beer in hand. Lazy Dog is also adding two new seasonally inspired drafts to its summer offerings, both brewed by the award-winning Melvin Brewing in Wyoming.

Chase the Sun – a shandy with a bright lemony taste that is like pouring summertime in a glass

Whoa, Nellie – a Mexican-style lager with a refreshing taste you can sip all summer long

Designed to feel like a Rocky Mountain escape, Lazy Dog’s warm interior has lodge-inspired furnishings such as cozy fireplaces, ledge stone, a chandelier crafted from Aspen logs, and artwork reminiscent of the Cowboy State. Multiple flat-screen TVs are throughout the bar and patio areas so that guests may cheer on their favorite sports teams, and a dog-friendly patio offers a special menu for dogs featuring grilled meats and brown rice. Lazy Dog also offers brunch on the weekends, daily happy hour and late-night offerings.

For additional information about Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar, please visit www.lazydogrestaurants.com.

About Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar

Inspired by the lifestyle of the Rocky Mountains where founder Chris Simms spent time with family growing up, Lazy Dog offers the perfect environment for a quick weeknight dinner, a meandering meal with old friends or a big night out. The first Lazy Dog restaurant opened in the Huntington Beach area, California, in 2003 and showcased an eclectic menu of memorable family favorites reinterpreted with bold new flavors and served with small-town hospitality. Open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch with a full bar program that includes unique and approachable specialty cocktails, a wide selection of craft beers and the Lazy Dog Beer Club, a quarterly membership created by beer lovers for beer lovers. Lazy Dog has 30 locations throughout California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada and Texas with more on the way. For more information visit www.lazydogrestaurants.com.

Contact:
Barbara Caruso
714-328-3273
Barbara@c-squaredPR.com


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Au Cheval’s famous burger. Photo: Courtesy of Au Cheval

What happens when the best burger in America arrives in New York, but nobody really wants it? Today, Eater New York critic Ryan Sutton dropped a disappointed one-star review of the Au Cheval in Tribeca, the much-anticipated Chicago import that’s been so busy you, let’s be real, possibly haven’t bothered to go. Sutton digs into dishes he likes, and many he doesn’t, but his criticism is, fundamentally, a foundational one. “Our New York doesn’t really need any more classic steakhouses or expensive burgers.”

This isn’t just a matter of poorly executed cooking, though. As Sutton puts it in his review, the restaurant’s “indulgent menu” is guided by a “prevailing philosophy” of ignoring “accepted principles of good cooking.” He calls the omelet “a study in too much,” argues the foie gras that comes with scrambled eggs is merely there “to pump up your bill,” and the restaurant’s famed bologna sandwich? Well, why wait a couple hours for this model when “a corner deli could do better.” This line of thinking extends to the famous burger, as well, which is “perfectly respectable” but at $27 with fries not comparable to similarly priced gourmet burgers.

Close readers will recall that New York’s own Adam Platt came away similarly unimpressed with the burger, and, in his review from earlier this year, wrote a complaint that is similar to Sutton’s: “More than a few of the boisterous, high-profile kitchen-slave revolutionaries who helped create and define the kind of macho meat-heavy culture that the original Au Cheval was designed to embody have been replaced on the national culinary stage by a more diverse, eclectic, internationalist group of young chefs and cooks with their own tastes and agendas in mind.” In short: This place feels like a throwback to an earlier era that nobody really misses at the moment.

That burger is, nevertheless, the reason for the restaurant’s ridiculous waits: Seven years ago, Bon Appétit put it on a pedestal, calling it “just about perfect,” after which Eater Chicago wrote the burger’s “popularity went supernova.” Food Network declared it one of America’s five best burgz, Condé Nast Traveler included it in a story about where to eat around the whole damn world, and on and on. It’s no wonder that Au Cheval’s New York opening was anticipated for literal years and that its debut has been met with massive waits of its own.

Still, the early critical consensus is that times have changed; the Au Cheval aesthetic has not. And maybe that’s a problem.

It’s hard not to draw comparisons to Una Pizza Napoletana, one of last year’s most-hyped arrivals. After a brief dalliance with San Francisco, owner Anthony Mangieri returned to New York and opened the latest Una Pizza iteration on the Lower East Side with the help of Jeremiah Stone and Fabián von Hauske Valtierra, chefs who made their collective name with Wildair, a wine bar modeled after the neo-bistros of Paris, and Contra, the closest thing New York has to one of Copenhagen’s more casual tasting-menu spots. If that team-up sounds incongruous on paper, it felt even more so IRL.

Though Una Pizza was “trailblazing” when it opened in New York back in 2004, Platt noted, there’d been a whole Neapolitan-pie craze after and Una felt, well, a little staid. The restaurant got okay reviews from Platt and the New York Times’ Pete Wells, while Sutton wrote the pies weren’t good enough, at $25 a pop, in New York’s now “experimental, ingredient-obsessed, regionally focused” pizza world. The austere, high-concept appetizers and desserts — handled by Stone and Von Hauske — also didn’t match up with the straightforward rustic comfort of Mangieri’s pies. It was another place that arrived with a bit of an unexpected thud.

But, plot twist: Una turned things around, at least in the eyes of Wells, who upgraded it to two stars and wrote that the restaurant has “gone from one of the most confounding pizzerias in the city to one of the most enjoyable.”
Which brings us back to Au Cheval. While early reviews don’t necessarily spell doom for the restaurant, they do tend to set a tone and it doesn’t really seem like there’s anything that can simply be fixed, from the critical point of view, with Au Cheval. Unless, of course, they want to rethink the entire enterprise.

And yet, it’s not quite obvious how much of this even matters for the time being. Sutton says the staff still quotes 90-minute waits to potential diners, though the restaurant did begin to take reservations and, anecdotally, one friend of Grub Street who went “early” on two recent occasions reports that the waits were actually “not long.” Even in this city, a restaurant doesn’t need to be packed at all hours to be successful, after all. One need only look to Manhattan’s many mid-tier steakhouses to see that.

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More satisfied customers, increased efficiencies, a boost in revenue and profits — that’s what a capital investment in new restaurant technology, or an upgrade to your infrastructure, should produce. However, technology investments are often a moving target. Just when you’ve made your investment and trained your team, something better may come along, and suddenly you feel as if someone moved the goal post. Don’t let that possible outcome prevent you from exploring the technologies that offer organizational improvement.

Any new technology can be a bit intimidating, considering the time often required for implementation, however, an unwillingness to adopt new innovations can hinder, or even hurt a restaurant operator. Whether you operate a single restaurant, multiple units, or a multinational franchise, newer technologies can help you make more money and meet your customers’ ever-changing demands. Shun tech innovations, and here are some areas where your business will suffer:

  • Your restaurant’s culture — your team expects certain tools that enable them to do their best work; implementing those tools creates a better team dynamic from one restaurant unit to the next. The more difficult you make the work process, the more problems you’ll have in retaining great employees.
  •  Business efficiency — without technology solutions to help you preserve precious resources and automate things like inventories and communication, you’ll be scrambling to stay ahead.
  • Security of your restaurant — with so many security threats today, you must implement technologies that protect your business, and your customers from fraud, or risk their patronage.
  • Competitive advantages — your customers expect a certain level of sophistication for their loyalty; those restaurants that offer tech solutions that usher in greater customer convenience will outpace competitors.
  • Customer communication — better communication creates a heightened public image and stronger customer loyalty.

No restaurant operator wants to make technology investment mistakes. To prevent such a financial blunder, you need to identify what matters most to your business. To achieve that goal, here are the five key questions that can help determine your current and future business needs. 

Does your restaurant have multiple locations? 

Your potential for profit as an operator is far more limited with one restaurant than with multiple units. The empire size of a McDonalds, Colonel Sanders’ KFC, Subway and Starbucks may have left you salivating at the financial potential with opening multi-units or franchises of your own restaurant brand. If that’s your goal, then consider your technology needs now. If you have more than one restaurant, or perhaps considering additional locations in the near future this initial consideration will be time well spent.

All of your restaurant challenges will scale in direct proportion to each unit you open. So, having tight operating parameters and controlled environments will help minimize your hassles and increase your multi-unit success. With a technology solution that provides guest management, kitchen automation, and a cloud-based enterprise portal, you’ll be able to manage your technology across units from one central location, pinpointing where the efficiencies are happening, and bottlenecks are hampering operations. Choosing a technology that grows with your operations will become more important to you than finding the latest shiny solution with bells and whistles you’ll rarely use.   

Are you accepting to-go and delivery orders? 

Some restaurants have resisted to-go and delivery orders, but today many other restaurants have embraced the growth of off-premise dining. Even if those orders must be handed off to third-party delivery services that often take a 10 to 25 percent cut of each sale, addressing this customer demand for yet another dining option is critical for long-term viability. The rise of GrubHub, UberEats, Caviar, and DoorDash options have pushed the food delivery market to its current $25 billion. However, investment firm William Blair & Company expects the market’s growth trajectory to push those figures even higher to $62 billion by 2022. 

If you want to capture off-premise dining customers, then kitchen automation software should be top of your technology investment list. A kitchen automation tool, like ConnectSmart Kitchen from QSR Automations that offers a food tracker for item level and order level is imperative. Configuring the software to provide statuses like, being baked, ordered, prepared, and out for delivery, for all to-go and delivery orders is easily done. 

Have a restaurant that falls into the Quick Serve or Fast Casual categories? Then software that gives your customers order ready screen access is the technology that will best suit your needs. When you have people standing around waiting for orders, you can use order ready screens to communicate real-time status of orders by way of names or order numbers, without the use of pagers.  

Do you change your menu often?

Menus come in all shapes and sizes. You may have a double-sided laminated version, a menu solely available on a blackboard, or one of those multi-pound versions found at BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse or the Cheesecake Factory. To keep your menu in control, hopefully it falls way below the Guiness record-breaking Budapest, Hungary restaurant with 1810 different menu items.  

Restaurants typically update their menus once or twice a year, however, some restaurants source locally grown produce and meats and require more frequent menu changes. If you amend your menu often, then having kitchen automation software that allows you to quickly change the data set within the software is important. Also, giving your chefs consistency with step-by-step recipe directions, along with high quality photos on how to plate it, will be key. A recipe viewer, like that found in QSR Automations’ TeamAssist may be one to consider. 

Do you need your tech solutions to work together?

One-off solutions may look exciting, hold intrigue with all their shiny objects, but will also provide a limited lifespan. Without a way for the solution to communicate with other technologies in use at your restaurant, you’ll just be “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.” 

With any new software addition, you must ensure that your front of house (FOH) can communicate with your back of house (BOH). Every team member needs to be on the same page and that can only be achieved with integrated technology. When you have a smart kitchen display system integrated with your point-of-sale system, your front of house can read the bandwidth in your restaurant. With that information, your FOH staff can provide off-premise customers with real-time quotes for order deliveries. 

Likewise, when your in-house dining has the kitchen hopping with orders, a smart kitchen display system can inflate that delivery quote to account for the current workload. This intuitive kitchen information allows for the kitchen to course orders without disrupting in-store tickets, also known as “order throttling.” As kitchen orders die down, off-premise quotes can be updated to match the kitchen’s bandwidth.

Do you need technology assistance and support?

Let’s be honest. If we had wanted to sit in front of a computer all day and bang out code, we’d have the tech smarts to configure things on our own without outside help. However, most business owners have grander plans in mind, like building the next in-demand restaurant brand. Therefore, a great technology solution is only as good as its support. 

As you match your technology needs to your business, consider that finding a technology provider with a readily available support team that you can plug into when you have a need holds the most value. Don’t spend hours trying to configure software when you can easily rely on a company with the technology support to meet your implementation and reconfiguration needs.  

It’s a Match

Do you want your restaurant operations to surge in revenue or customer growth? How about both? Then it’s time to pull the lever and re-tool your software or embrace digital technology that allows you to thrive in today’s competitive marketplace. Being more efficient, productive, and profitable is what’s needed to reach that goal. In the end, a restaurant tech solution that is specifically matched to your operations can transform your business from slow stagnation to high performance within a short time frame and leverage the market in your favor.

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Melbourne fine dining landmark Attica has fallen out of the prestigious World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, while fellow Victorian eatery Brae has also had a significant drop in ranking. 

Chef Ben Shewry’s Ripponlea restaurant was named the 20th best in the world in 2018, but fell to No.84 on the list in 2019 after restaurants ranked 51-120 were released overnight. 

“I’ve known about it for months,” Shewry told Good Food. “I am totally fine, totally tranquil about it.

Attica restaurant in Melbourne’s Ripponlea. Photo: Simon Schluter

“I have felt like this for several years actually, it’s not a new feeling. I don’t put a heap of weight on it either, personally, because it’s just a list of people’s opinions. While I have always been grateful to be a part of it, it has never been what’s defined our business or what we do here.

“People’s perception might be, ‘Oh we are sorry for you’, but it’s like really?

“We don’t feel that way because you have got to be a pretty ungrateful sort of a person to think ‘poor me’ when you’re still included in a list that only 120 restaurants in the world can be in.”

I am totally fine, totally tranquil about it.

Ben Shewry

Shewry said the drop would not spark any significant introspection or review at Attica. 

“The main reason for any drop, and I understand it as well because I have been both a recipient and a voter, is how many [voters and judges] travel to Australia. Have there been a lot of voters travelling to Australia or have there not been?

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“We have never marketed or played any games trying to improve our position on the list. Wherever it falls we will accept.

“Life is much more than accolades or fame … I have always been grateful to be included but it doesn’t give any meaning to our lives.”

The annual list is based on a poll of more than 1000 restaurant critics, chefs, restaurateurs and restaurant industry experts.

The restaurants ranked 50-1 will be announced at an event in Singapore on Tuesday, June 25.

Chefs Ben Shewry (left) and Dan Hunter at the World’s 50 Best Restaurants award ceremony in Melbourne in 2017. Photo: Paul Jeffers

The only other Australian restaurant named overnight was Victoria’s Brae, which dropped from No.58 in 2018 to No.101 this year. 

Based in Birregurra about one-and-a-half hours’ drive from Melbourne, chef Dan Hunter first took Brae into the top 50 in 2017 when the restaurant was ranked No.44.

Also on the list was Australian chef Dave Pynt. His “modern Australian barbecue” restaurant in Singapore, Burnt Ends, was ranked 59th in the world after placing tenth in the Asia’s 50 Best list in March.

Brae’s 2017 debut on the list and Attica’s equal third best result (No.32) came as the awards were hosted in Melbourne at a gala event at Carlton’s Royal Exhibition Building. 

Attica’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants ranking through the years:

73 in 2010
53 in 2011
63 in 2012
21 in 2013 (top 50 debut)
32 in 2014
32 in 2015
33 in 2016
32 in 2017
20 in 2018
84 in 2019

Brae’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants ranking through the years:

87 in 2015
65 in 2016
44 in 2017 (top 50 debut)
58 in 2018
101 in 2019

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Pilot program will deploy Nuro’s unmanned delivery vehicles on Houston public roads

Ann Arbor, MI  (RestaurantNews.comDomino’s Pizza (NYSE: DPZ), the largest pizza company in the world based on global retail sales, and Nuro, the robotics company transforming local commerce, are partnering on autonomous pizza delivery using the custom unmanned vehicle known as the R2 later this year. The global leader in pizza delivery will use Nuro’s unmanned fleet to serve select Houston Domino’s customers who place orders online. This partnership will expand Nuro’s autonomous delivery operations, which have safely and successfully been running in the Houston metro area since March 2019.

“We are always looking for new ways to innovate and evolve the delivery experience for our customers,” said Kevin Vasconi, Domino’s executive vice president and chief information officer. “Nuro’s vehicles are specially designed to optimize the food delivery experience, which makes them a valuable partner in our autonomous vehicle journey. The opportunity to bring our customers the choice of an unmanned delivery experience, and our operators an additional delivery solution during a busy store rush, is an important part of our autonomous vehicle testing.”

Select customers who order online from one of Domino’s participating stores will have the opportunity to use Nuro’s autonomous delivery. Once they have opted in, customers can track the vehicle via the Domino’s app and will be provided with a unique PIN code to unlock the compartment to get their pizza.

“We are excited to expand our autonomous delivery service in Houston with Domino’s delivery,” noted Cosimo Leipold, Nuro’s head of partner relations. “Domino’s delivers millions of pizzas around the world every day, and the company shares our passion for focusing on the customer experience. We see incredible opportunity in offering Nuro’s world-class autonomous technology to Domino’s customers, accelerating our shared mission to transform local commerce.”

About Nuro

Nuro is a robotics company transforming local commerce through driverless delivery. The company develops and operates a fleet of self-driving vehicles that deliver local goods of all kinds, from dinner to dry cleaning. Nuro’s service helps merchants deliver goods to customers quickly, affordably, and safely. Led by world-renowned experts in robotics, artificial intelligence, computer vision, and product design, the company began making driverless deliveries to the public in 2018. Nuro has raised more than $1 billion in financing from investors including Softbank and Greylock and shares partnerships with leading brands such as Domino’s and Kroger.

About Domino’s Pizza®

Founded in 1960, Domino’s Pizza is the largest pizza company in the world based on retail sales, with a significant business in both delivery and carryout pizza. It ranks among the world’s top public restaurant brands with a global enterprise of more than 16,100 stores in over 85 markets. Domino’s had global retail sales of over $13.5 billion in 2018, with nearly $6.6 billion in the U.S. and more than $6.9 billion internationally. In the first quarter of 2019, Domino’s had global retail sales of nearly $3.3 billion, with over $1.6 billion in the U.S. and nearly $1.7 billion internationally. Its system is comprised of independent franchise owners who accounted for 98% of Domino’s stores as of the first quarter of 2019. Emphasis on technology innovation helped Domino’s achieve more than half of all global retail sales in 2018 from digital channels, primarily online ordering and mobile applications. In the U.S., Domino’s generates over 65% of sales via digital channels and has produced several innovative ordering platforms, including Google Home, Facebook Messenger, Apple Watch, Amazon Echo, Twitter and text message using a pizza emoji. In late 2017, Domino’s began an industry-first test of self-driving vehicle delivery with Ford Motor Company – and in April 2018, launched Domino’s HotSpots®, featuring over 200,000 non-traditional delivery locations including parks, beaches, local landmarks and other unique gathering spots.

Order – dominos.com
AnyWare Ordering – anyware.dominos.com
Company Info – biz.dominos.com
Twitter – twitter.com/dominos
Facebook – facebook.com/dominos
Instagram – instagram.com/dominos
YouTube – youtube.com/dominos

Please visit our Investor Relations website at biz.dominos.com to view news, announcements, earnings releases and conference webcasts.

Contact:
Jenny Fouracre
Domino’s
734-930-3620
jenny.fouracre@dominos.com


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A set of customer service skills created by Nextiva was originally designed to inform trends in large corporations and online or phone assistance. However, it’s fascinating to see how the attributes that they ascribe to these kinds of customer service arenas translate perfectly to the face-to-face service that is necessary in the restaurant industry.

The metrics say that customers are nine times more likely to be engaged, and therefore to continue to patronize your establishment, when they are greeted with customer service that feels empathetic.

While the infographic below has language that seems to cover general customer service skills, factors like adaptability, empathy, and active listening are imperative for any service environment.

The metrics say that customers are nine times more likely to be engaged, and therefore to continue to patronize your establishment, when they are greeted with customer service that feels empathetic.

After introducing these useful customer service traits as focal points for discussion, the piece includes advice on how to improve each of these within any environment.

For example, by focusing on conflict resolution you can stop issues from escalating at the front lines and therein avoid embarrassing reviews or wasting management time with something that should have been dealt with before getting that far.

Restaurants, perhaps even more than other industries, rely on reviews and online promotion to help inspire customers. Therefore, customer service initiatives that deescalate situations that would send someone to complain online are that much more imperative to master.

In addition to issues that happen in the restaurant, managers have to be savvy enough to contain issues that happen on social media. It is easy for a problem to become a viral online issue that will quickly bite into reputational reviews. Learning about general customer service skills can help understand how best to approach these situations.

Certainly, introducing service concepts like the ones below, in meetings and through training manuals will improve customer service and allow for general improvement throughout your restaurant environment.

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East Wind Snack Shop’s dragon beard candy. Photo: Melissa Hom

Since 2015, East Wind Snack Shop has been a dumpling destination in Windsor Terrace. At the small, 17-seat restaurant, the chef Chris Cheung fills potstickers with dry-aged beef, engineers delicate har gow so he can pan-fry them, and tweaks classic dishes like gwa bao. Over the last few years Cheung has expanded a couple times, first to a now closed flea market in Manhattan and then to the North 3rd Street Market. On Friday, he quietly opened the doors to a second brick and mortar location in Cobble Hill.

This second East Wind is slightly larger than the original, at 500 to 600 square feet with 30 seats. There’s a backyard, too, where you can bring your food, and the design draws on the same red-and-white palette. There won’t be any alcohol here (just bubble tea) but as at North 3rd Market, where you can find General Tso’s glazed fried chicken, Cheung will introduce a few dishes to compliment the dumplings.

“My cooking is very close to Chinatown cooking, the cooking that the restaurants do for their own community,” says the chef, who grew up at his mother’s in Brooklyn and grandmother’s in Chinatown. The new dishes are very much in line with his approach of carefully tweaked riffs, and cooking that brings something new to familiar dishes. Cheung takes some cues from his wife’s Shanghainese heritage, evident in a dish he’s calling Shanghai shrimp. Inspired by shrimp with lobster sauce, it’s made with crab eggs, dried scallops, and, of course, its namesake.

The Shanghai shrimp. Photo: Melissa Hom

There’s a version of the Chinese-American classic beef and broccoli, made with braised, slow-cooked short ribs, thinly sliced Chinese broccoli, and a mix of oyster and abalone sauce. Then there’s the chow fun noodles, though they might not be exactly what you expect. Cheung’s isn’t just a rendition of the Chinese-American dish, made with wetter, stir-fried meat, oyster and soy sauces, and wide rice noodles called hor fun. “There’s a dish that’s kind of a spinoff, which ties in Chinese cuisine but also Southeast Asian cuisine,” he says. “They use the same fresh rice noodles, but in the Southeast Asian version they’ll add egg, bean sprouts, chili paste. It boosts up with the flavors. Mine is a kind of cross between the two.”

He’s putting in the work to make the rice noodles in-house (“I’m not an Italian pasta chef,” he jokes), but the dish he’s most excited about is, actually, a dessert. Called dragon’s beard candy, it’s a street sweet that you’ll find in cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong and is something of a spectacle that can be treated as an art. It looks like cotton candy and is comprised of thousands of fine threads of sugar. To make it, you start by simmering sugar and maltose syrup (traditionally) until it forms a gel that is then shaped into a ring, dipped in starch so it doesn’t stick to surfaces, and then pulled repeatedly so it separates into smaller threads. Rather then YouTube, Cheung learned the old-fashioned way.

Beef and broccoli. Photo: Melissa Hom

“Last summer my wife’s uncle came from Shanghai to live with my wife’s father, I didn’t know him too well. So we would go over, and I found out he was a candy maker in the streets of Shanghai in the night markets,” Cheung says. “I basically made him teach me this recipe and technique, and he was happy to. We practiced all last summer, and we’ve been practicing ever since.”

Dragon’s beard is something you’ll find in other countries like Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan, and was served in New York, until a few years ago, in Chinatown at Yao’s. It’s not an easy thing to learn, by all accounts. The daughter of Sydney dragon’s beard maker Gary Au told Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service it took her “years to perfect the wrapping process.”
(There are, of course, pre-made versions available.)

After all that learning and labor, dragon’s beard is an ephemeral treat that needs to be enjoyed immediately. At East Wind, Cheung presents them like lollipops, spools of sugary yarn on variously colored sticks, and garnished with peanuts and other toppings. “My technique is based more on the street-food side, because that’s how I learned,” he says. “I’m not quite up to the art of it yet. But you know me, I’m working toward it.”

The space. Photo: Melissa Hom

East Wind Snack Shop, 253 Smith St.; nr. Douglass St.

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Ah, reluctant as we are to embrace unconstrained pork consumption, the pork cheek terrine at Muse is a beautiful thing.

Served with rye toast, green apple, pickles and smoked mushroom and thyme butter, it is probably the highlight of our meal at Muse, which is a surprisingly cosy and really pleasant space at the Canberra Avenue end of the East Hotel.

Dark chocolate fondant. Pictures: Karleen Minney

The terrine is soft and creamy, really good with the sharp dill pickles and crisp slices of green apple. The rye bread is good and the smoked butter a triumph. It’s fresh and well balanced and reinforces the sense we had when we walked in that we are somewhere we want to be.

Muse looks in the daytime like a causal simple cafe but somehow, with the low lights and gentle music which I want to call soul, it becomes more moody at night.

The wine list is decent also, probably because Muse is part of the East Hotel trio of serious places to eat, set up by people well tuned into good wine, new trends and how people like to eat.

Lamb and ale ragout with leeks. Picture: Karleen Minney

There’s also Agostini’s here, a big, happy Italian eatery, and Joe’s Bar, a darker, snacky cool place for a drink and bar food.

At Joe’s you’ll find pizza and a bunch of appealing snacks, including calamari, polenta chips with gorgonzola, and something described as “brioche arancini”. Your guess will be better than mine on that one. I have none at all.

The upshot is that East Hotel has the eating-out bases covered so if you’re staying here or live in Manuka and Kingston, you would probably frequent the place for a drink and be happy to have it as a regular dining spot to boot.

Back at Muse, on the wine front, we’re happy to see the local 2017 Mount Majura the Silurian bubbly on the list by the glass ($14), and we also enjoy the Larry Cherubino Laissez Faire fiano from Frankland River ($14).

The menu offers the food as “prologue”, “chapter 1”, “chapter 2”, “footnotes” and “epilogue”.

Fair enough, I guess. This is possibly fun if you’re a cheery personality, and it reminds you of the theme of the place, where they also hold bookish events and talks.

The mains we eat tonight are an oddity. They sound good, and they’re right for the season, with something of a hearty hum to them. But they’re both rather soupy, for want of a better word.

There looks to be plenty on the menu that is not in this vein. You can tuck in safely to a steak and mash, with the offering of Cape Grim black angus beef sirloin, black truffle butter and Paris mash ($38).

Owners Paul Eldon, left, and Daniel Sanderson. Picture: Karleen Minney

Or the menu offers seared kingfish, confit duck leg, and, intriguingly, “baked sweet potato, pomegranate, broad bean, rye crumb, harissa-spiced mint labneh”. We very nearly go there.

Tonight’s dinner undecided? No more! Chunk a couple of sweet potatoes and roast them soft, top with onion jam, creme fraiche, loads of coriander or parsley and there you have it. Everything comforting in one. With the added advantage – for some of us the key advantage – that it took zero effort and no time so when everyone says yuck or no-one appears at the table you do not need to despair or care. Wonderful!

At Muse, where cares feel a long way away – the measure of all your favourite restaurants – we’ve ordered Moroccan spiced chickpea and date tagine with brown rice, quinoa and coconut yoghurt ($28).

The chickpeas and pumpkin are spicy and hot, with plenty of cinnamon in the mix. The brown rice is a bit watery, and could be more rugged and textural than it is. The right brown rice is a thing in itself, don’t you think? The yoghurt tastes pretty odd with the coconut, for reasons I don’t understand. In all, you might find this dish virtuous, and distinctly vegan. Vegan can be a good thing, an excellent thing in fact, but you wouldn’t normally call it luxurious, and this dish feels decidedly more cafe than restaurant.

Lamb and ale ragout with leeks, pearl barley, artichokes, green olives and pumpkin mash ($36) is like a big stew. It’s warming and wintry, with pumpkin puree and loads of chopped vegetables, plus also artichoke and green olives. There’s good chunks of lamb, and it adds up to a rib-sticking dish that you would enjoy sitting in front of a fire and spooning from a big pot. But soupy.

Desserts get us back on track. Dark chocolate fondant ($15) will also keep you happy. It’s not brilliant, but perfectly decent. It ‘s one of those versions we’ve seen a bit on menus lately that is a sum of two parts – a definite outside crust and majorly melted inside, like two separate components.

A caramel tart special is really good, the rich salted caramel filling cut through by the passionfruit ice cream alongside.

Head chef Steven Sweeney. Picture: Karleen Minney

Address: 69 Canberra Ave, Kingston

Phone: 6295 6925

Owners: Paul Eldon and Daniel Sanderson

Chef: Steven Sweeney

Hours: Monday and Tuesday 6.30am-3pm; Wednesday-Friday 6.30am-10pm; Saturday 7am-10pm; Sunday 7am-noon.

Wheelchair access: Yes

Vegetarian: Yes, well covered

Noise: No problem

Score: 14/20

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