The Other Pressure

This is kind of related to the Baker quote regarding lazy drink makers and also to an excellent post I read over on line cook called “Pressure“.

Sure there is a lot of pressure at any fast paced food service job.  And there are good nights and bad nights.  We’re all humans, allegedly, and some shifts are just going to suck.  You’re hung over, slammed, not prepared, just had your heart broken, whatever.

But the thing that Richie didn’t talk about in his post is the pressure that you get to just put something out, even if you know it is wrong.  To compromise your own or the restaurants standards.

The wait staff wanted their order 10 minutes ago.  The customers are sick of waiting and you can see the look on their faces when you glance into the dining room.

The printer is clicking away and you just want to get some of these damn tickets off your back.

You over cooked the steak or messed up the proportion of the drink.

The wait person is standing there looking at you.  You just tasted the drink or felt the steak.  You know it is wrong.  You may even say to them, “I screwed this up, let me remake it.”  And they reply, “No, I’ll just take it out.  They won’t even know.”

What do you do?

Do you give in and just send it out?

Or do you have the character to gather up what little strength you have, regroup, and maintain your standards?

For better or for worse, the new model of nearly instant reviews by almost anyone on the internet has changed the balance of power between restaurant and critic permanently.

In the old days it was pretty easy to spot the one or two restaurant critics or VIPs in your town.

Sending that badly proportioned drink or overcooked steak out to Joe Schmoe, in town from Iowa, wasn’t likely going to have much consequence.

Today, Joe Schmoe may be Iowa’s most famous steak connoisseur or drink blogger.

His opinion may have more weight than the local restaurant critics.

Throw out the drink or refire the steak.  You owe it to yourself, your profession, your coworkers, and to your employer.

2 thoughts on “The Other Pressure

  1. Bravo – I always think of seeing a bartender dip in a tasting straw as a sign of quality, since like a chef with a tasting spoon, it indicates that each drink is being checked for consistency. I’d imagine this is especially necessary in a bar where they offer “Freedom from choice” where drinks are designed to be ordered off the menu.

    I do think your reference to Yelp is interesting – acting on the level of professional level you’re looking to achieve, and the level on consistency you really want, do online user reviews really need to be the impetus? Shouldn’t professionalism and “bartender street cred” be enough? As I see it, Yelp doesn’t change the dynamic of reviews and credibility of one’s wares – instead it speeds up the process that one’s reputation is made or broken.

    Yelp reviews are so contextual, and so personal, it’s often hard to know what’s true. In my experience, there is one review that perfectly encapsulates a place – but I won’t know what it is until I visit.

    For example, here’s a review of Heaven’s Dog by Yelp user Nish N, that perfectly captures my experience, :

    http://www.yelp.com/biz/heavens-dog-and-noodle-shop-san-francisco

    “San Francisco, CA
    4 star rating
    Updated – 2/19/2009

    Here’s a recipe for success at Heaven’s Dog:

    1) Bring 1-3 friends
    2) Grab a few seats at the bar (as opposed to sitting down for dinner)
    3) Order a few appetizers: the daikon rice cakes, shanghai dumplings, and lamb skewers are a proven trifecta
    4) Maybe add in a noodle dish, like their rice vermicelli stir fry
    5) If you’re not going to go with their rather excellent Hitachino Beer, opt for Freedom From Choice, which simply means you pick a spirit and decide on whether you prefer your cocktail to be citrus driven or spirituous, and then let their magic bartenders concoct something for you.
    6) Repeat Step 5 as necessary.

    Follow this recipe, and many good things will happen to you.”

    Almost makes it a shame that yelp is totally corrupt:
    http://www.eastbayexpress.com/gyrobase/yelp_and_the_business_of_extortion_2_0/Content?oid=927491&page=1

    – Jesse

  2. I totally agree about the subjectivity of Yelp reviews and wasn’t particularly referring to it as a review mechanism.

    I was thinking more of the well known bloggers who make a semi-professional business or hobby out of writing restaurant reviews and photographing food. Folks like Ulterior Epicure.

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