Wednesday, August 31, 2011

please, feel free to adapt the menu to your liking

When someone goes out to dine at a restaurant I like to think they choose that particular venue because they like the concept/menu/atmosphere.  To willingly pick a restaurant where these things don't appeal to you is nonsensical.

Why then are there so many guests intent on re-writing the menu to suit their needs?  Bear with me, I'm not talking about allergies here, I understand the difficulty of living with dietary restrictions.  I'm talking about the 'choose your own adventure' guests who think the menu is a free-for-all that can be switched around until it sounds good to them.

"Um, I'll have the pork loin, but with the sauce from the salmon plate - on the side of course - and can you add the goat's cheese from that other dish and I really like the sounds of the vegetables that come with the beef and can I switch the mashed potatoes for a side of gnocchi with lentils too!"

God forbid they don't like their own creation and try to get dinner for free!  Trust me, if you want to be your own chef, you are going to have to pay for it!

There are a number of reasons why menus are decided upon before service, not the least of which is that the Chef decided that he/she just prefers the food presented in the manner described.  In most cases the kitchen staff will even see the plating and learn the cooking style of each dish so they are prepared to do it in a timely manner for all you lovely guests out there trying to get to the show.

Most kitchens are divided into sections.  Certain cooks do certain jobs and have their mise-en-place all set up and ready nearby.  When you redesign a dish it may require an item from another station, or something that is created in equal parts to another element of its original dish.

There is also food cost to think about.  You may want the chanterelle mushrooms from the risotto dish - why can't you add them to your steak?  Because the steak costs more than the rice and the mushrooms aren't cheap.  Be prepared to pay if you want to alter a dish, even if you feel you are making it a cheaper plate, that is not for you to decide, don't bother trying to get a discount by removing an expensive item, it makes you look cheap, and quite frankly, rather dumb.

If you really like something from another dish it's not the end of the world to ask for it.  But don't be haughty and arrogant thinking that you can have whatever you want and NEVER say "they did it for me last time!".  That was last time, and it feels like you're trying to pressure us into doing it again.  Sometimes restaurants do things during a slow period that they cannot execute as well when it's busy.  Ask politely and we'll do our best to accommodate you.

And don't forget to say 'thank-you', sincerely, after all, we did something extra just for you!

Thanks to Carly for inspiration!


  1. Oh my how I enjoyed this post having experienced just such a table yesterday who's opening line to me, even before hello or how are you, was ... and I quote ... "Can I make my own sandwich"?

  2. True Dat! you give a little, they take a lot!
    It makes a small restaurant that has a larger menu need more staff to give proper Customer service to everyone equally.
    Restaurants who care about needs and allergies has to deal with someone who just feels they can order a single item and ask for it to be split and made 2 separate ways to share to boot... pushin the limit!!
    Certain people depend on places that are allergy friendly... like Celiac allergies, there are systems in place to assure safety for this to happen and of course at no extra cost but it usually costs 5-10% more.
    So when someone who does it because they feel like it... you get the point!
    Its hard to keep things Simple when they don't follow the concept!
    Good post! too bad THOSE PEOPLE don't read it!

  3. Oddly enough, while reading a menu on today this little excerpt caught my eye:

    " While modifications may seem easily accommodated, such requests compromise the unique characteristics of our food and efficiency of our service"


  4. Well put! Would you mind divulging the whereabouts of that brilliance?

    I love little quips like that... one of my favourites is in a restaurant in Kitchener called Bhima's that I discovered recently, I'll try to find the quote.

  5. As a Stratford Chef I would like to say thank you for such an accurate post. I wish that I could put this on my menu!

  6. I couldn't agree more! The "create-a-meal" throws a wrench into service and should be avoided!!