Good Restaurant Standards

I have been watching a little bit of Kitchen Nightmares lately. Not really a fan of the drama, and can’t stand the yelling and acting in the show, but I do learn a lot about how a restaurant works from Ramsey the chef businessman. From service to restaurant managing to the atmosphere, the differences between a good restaurant and a bad one can manifest in many different ways. It was obvious in the show that why the restaurants were running out of business.

However, when I look back to my experience, I really was taking everything for granted. As a costumer, when I enter a restaurant, I never assume anything bad–instead, I trust that everything was “inspected” by the some government health department officials, that the chefs are trained, that the food is cleaned and prepared well, that as long as everyone else is eating, I am safe, too. I never assume a restaurant to be mediocre or bad before I walk in. Every restaurant is “maybe” very good until you try it.

That’s the kind of attitude that I think why yelp is so popular in these days. People are hunting for good restaurant, to be a place that boost up their social life or a place to create good memories. People walk by a nice looking restaurant, wondering if it is good, so went online to search what other people need to say about it and if it has the information that they are looking for, then go on and try out the restaurant. I think, everyone is sort of on a quest to find a good and memorable restaurant in every cuisine. I came from a family that eat out on weekends a lot, so my parents are always hunting and exploring for good places to eat. That got me to have a habit of collecting my favourite restaurant of each cuisine when I move to a new place.

So with such a positive mind-set among customers, why are some restaurants still falling apart? The show gets me to think, why certain restaurant I went back again and again, and why some restaurant I never went back again after the first try?

The word is standard. Set your standard high, no matter how many competitors you have. My “good restaurant standards” break into couple parts:

1. Fresh food. Fresh and steamy hot food is of course the key thing to make a restaurant success. Food temperature is very important to the sense of freshness of the food. If a salad is too cold, then it taste like it’s been frozen for days. But if it’s too warm, it has this weird soggy texture. If a grilled fish is not crispy, hot outside, juicy and moist inside then it doesn’t give a sense of freshness. So yes, food temperature and freshness are very important to me.

2. The smell of the restaurant. There is a reason why I don’t go to Chinatown here to eat, because of the smell of the restaurants disgust me. A lot of them have this bleach smell that makes you feel like you are eating some corps. A lot of chain restaurants in US don’t have this problem at all…I don’t know where the chinatown restaurants get those smell from.

3. Cleanness. No need to say anything of this. Just make everything clean, no flying insect, thanks.  One time I went to a japanese restaurant in AA and found a caterpillar in my food, blending in with all the greens. I asked the owner to come and showed her the bug, and she said “well, it has lots of protein” and refused to give me a new dish. That was when I started boycotting the restaurant for 6 years and never been back again.

4. Parking or accessibility. Somehow this is quite a factor to us. If a restaurant is very good, but has only street parking, we will only visit it on “special occasion” because we don’t want to worry about parking while  we eat. And yup, we are usually too lazy to walk.

5. Service. I usually don’t care much about service since I preferred to be left alone normally. As long as the waiter/waitress don’t bug me all the time, I will give them good tips. Over certain threshold, the more they bug me, the less tips I usually give them. In other words, a good one will tickle you on the right spot, but a bad one just rubs you the wrong way.

6. Atmosphere. I love dining in certain places simply because it’s quite atmosphere. In general, I hate to eat anywhere I can’t hear what my friends are talking about, like places you have to shout to each other “WHAT?” “WHAT DID YOU SAY?” That, is just unappetizing. A good meal should be filled with soft talks, a little bit of clinking noise from utensils and plates, and maybe some very soft background music.

I think Gordon Ramsey really stresses the importance of these points in his show and I totally agree with him. He helps those restaurants to raise the standards they’ve lost and the confidence to face us costumers. From a costumer point of view, these are also the reasons why I revisit certain restaurants again and again but I don’t go to others.

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