The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2017

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4  /  the tasting panel  /  may 2017 A restaurant is a very complex entity made up of a multitude of moving parts. If just one of those elements is even slightly off-kilter, it can have a dramatic impact on the entire experience that customers might have. When a restaurant first opens, that dynamic is often on display. Recently I went to a hot new restaurant. It turned out that night was only the second night the place had been open for business. It was a Saturday night, and the restaurant was slammed with eager customers hoping for a table. The menu was promising and the service was friendly and enthusiastic. But getting an ambitious place with a complicated operation up and running smoothly is a daunt- ing—perhaps overwhelming—task. There were obvious glitches that, after a few weeks of operation, would probably disappear. One dish was woefully over-salted; in another, the sauce was way too bland. One pasta was undercooked. Other dishes needed adjusting. It is customary for new restaurants to have what is known as a "soft opening" when friends and family are invited to allow the place what is essentially a dress rehearsal. This is helpful in getting the place a kickstart, but the groups are usually small, and an audience of boosters is not likely to elicit the kind of useful criticism that is required at this time. So, what is the solution to providing legitimate and constructive criticism of a new restaurant's opening efforts? Just opening the doors and letting the public flow in can be problematic and not necessarily a positive introduction to the community. Perhaps an effective method for ironing out the kinks and building a relationship with the customer base is to offer a discount of 25 percent or so for the first month of operation. Make customers active participants in the introduction of the establishment by having them fill out questionnaires about their experience. In this way, management is building a bond with the potential customer base, and customers feel that they have a personal stake in the success of the place. —Anthony Dias Blue Opening Blues LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

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