Crónicas, Livros, Restaurantes, Gastronomia...
|Consumption and Pleasure|
|Quarta, 09 Setembro 2009 17:17|
I tend to have the bad habit of having an opinion about almost everything. However, I have less and less time and patience, to be politically active or to even listen to the analysts. I don’t listen to what the political parties have to say, but I always vote. Please forgive me if I confess that my concerns are more and more focussed on the quality of life practices where there is no room for political parties, nor religion or football. This is by no means the appropriate place to explain these things.
In this defined practice of quality of life I have determined that it is a great comfort to eat out, and mainly in restaurants. That is why I have funny stories and a very positive attitude with regards to our restaurants. I am very much for our restaurants and the proof is that I eat at restaurants on a daily basis. This doesn’t mean that I refuse invitations to eat at friend’s homes or that I cook at home myself. When I do cook, it is mainly to try out a new product or recipe, rather than the comfort of eating at home.
I have already mentioned the effort that should be made to transform a need into a pleasure. We all have to eat. So why not transform this act into a pleasurable occasion? That is what I am getting to. This doesn’t mean that we only eat well at expensive restaurants…! Very much to the contrary!
The chronicle today is about a permanent restaurant consumer. Somebody who is addicted and to make matters worse, I worked in this field. I also made food and history of food, my favourite hobby.
The end of my career was dedicated to Quality concerns. I had to find definitions in the current language so that all could understand that Quality should be taken as a management instrument. What I mean is an element that helps produce better results. The major difficulty was to convey this concept and to define the meaning of Quality since there were many manuals on industrial concepts, but in the services area, it was more difficult to find definitions. There were always critics who stated that it was impossible to register our particular way of waiting at tables, our hospitality. Many years later I still say that all the productive circuits can be improved by means of simple methods gathered in the certification for Quality. Recently at a seminar where I lectured on Quality in Restaurants, I began by stating that quality begins with legality. Concerning this, clear as it is, there are no more explanations necessary. Then it is mandatory that the restaurant owner follow the path and that he is sure of what he wants to serve. Here lies the essence of the basic issues. It seems easy to open a new restaurant. For the restaurant that is already open, one has to go through the exercise of describing the product that is being sold, or the services offered. This will show if we really know our business.
Once the product is defined, that is, what we sell or what we produce, we should question what our positive and negative points are. This way we can maximise the positive points and find solutions for the negative ones. This will lead us to the definition of the concept of Quality. Or rather, we will create a system that will guarantee the quality of our product. That means, we define the product and we will identify all the production stages, with risk indicators, so as to guarantee that the client is always attended to in accordance with the definitions that will characterize our establishment. The fast food chains caught on to this idea and therefore they were successful in implementing their system on a worldwide basis, or globalizing.
A small family run restaurant, or a big restaurant, can also have a system to guarantee quality. However, what guarantees quality is a permanent concern on the global product. One should also acquire a critical sense as well as paying careful attention to what the clients have to say. One should transform a complaint into an instrument for improvement. A client who complains should be regarded as a help towards improvement. When a client complains we should respond to the complaints and make sure that he returns to our restaurant.
We often say that only 30% of the unsatisfied clients complain. Let us grab these and guarantee, through our attitude that they return as clients. It is fundamental to have a loyal base of customers.
Many times I play the role of a pleasant customer, who is not satisfied, I do not complain, but never return. I only complain when I realize that it is easy to correct the situation and where I feel like going back. When I mean complain, I don’t mean to write in the Complaints Book. If we have somebody who is willing to listen, the complaint is much better resolved than through legal issues or bureaucracy without practical consequences. I have never used the Complaints Book, and the habit of speaking to the managers of the restaurants has better results and avoids unnecessary complications and getting worked up.
Recently on a very rainy day, and a public holiday, I was looking for a restaurant to have lunch at about two o clock in the afternoon. It is often hard to find the restaurants we like open on Sundays and public holidays. There are evidently good restaurants open, but very few. I have often thought about writing a guide for restaurants open on Sundays in Lisbon. I challenged a gastronomy journalist and chronicle writer, friend of mine to help me, but we have not finished the guide to be published.
Then, miraculously, I found a parking space right in front of a restaurant, that I had eaten at several times, but it was very empty. I parked and ran to the restaurant so as not to become soaking wet. Some of the team working greeted me and recognized me. Even the kitchen Chef on duty, came to greet me. I was informed that there was no á la carte service, but that the buffet was excellent. I didn’t see the price written anywhere, but it was my fault because I should have enquired before eating. As I was familiar with the place and I had never paid more than thirty euros for the full meal, drinks included. The buffet offered very little variety with limited choice. I was informed that after the starters the kitchen had as a complement, included in the price, some fish, and chicken or turkey skewers. I asked for a fish skewer and the waitress warned me that they were very small and that I may not feel it was enough. The waitress signalled the kitchen to make two skewers for me. One skewer was fish and the other codfish. There were in fact, two little pieces of codfish. I tasted two desserts and drank a coffee and my companion, who hadn’t had lunch, drank a coffee too. I drank water and at the end of the meal the bill was sixty four euros. My buffet was sixty and the water was four. My coffee was included and the other coffee was offered.
I was greatly surprised. I still thought that they had charged me for two buffets. But I was wrong. That was the price of the buffet on a public holiday…!
I immediately thought: Why didn’t I go to the Ritz for lunch? At least the best buffet in Portugal is over there.
The price is only high when what they served us does not correspond to the expectation. It is never expensive when the price is high and the experience is worth it. I will never return to that restaurant. I did not complain, but I guarantee that I will never go back.
Nowadays, restaurants are forgetting the price / quality relationship, for somebody like me who tries to transform the need to eat into a pleasurable: price/pleasure experience.
Meals need not be a show every day according to what my friend Luis Suspiro says. However, many of them can be fairer. Sometimes to do better does not mean that it has to be more expensive or involve more cost.
Don’t give up going to restaurants. Make the most of what they have to offer.
© Virgílio Nogueiro Gomes
© Photo by Adriana Freire
|atualizado em Quarta, 09 Setembro 2009 17:19|