During a summer school session I conducted for young managers at a five star hotel, the discussion turned to reviews, ratings and, specifically, customer complaints. The F&B professionals, without exception, told me the complaint they receive most often and which drives them to desperation is that of delayed orders.
It is, I think, a trait peculiar to Indian diners, this inability to wait for food. Even while dining in speciality restaurants they want the meal to reach their table in the time it takes for a McChicken Burger to be placed in their hands. They will drive through excruciatingly slow traffic to get to a restaurant, but then be unwilling to wait 20 minutes for a plate of kebabs. Scour through restaurant reviews on social media and you’ll find proof of this. ‘Slow service’, ‘food took too long’, ‘main course took time’ are comments you’ll see over and over again.
In other parts of the world, when people go out for a meal experience – as opposed to grabbing a bite – they are willing to wait for it. The wine list, the bread basket or other nibbles, not to mention the disappearing art of dinner table conversation are intended to fill in those intervening minutes. The notion of ‘leisurely meal’ is fully grasped.
While laggardly kitchen teams and waiting staff can sometimes be the cause of delays, most often the food is taking time to reach the table simply because it’s actually being cooked then. The only pasta worth eating is that which is cooked a la minute. Whether it’s grilled fish, tandoori chicken, dim sum or an Oriental stir-fry, the best food is that which is freshly made. And that takes time.
What this enormous pressure to serve up orders super fast does is to compel chefs to look for shortcuts. So, lots of dishes are pre-cooked and stored in freezers and coolers to be reheated or zapped in a microwave oven the minute orders come in. Surely, that can’t be what the discerning diner is paying for? So, while the evolved dining cultures are celebrating slow food and freshness we are turning to convenience foods in the kitchen. I don’t think that’s a good way to go.
Meanwhile, I stumbled upon this on Facebook. Someone had commented that the technology could solve a headache for restaurateurs constantly harangued for delays in food service. The work of the Belgian duo Filip Sterckx and Antoon Verbeek, the brains behind SkullMapping, it’s 3D projection mapping on a dinner table. Le Petit Chef arrives on your plate and keeps you entertained while you wait for your meal. And will, hopefully, silence those hollers for ‘Where’s my food?’
Take a look, it’s pretty cool: