Monday, June 2, 2014

New Restaurant Owner Has A "Teacup" Of Trouble On His Hands

Dear Tazi:

I have spent years as an Executive Chef in a fine restaurant and am finally realizing my dream of opening my own restaurant. I grew up with very little, worked my way through college and up the ladder of success, and am still a little nervous when dealing with the "upper crust". I guess there is still a little of that poor kid from Brooklyn still inside me.

As a Chef, I always worked in the kitchen and heard the stories that the servers and the Maitre 'D would discuss - not so much of bad food (I can understand personal tastes, and am always ready to "fix" a dish to the guest's preference) - but of poorly behaved guests. One of the more difficult issues is women who bring their dogs into the restaurant with them. I do not mean service animals, but purse-sized "teacup" dogs that they try to smuggle in and then feed from the table. Even if the Department of Health did not outlaw this practice, I would not allow it in my establishment. In addition to being unsanitary, customers have allergies and even the best trained dog can mess if it can't hold it in any longer.

In the past, I was always in the kitchen and never had to be the one to deal with an outraged customer who insisted that her "Fluffums" (it was always a woman) is well-behaved and would "simply go crazy" waiting in the car. The more the dining room staff tried to be polite about the situation the worse it would get, until someone at the table would step in and side with the staff. Being an established restaurant, this place could easily handle the threats made about "never coming here again". Right, lady...see you next week at your regular time and table!

As a new restaurant, my establishment is going to need some time to build up a reputation for service - thankfully, my reputation as a Chef follows me, but I am nervous about how to handle the potential dog problem. A sign saying "No Dogs Allowed" seems so bourgeois and is not in the image I seek to present. I realize you are a "cat", but do you have any solutions regarding dogs?


Dear Chef:

Congratulations on the opening of your new restaurant! This must be both an exciting and stressful time for you. I admire the fact that you are looking to steer clear of any problems before they occur - that is the behavior of a successful business owner!

I realize that there are people who insist that their precious pooches are practically human, but there are health codes to uphold. Therefore, I have two words for you: doggie nursery. If you have a small room near the entrance (like a sizable coat room) or a heated outbuilding, you could outfit it as an area for patrons to "check" their dogs before entering the dining area. I realize it sounds crazy, but is no crazier than those who would bring a dog into a restaurant with them.

A few decades ago ago, my Mommie ran the child-care at a small, family-owned fitness facility. The big gyms thought it was crazy to have child care, until they started losing their female clients to the smaller gym with the child-care. Now, many gyms and fitness centers offer child-care as a part of membership. Obviously, you would have to have size/weight limits on the dogs (say, 8 pounds and under) but you could provide sleeping crates, toys, and other amenities (including a staff member to oversee it all) that will keep a dog busy for a few hours while its owner eats dinner. If the problem is as rampant as you make it sound, a doggie nursery could be a selling point for your customers.

If this idea is something that does not work for you, have your staff give a gentle reminder that there are "No Pets Allowed" when patrons call to make a reservation. If they still show up with a pet in tow, you have given them fair warning; have the Maitre 'D explain that the dog is not allowed in the dining room. Should the dog remain unnoticed until the party is seated, you should not feel nervous about approaching them and asking them to remove their dog from the dining area. Would you allow someone who is improperly dressed to enter your restaurant? Would you allow someone to remove his pants because he ate too much, and they were feeling too tight? If it helps, picture such a scenario as you approach the table or use such an analogy to remind the dog owner that you are not picking on them; you are simply enforcing the rules of the establishment and the Board of Health.

I wish you bon appétit et bon chance! with your new restaurant!


No comments:

Post a Comment