The criteria for how we chose a meal in a restaurant and how we chose a vacation destination are nearly identical. Regarding the vacation: we decide upon a destination by considering what we pay for and what we see in travel articles and catalogs; how the hotelroom looks like, or the swimming pool or the beaches around, and if the price is worth it. In this case, our brain builds images based upon the pictures our eyes see; we project ourselves into the physical accommodations of the vacation in those beautiful places that we can now imagine, only because those beautiful places have been seen by us through photos.
Then, when we happily arrive at that destination we chose, and we walk into that hotelroom which instead now appears different than what we saw in the catalog: we are suddenly surrounded with a different view than our expectations, or not as the same visual expectations that were sold to us through those pictures in the advertisements; the feeling we would have would probably be of disorientated disappointment.
In a restaurant instead, often we cannot see what we ordered, but the secret key of envisioning our meal is held in its description. In a restaurant, written descriptions most often substitute for pictures. Those written descriptions are imaginative images for something we don’t see, but experienced through the projection of our mind from words that become representative of an object, and consequential mouthwatering expectations.
Falling in love with a place we have visited means, of course, the temptation to plan another trip to go there again soon. Instead, if our vacation is just an "okay" trip (and not what we expected), the next time we decide to travel, we will certainly choose a different and more appealing destination. For this same reason, we (The Customers) get very passionate about specific restaurants, or certain well-prepared delicacies, or we don’t ever return to a restaurant that wasn’t what we expected. The description of items on a menu – meaning the meticulous written list of all ingredients present in each dish – is a guaranteed lifetime ticket to The Happy Land of Culinary Experience.
Eating is equal to traveling (or at least should be an attempt at it). Yet, a beautifully prepared delicacy loses its intriguing imaginative halo when, materialized in front of our eyes, is presented to us with extra or additional ingredients, or sauces that were not mentioned at all in the menu description. What if we, The Customer, didn’t expect the dish to be like that? What if we simply chose that meal because it did not have sauces mentioned in the menu, or we didn’t want our meat floating in an unknown gravy? And what if we surrender our expectations and decide to eat it anyway and we don’t like it? What if we were allergic to some ingredients that might be contained in the additional “surprise sauce"? Or what if we simply and genuinely despise the taste of a way too generous amount of chopped parsley tossed on top of our meal, and again, not mentioned in the menu?
Another example: let's use French Toast. We can picture it already. But, what if our French Toast is served to us drowning in maple syrup? What if the amount of maple syrup poured atop our French Toast (which should be served on the side instead) is simply way too much when compared to how much we usually prefer (based upon our personal tastes)? What if that huge lake of maple syrup has made our French Toast so sweet that it is intolerable; so saturated with syrup (because of the length of time that elapses from the kitchen, to the waiter, to our table) that it looks like a sugar-soaked sponge, and we are left with the only options of eating French Toast with a spoon or sending it back? Need we also consider addressing the extra, and perhaps unwanted, calories that have been consequently added to our meal?
Dining out can be frustrating at times; a lack of menu descriptions is a sign of poor professionalism and a big step toward dissatisfied customers. Which also means many steps away from success and the longevity of a business, not to mention the potential threat to the health of diners who may have life-threatening food allergies.
TIPS OF THE DAY (FOR CUSTOMERS):
Always remember to tell the waiter to inform the kitchen about any type of food allergy that you might have. And if, for any reason, you are not satisfied with your meal – if some "surprise ingredients" you didn’t expect to be present in your dish make you unhappy with what you ordered – please send it back almost untouched, and never forget to be “extremely polite” in doing so.
When you send back your meal for any reason, you are providing an opportunity for customer feedback for the owner (if he/she is smart enough to grasp that) to improve their business, instead of merely being a complaint about it. Though our personal tastes might be questionable, having common sense about good interactions with customers, and the food ordered by them, is a fundamental requirement in The Food and Hospitality Environment. You pay for what you want to eat, and dining out it is not cheap. You, The Customer, are in charge.