The Misconceptions of Dining Out
By Kiran Verma
When Kalyani gave me “freedom of speech” for this article, I knew then that Hum would shape up to be a great magazine. Giving writers and contributors the flexibility to write anything they want can only create a more honest publication.
For this first column, I thought I would discuss an issue that I think our community may be unaware or uninformed about.
Because many of us (and our children) have not worked in the hospitality industry, we do not know about many restaurant industry practices. I have come to realize this through my own ignorance and by talking to Indian friends and guests. I thought I might try to shed some light on the restaurant industry and its practices.
1. Servers earn $2.15 per hour. Many people assume that service staff is paid at least minimum wage. This is not the case. Servers are paid $2.15 per hour, because tips are the largest component of wages. This is why servers work hard to earn their tip. In the restaurant business, leaving 15-18% tip is standard, and anything above that shows that service went above and beyond.
2. Vegetables are as expensive, or more, than meat. Many guests ask why a vegetarian meal is as expensive as a non-vegetarian meal. This is why. Vegetables are pricey. Next time you are at the grocery store, you can do a price comparison on baby eggplant ($2.99/lb.) or okra ($2.99/lb.) or mint ($10.00/lb.) to a pound of chicken ($1.99/lb.).
3. A catering is much more labor-intensive than having an event at the restaurant and is thus going to be more expensive. This is because a restaurant has to recreate its kitchen at your choice of venue – from the salt and pepper, to the cutting board and knives, to the stoves, to the food and staff.
4. A gourmet buffet is more costly to a restaurant than a la carte. Gourmet food begins with quality ingredients. These ingredients are then prepared by trained staff. Every morsel is costly for the restaurant to waste. By serving dishes a la carte, restaurants can offer gourmet food at a reasonable price.
5. Reservations help get the table you want at the time you want it. Understandably, many guests get frustrated when they walk into a restaurant, only to be turned away due to unavailability of a table at that very moment. This can be prevented with a reservation. This guarantees getting a table at a popular restaurant. On the same note, a phone call to adjust the time or number of people in a party or to cancel a reservation is highly appreciated by restaurants. With today’s technology, savvy restaurateurs are keeping track of “no shows.”
6. Appropriate attire is a sign of respect to the business and to your fellow patrons. Fine-dining restaurant staff is required to wear proper attire in order to make the dining experience more elegant. A large part of a guest’s dining experience is dressing up for the occasion. If you choose to eat in a fine-dining restaurant, you are then a part of setting a restaurant’s ambiance. By dressing up, you are respecting the tone and ambiance the restaurant has worked to set. This goes hand-in-hand with the idea of not using electronic devices at the table, such as cell phones.
7. The majority of children are happy to eat at home. Anyone can understand the difficulty of leaving a child at home, which is why fine-dining restaurants try to accommodate younger guests. But it is natural for young children to be uncomfortable in an unknown environment. This can end up disturbing other patrons who may be conducting a business meeting or celebrating a romantic moment. It is important to keep all of this in mind when deciding to dine out with your child.
8. Pricing reflects location, labor, service, china and finally, the cost of food. This should be kept in mind when comparing restaurants.
9. Can we bring our own booze? The answer to this question for any restaurant with a full-service bar is a clear “no.” This rule is not set by a restaurant, but by the Alcoholic and Beverage Commission. There is a misconception that certain restaurants “choose” to let their patrons bring their own alcohol and certain restaurants do not. To be clear, any restaurant with a beer and wine license can allow its guests to bring their own alcohol. If a restaurant has a liquor, beer and wine license (LBW), guests cannot bring in their own alcohol. Restaurants will be fined if caught allowing this and will lose their license.
10. No restaurant can make it the way “Mummy” made it. A fine-dining restaurant’s reputation is built on the chef’s interpretation of how a dish should taste. While feedback is always appreciated, it is sometimes hard to make a dish to an individual’s taste. Chefs take pride in their dishes and cater to what may appeal to the majority of palates.
Since Houstonians dine out more than the people of any other city, I thought this may help all of us become more knowledgeable and sophisticated diners. Bon Appetit!
‘Congratulations on the launch of Hum magazine!
I am delighted to be a part of the inaugural issue. ”
Chef Kiran Verma, considered the ‘godmother of Indian fine dining,’ has created world-class cuisine for the discriminating palate. Her restaurant, Kiran’s, offers Indian hospitality, with French sophistication and American informality. An award-winning wine list of over 400 labels has been handcrafted to complement the delicate flavors of her food. When she opened Kiran’s in 2005, Chef Kiran made a grand step in the evolution of this ancient cuisine, and in the culinary history of Houston, a milestone has been set.
Best New Restaurant – Zagat 2006. Rated Excellent – Zagat 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010. Award of Excellence – Wine Spectator 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010. 2011. Three Stars – Houston Chronicle. Three Forks – Houston Business Journal. Chef of the Year Nominee – My Table Magazine 2010. Participant in Michelle Obama’s ‘Chefs Move to Schools’ Campaign 2010.