Faithful reader, Garrett, posted a recent comment about going to a restaurant and learning that they were out of fish. The place has FISH IN THE NAME. It’s happened to me dozens of times at dozens of different restaurants.
One time, Ron and I were dining out locally and we were told they were out of potatoes when Ron attempted to order a baked tubar to go along with his chocen hunk of meat at a steakhouse. This was unacceptable to Ron who plainly informed our unfortunate server: “you know they sell potatoes at Krogers”. (It was shocking to me, too, that Ron would be so bold.)
Why is is that restaurants run out of items and instead of, say… going to Kroger, they tell customers they don’t have the item?
I can see a legitimate reason being that the food item is a specialty item, one not found in the Krogers and Sam’s Clubs of the world. I am certain the reason Vandalia Grille had to tell customers they were out of sweet potato fries on my recent visit is that the fries they serve come to the restaurant frozen with a light coating on them to make them crispy. No delivery = no sweet potato fries in instances like that. (They were also out of salmon on the same visit.)
If a joint is out of tomatoes, which also has happened to me, why don’t they just go to a grocery store and get some, like in the baked potato scenario? Are they worried the tomatoes will be of substandard quality? Do they really think the customer is going to notice when it’s slapped on a burger with a half dozen other components? Could the server possibly explain they are using tomatoes from an emergency supplier, not the usual one, if that is a concern? There’s simply no excuse with the potatoes.
Why did they run out of something in the first place?
Let’s take it a step farther, a step back into inventory and management. On my first visit to Vandalia, they were out of sweet potato fries then, too, but received a delivery just in time for us to enjoy their crispy, salty goodness. Surely they predicted that when we posted our rave review, folks would be pouring in to have a taste for themselves. The things are FROZEN for goodness sake – it’s not like they’ll spoil if you have to keep them an extra few days before throwing them in the hot tub.
Do restaurants look at sales records to see what products are moving and at what pace? Do they monitor product inventory to ensure they have enough product on hand to satisfy demand? Are smaller restaurants at the mercy of unreliable suppliers?
Daniel has become frustrated with Charleston Bread after being turned away time and again because they are out of, you guessed it: bread.
I know one thing: as a customer, it is extremely disappointing to go to an eatery for a particular item only to find out you can’t have it. I suggested the location of my girls-night-out solely based on the menu. I don’t mean to be picking on Vandalia Grille, because it happens frequently in a lot of other restaurants. I just really, really wanted those fries.
If the restaurant is out of something, why can’t they tell you right up front?
I studied a menu board at Mr. Wilson’s recently, never having been there before, and decided on the low-carb wrap. When I went to the counter, I learned they were out. Couldn’t they have crossed it off the dry-erase board? At Vandalia, when we were handed the menus, I feel our server should have told us they were out of a couple items. Of course she may not have been at fault – the kitchen or manager may not have communicated that information to the waitstaff in a timely manner.
Then there are the unacceptable substituions.
At Bridge Road Bistro, a companion poured over the menu, struggling to make a decision. They were told “we are out of chicken breasts, the chef is substituting chicken thighs. Is that alright?”. Um….no. A thigh (dark meat) is not a substitution for a breast (white meat), at least not for me and the customer who tried to order the chicken breast sandwich. But I do give them credit for addressing the situation in some way. However, are the chicken breasts they use at BRB really so special that ones from Ashton Place Kroger would have been detectable in the finished dish?
When have you had an experience like this?
Have you, as a server, had to break the news to someone that their order couldn’t be filled?
Restaurateurs, if there are any reading, what challenges do you face managing food inventory, dealing with suppliers, and making substitutions?