The Importance of Food at your Club by chefpaulrifkin

A quick intro on my experience:

I have been working in hospitality for 45 years, 30 of those years as an Executive Chef at large venues, including nearly 17 years at a large club.

The past 4 years were spent consulting, mostly to clubs, helping to fine tune their catering operations.

During my many visits and in-depth analysis, I have experienced a wide spectrum of quality, service and ambience.

The reality is that those which performed the simple things well were the busiest.
Over 90% of food most people eat is ordinary, generally speaking, the majority of customers don’t want fancy, they want simple cooked the best.

In the book “21 Great Chefs of Australia” Mark Armstrong, chef owner of the then much regarded restaurant Armstrong’s, told of a customer’s request for an avocado with prawns and cocktail sauce, “……

“I’m in the service industry to supply and make that dish the best the customer has ever had” he said.

One time, while I was working at the Manor House fine dining restaurant, I had an order from the actor Burt Lancaster, he described to the waiter what he wanted, at $16 for an entrée in the 80’s, he could have what he liked.

I made the dish as described, it came back, I re-made it, and once again it came back. So, I went to his table and asked him what he wanted….you guessed it, a plain old prawn cocktail, good quality prawns and freshly made cocktail sauce.

Simple executed well.

In all my years working in fine dining over 75% of all meals served were beef, chicken or fish, the simpler the method the larger the proportion that were sold, the more complicated the dish, the less it sold.

As a rule, if the average customer doesn’t like 70% of your menu, then why would they come back, if there are 8 choices and they only like 25%, then they can only come back maybe once more.

Sure, there is always a need for more complicated dishes, in fact without them, the chef is bored, the customer is bored and business plummets. But if the majority of customers don’t want it, then why do some chefs insist on making it a large part of their menu. The end result is a menu that sounds very exciting, but only for one or two visits for most customers.

As a dining destination, surely the best way to ensure your continued growth is to attract the largest number of regular customers.

They just want good quality produce cooked correctly.

The dollar savings from lower quality products are often offset by the lower number of customers, using higher quality will translate into more patronage and higher retention.

Information overload with TV and social media has created a “food educated” customer pool, expectations are higher than ever in the past.

The last 2 years of challenges has resulted in customers who are now more discerning about where they dine.

This food education has highlighted provenance, sustainable practices, the effect on the environment and an individual’s health.

Get all these elements correct and food will be your club’s biggest driver of foot traffic.

Just a thought.

Paul Rifkin
chefpaulrifkin consulting
Club Mentoring and Fine Tuning Specialist