Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The Popular King Cake 

Is - oddly enough, one I have no intention of ever making. Rice Krispies and chocolate. Yuck. That's almost as bad as the crawfish ones.

However, a light almond paste filling and a brushed apricot glaze under the Mardi Gras decorations is another good choice.

I experimented with a new type of white bread, made with sour cream and lightly flavored vanilla sugar.

In Germany, the bakers when I grefw up there depended heavily on vanilla sugar (sugar flavored with vanilla) in place of vanilla extract for subtle flavoring enhancement.

That seems to work wonderfully well in breadmaking as well. The bread comes out light, dense enough to slice in very thing slices (my favorite way), soft enough to satisfy the American tongue, with a beautiful light brown crust. I think it might need a bit more fluid, so I'm thinking perhaps the addition of a little buttermilk, or maybe whole milk.

Carrot cake with Frangelico will also be among the "booze cakes" we'll be offering, with an orange cream cheese frosting.

We've started working on our "employee training manual and handbook". This was prompted after several rather disappointing encounters with employees in other eating establishments. They weren't bad, they just weren't quality, and we want quality. Of course, we plan to pay for it, too.

On the list of acceptable behaviors:
1. Greet the customer. There is no need to be all smarmy about it, no embarrassing "Welcome to ---!" shouted out across the room. But, there should be an immediate acknowledgement of the customer - eye contact and a nod at the very least, I prefer to have a smile attached.
2. Assist the customer ASAP. If you're helping another customer, acknowledge the waiting person and get to them quickly. If you're doing anything else, acknowledge to customer, say something to them, and then get to them as quickly as possible - even if you have to stop doing what you're doing - like filling napkin holdres, or salt shakers. The napkins and salt can wait. They aren't going to get mad at you for dropping them to do something else more important. If you're making coffee, or pouring soup into the cauldron, be careful and finish it, letting the customer know you'll be right there - say it loud enough for the customer to hear - no whispering or "baby voices" here. No ambiguity. The customer has to hear the employee.
3. When you are finished and ready to help the customer, greet them with a smile and speak loud enough for them to hear you. Speaking up is highly important. Nothing frustrates me more than to wait on an employee to slowly finish filling containers with packets of Equal then wander over to the cash register and just stand there staring vacuously into space, forcing me to prompt them and ask them if they are finally ready to take my money. The slow, bored look of "Oh, you're still here" and a shrug are not the responce I want to see. That is unforgiveably rude in a business establishment. Any employee of ours that does that will get their pay docked. Too many instances, and they'll be walking out the door with their final paycheck.
4. Cleanliness is Our Friend. When there are no customers present needing help - clean and tidy things up. Water the plants. Pick off dead leaves. Wipe display cases and tables. Even when things are busy a certain minimum level of cleanliness is expected.

You know, those are what impress customers. Quick, friendly service with a smile. Letting the customer know they are important.

After that, knowing the product is essential. The two are about equal, but I know I'm more patient with an employee who's friendly and caring that's a little slow on product information than I am a rude employee. Since we plan to have nutritional information available on all our products, and label the ones that are soy-free, peanut-free, and vegetarian, knowing the answers shouldn't be hard.

We aren't going to teach our employees that the customer is always right, because, quite frankly, they aren't. They know what they want. We know what we have. If the two intersect, great. If they don't, we can go some way to meet what the customer wants. But, this is a food establishment. There are some limits over which we will not cross to please a customer. Those limits are usually imposed by law. And we know the law regarding our business better than they likely will. No matter what the customer says or demands, no matter how right they say they are, if it is illegal, we will not do it. If it is outside our "parameters", we probably won't do it (fried foods, for example, in spite of the Scottish penchant for anything fried).

We have, by popular demand, decided to do a once-a-month Lasagna Day, because there is a surprisingly high demand for my secret recipe lasagna (which would probably horrify any true Italian, as I use absolutely no ricotta or cottage cheese in it).

And that's the results of our weekend of work.

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