What if the problem were not the chefs, but the customers? A provocation with a grain of truth.
Over the years, the relationship between diners and restaurants has changed radically, which is why consulting a food and taste expert can bring about a strategic victory.
The world’s greatest chefs have always done it: they select people who can help them design the menu, determine which dishes to include and which to discard, and evaluate their new offering. Professionals who can give unbiased feedback. How does this kind of consulting work?
Restaurant consultants taste behind closed doors, together with the restaurateurs, in silence, taking notes, and then share their ideas about what they have just eaten. Consulting has nothing to do with judgement. It isn’t a statement that one thing is right and another is wrong. Comparison has only one purpose: to receive independent feedback, encourage self-reflection, and help restaurateurs attain their best results.
The relationship between customers and restaurateurs has changed a lot over the years: until the 1960s, many customers had their own table and ate out regularly, even daily.
Today, it’s too often the foodie trend of the moment that makes the rules. We have lost some of the exchanges that chefs used to have with regular diners and their creative, if at times demanding, requests.
The restaurant today: Status (and Locus) Symbol
If restaurants are no more than a pretty picture on an Instagram feed, next to the highlights of a city break, it means no one is there for the food and the flavour.
Therefore, it is quite hard for the restaurateur and the chef to receive constructive feedback from their customers about what they have eaten. Generic compliments, selfies, or complaints about an undeclared allergen are more common. But nobody talks about the cooking anymore – and since independent restaurant critics have almost disappeared from the pages of Italian newspapers, restaurateurs are left without informed opinions that might help them improve.
Ferran Adrià – one of the most innovative chefs in the world, who has influenced thousands of cooks all over the planet – has always done exactly this: he used to invite to his table a group of experts with real passion, to taste his creations and tell him honestly what they thought about his food. This is how they helped him improve his creativity in his own career, until he became a legend in the culinary world.
As a restaurant consultant, this is exactly what I do: I sit down next to whoever is cooking, and the restaurant owners, and together we silently savour the chef’s creations – then we talk.
In such a context, one of the most complicated things in life happens easily: we lay the groundwork for a choice that ultimately is up to the chef or the restaurateur. To make a choice, as I often say in my medical studio, is therapeutic. And for restaurants, it is also a great way to grow and develop.