I have to thank our Expos VP, Steve Barber, for sending me this one.

In recent years, one of the most popular speakers at our trade shows has been Joel Cohen of RestaurantMarketing.com.  The site bills itself as “Real World. Real Time. Real Honest.” and the story below is a perfect example of the kind of honest advice you’ll find on the site, and through Joel’s weekly WOW! e-newsletter:


One hundred issues ago, (Wow #76), I shared an article that Scott Smith, who heads up The Springfield Restaurant Group — www.springfields.com — had submitted to me. Because of its importance, and as we head into the “2009 home-stretch”, I want to feature it again.

Scott said, ” We put together a list of what servers say that will kill your business. I’ve been on a campaign to make sure all our wait staff work hard on connecting with the guest and eliminate these cliches from their vocabulary. We’ve proven — and our sales bear it out — that connecting with the guest with the right words really does work!”

The 10 Things Our Servers Will NEVER Say To Our Guests

10. “Hang on to your fork”
Our servers will never tell a guest to hang on to their knife or fork following a course so that it can be reused for the next course. Clean flatware will be automatically offered.

9. “No problem”
No one will ever say this in response to a request from a guest, or as a reply when a guest says “thank you.” You will say, “my pleasure” or “you’re welcome.”

8. “I will get the manager”
Every server is empowered to handle a guest complaint immediately. If a guest does not like their meal, you will apologize and offer the menu to the guest to make another selection. You can then notify the manager to help expedite the meal and visit the table.

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Oh, to be in Scotland

I’m not sure if it’s a back-to-school thing, or a weather-getting-cooler thing, or a need-more-dietary-fibre thing, but lately I’ve been drawn to oatmeal.  And none of this flaky rolled-oats business, either.  I’m talking Scotch oats, aka: steel-cut oats, aka: a thousand other names).

This morning it was bothering me that I couldn’t remember the name of the special stirring tool that some purists — like my mother — use when making oatmeal.  It was mostly bothering me because I knew it was a word that sounded vaguely dirty, and I almost *never* forget those words.

Turns out the word I was looking for is “spurtle,” whose Wikipedia entry brought to my attention this neat event: The Golden Spurtle™ World Porridge Making Championship.

I love simple food, and I love those who celebrate it.  Wish I could be there!

closeup of BLTYep, if Mother Nature doesn’t cast some more sunshine our way, we might find a curious addition to normally unchanging diner menus: The Bacon, Lettuce and Apple sandwich*.

Here in Ontario, the lack of summer sun has been bad news for some vegetable growers and “a challenge for chefs who use local produce.”  Specifically, chefs have been challenged to rework menus and in some cases even cancel special harvest-themed dinners.  For the full story, check out The Toronto Star’s article, Mother Nature is messing with menus.

Which has me wondering: how’s the harvest looking where you live/eat/work/shop/cook?

* apples, by contrast, are expected to fare well, thanks to some late summer heat.

… but you CAN blog about it.mj latte portrait

I know that I posted recently about baristas and what can I say … coffee on the brain.  Coffee on the baby brain, to be more precise.  Other than a few visits to my parents’ place, where decaffeinated coffee is about as welcome as warm beer on a hot day, I’ve been off the caff since I found out I was “drinking for two.”  As it were.

And yet … I still feel this compulsive urge to read every blasted thing about coffee that crosses my computer screen.  I got choked up when I realized that 147xxxx worked her last shift at Starbucks, and would be blogging no more.  And I squeeed with fangirlish delight when I came across this gem on Serious Eats this morning.

It’s a video of Søren Stiller Markussen, Denmark’s 2008 champion barista, who specializes in latte portraiture.  The video — full disclosure: sponsored by DeLonghi — shows Markussen as he painstakingly paints his portraits, which need to be photographed within seconds for use in an upcoming gallery show.  Watch the full two-minute video here, preferably with a latte in hand.

This article from the New York Times appears to have two titles: “Sixties accuracy in every sip” and “When cocktails were office supplies.”  I personally prefer the latter, but I’d have read an article titled “You’re a big stupid loser” if it meant I could get another serving of my preferred poison, Mad Men.

I first came across this series before it was even on the air — I was flipping channels and AMC was broadcasting a promo interview with the series’ creator Matthew Weiner, who was talking about the extreme measures the production crew goes to to ensure accuracy in the show’s design and presentation.  This wasn’t long after I’d seen Good Bye Lenin!, so I was curious about whether or not they could actually pull it off.

If you’ve ever seen the show, you know that they do — especially when it comes to workplace libations.  But you don’t have to take my word for it.  Legendary bar chef Dale DeGroff — who is not only a renowned cocktail expert but also a former advertising agency staffer — agrees.

Check out the full article to find out how the show’s prop masters choose glassware, create historically accurate bottle labels and mix visually accurate drinks (non-alcoholic, of course).  And if you prefer a taste of the real thing, you can’t go wrong with the show’s cocktail guide.  Just make sure to ask before you help yourself to the Stoli.

With apologies to Central Canadians, I just stumbled across this schedule this very day: 2009 Canadian Regional Barista Championships

The middle-of-the-map event has already come and gone, but there are three more competitions still to come, in Eastern Canada, Western Canada and the Prairies.  These events are open to the public, who can watch with jittery anticipation as each competitor prepares and serves a dozen espresso-based drinks in only 15 minutes.  Winners from each region will go on to compete at the national championship held later this year in Vancouver.

For a judge’s take on the event — including dates/locations for the other regional showdowns — check out this Food Network Canada / Food for Thought blog post: Pro Baristas Hit Me with Their Best Shot.  And for tips on how to brew a better beverage of your own at home or in your restaurant, don’t miss out on the follow-up interview with winner Chris Tellez in which he spills the beans (sorry!) on how to brew a better cup.

popcorn mini

I’ve been thinking of doing a blog post on this topic for awhile but am happy to have been scooped by CBC’s Things That Go Pop! blog.

Last week, in recognition of the opening weekend of Julie & Julia, Things That Go Pop featured a multi-course round-up of cinematic yum-yums in a post titled Delectable films about food.

From Big Night to Babette’s Feast to Waitress, more than two dozen food films are profiled, nearly all of them SFW (safe for work), though you might want to think twice about clicking on the 9 1/2 Weeks video clip if your IT administrator can’t be plied with Apology Cake.