If you own an Asian restaurant, it’s inexcusable to make these mistakes. Thai is a completely different world than Chinese or Japanese, and Korean food is as similar to them as Mexican or Cuban food is Canadian cuisine. There may be some abject similarities, but not all across the board can be treated the same.
Foodbeast has collected a litany of sins occurring in Asian restaurants on a daily basis. Have you seen these in your restaurant, or have you even committed them on your own?
- Never stick chopsticks straight up in a bowl of food. It can symbolize everything from stabbing, death, or even piercing one’s soul.
- No need to bow to all people, nor always offer chopsticks: these vary from culture to culture, with bowing being more prominent with Japanese culture, and Filipino food not requiring chopsticks.
- Chopsticks are only used for noodle dishes when it comes to Thai food.
- Chopsticks are never to be tapped on the bowl when it comes to Chinese food, as that’s a sign of how people in need ask for food.
- Fried rice has already been seasoned, so don’t pour soy sauce on it.
- Pho has already been seasoned, so don’t pour Sriracha and hoisin sauce in it.
- Never move food from a shared dished directly to your mouth (place it down on a plate first), nor grab it with the tips of your chopsticks you eat from (use the reverse end).
- Don’t flip fish over, as it imitates the flipping-over of a boat.
- Don’t slip pho, and eat it as soon as it hits the table; letting it go cold is an insult.
- With Korean food, don’t hold and eat food out of a bowl in your hand.
- Never blow your nose during a Korean meal.
- Don’t put wasabi on nigiri, as there’s already some between the rice and fish. Likewise, make sure to eat nigiri in one bite, and only use your hands. Nigiri isn’t meant for chopsticks.
Have you committed these scenes while eating these types of food or, if you run a restaurant that sells this cuisine, have you found customers not knowing the accuracies of the cuisine?
At that point, you’re likely faced with a conundrum. Do you allow your customers to eat while committing sins that may outright be offensive to other clientele or your staff (and at least, might be unhygienic or disrupt the flavor of your food).
It’s a cultural and sociological problem. Many people would relish the opportunity to learn how to do things the “right” and “authentic” way, and yet others will be offended that you’re “correcting” them or telling them they’re “wrong.”
A light hand is the best approach, without chastising but encouragement. One way to approach the topic is to see if they’d like to learn; offering a “can I show you a trick?” or “you’re close, but how to really eat nigiri…” might be less insulting and more educational.
It’s a contentious point of discussion for the everyday American, the average restaurant worker, and would heavily affect the bottom line of any restaurant owner. To some, it’s an antiquated practice. For others, it’s a inherent part of our culture, and one of the reasons one may decide to work in the position of server. It has been the source of many discussions throughout history, including one of the most notable scenes in the early film career of a modern master.
At the end of the day, we may not reach an agreement, but you may have an idea of where you stand: should tipping be allowed and encouraged, or barred and disallowed?
The federal minimum wage for tipped restaurant workers is $2.13 an hour, with tips expected to take the wage to $7.25 an hour.
Since last week, staff at Sushi Yasuda in New York have no need to worry about the generosity or tightfistedness of their customers. Owner Scott Rosenberg has banned tipping, saying his staff already get a good wage, with benefits.
Other upmarket American restaurants have introduced an optional service charge of 15-20% instead of a tip. This is a common practice in the UK, usually between 10-15%.
Why is tipping encouraged?
- For many restaurant owners, this is a way to keep employee costs low. If you allow tipping, you are also legally allowed to pay your employees less than minimum wage.
- It is seen as a way to encourage better service in the staff. If you know you’re paid by merit and not time, the concept is that you will work harder.
- It’s a personal service; this is one of the few industries where someone is explicitely taking care of you and doing things you could theoretically do yourself, such as cooking dinner, setting your plates, and cleaning up your mess.
- Conceptually, it encourages the mindset that good work deserves reward.
- If anything, it’s a common practice in the English-speaking world, most notable the United States, Canada, India, and the United Kingdom.
Why is tipping discouraged?
- On slower shifts, employees may not be able to make enough in tips to even meet minimum wage. In these situations, the restaurant owners should make up the difference, which may not have been in their budget.
- Servers may be monetarily impacted due to actions beyond their own. If a chef or cook improperly prepared food, the guest may be unhappy and take it out on the server, who supplied the right order. Likewise, if food is taking longer than expected to get to the customer because of a backlog of dishes, they’re not going to be happy, even if the server is prompt and timely.
- It causes social discomfort. When at a restaurant, many people will internally (and even externally) debate how much should they tip. Is it 10%? Is it 20%? How much exactly is that amount, anyway? Is it insulting to give them change? If I order a $12 meal, how much am I actually paying? Do I increase the tip for every refill I receive? Did he or she tip enough for me to consider going on another date? Can I tip better for better service?
- The staff may not be compensated fairly across the board. If a large tip is left to point out how amazing a meal was, the server had very little in the actual preparation of the dish. If someone sat them and took their orders and another finished and took their checks, they might not share the tip fairly. Likewise, if tips go to a pool (or a tip jar in certain establishments), some employees may be tipped despite having poor service, while others might be tipped less than for what they fairly worked.
- Appearances matter to tippers, in many cases. Unfairly, customers may tip an “attractive” employee more than what they’d consider an unattractive one, despite service being the same. Additionally, male customers may tip a male host less than a female host they wish to impress.
- It can cause conflict with the staff and customers. If a waiter or waitress feels they were negatively tipped (or not tipped at all), they may become contentious of the customer (and of customers in general). For example, a waiter may follow a party outside after one had not tipped to ask “why?”. This is an unprofessional maneuver that’ll cause nothing but animosity for the customers, staff, and establishment.
- Certain countries would be embarrassed or insult to receive a tip, such as Japan. The question is likewise raised when eating at a Japanese-owned, operated, or themed establishment.
Where do you fall on the tipping debate? Do you encourage tipping, or discourage it?
As a restaurant owner, you will invariably meet and serve countless customers, each with their own proclivities and preferences. Not one human being is exactly the same as another, and we all may have allergy or diet restrictions we need to follow. Eating out conforms us to a certain menu, but a good restaurant knows how and why they should be accomodating.
If you plan on allowing substitutions and special orders, there are a few simple points to remember.
- … hear the customer out. A restaurant that is perceived as a stick in the mud may seem elitist (think “The Soup Nazi” from Seinfeld), rigid, and possibly uncaring, and these are rarely seen as a good thing.
- … make a point to explain that, if it will likely result in a delay, they may be waiting longer for their dish than normal. For example, if they wish for egg whites only, that may only take a few more seconds than using a whole egg, or if they want their pizza extra-baked, that will require a few more minutes. Make sure to get the entire party’s meal out as quick as possible without sacrificing quality, as some members of the party might perceive their delay due to the actions of another.
- … be upfront. If you’re uncomfortable with replacing a cheap ketchup with an expensive truffle oil, tell them as such. Possibly come up with a price-point for commonly asked-for ingredients. Many customers maybe okay with a flat “50 cents extra for premium toppings” not regularly included in similar price-point meals.
- … and see how peculiar some substitutions might be. What may sound odd at first request could become your next major hit. An extra-toasted grilled cheese could become your new “cheesy croutons” for tomato soup.
- … and form a consistent guideline across the board that all waitstaff and cooks know and understand. There may be hard limits, such as temperatures or a strict no-additions policy, but it shouldn’t change from customer to customer and waiter to waitress, nor line cook to head chef.
- … promise what you cannot deliver. If a customer asks for gluten-free pasta and you don’t have a way of making that happen, don’t say that you can.
- … let food safety issues be overridden. If you feel unsafe giving a customer raw meat, no matter how rare they want their hamburger, make sure it meets food safety guidelines.
Any obstacle is a chance to shine and overcome, and if a customer knows they can have their dietary needs taken care of at your establishment, they’re more likely to return. Take every challenge as an opportunity to make a new loyal customer.