You’ve all heard of foodgasms. In fact the over use of the word on twitter is making me believe that most of us have turned into drooling food-sluts gorging on fried mozzarella sticks. Well, here is another experience we have all had, quite the opposite of a Foodgasm – a Food KLPD (google KLPD!). We have all had that gorgeous red, creamy curry which turned out to be salty with stale paneer, or the rubbery butter chicken. We just don’t know what to call that feeling.
A Food KLPD is when you are on a dreamy high, drooling just thinking about the food, and when you actually eat it, the soldier, in this case your tongue, goes back into camp. In simple words, what some restaurants do wrong and ruin a diners’ experience. In some cases these experiences seal the fate of the restaurant especially in cases of food hygiene. Unless you are a fortunately located restaurant monopolizing a highway for scavengers, read, learn and don’t growl at me!
Rule No. 1: No Food Illiterates Here
Active social media, google and smart phones have made us all food experts! We know our food; we know world cuisines and exotic ingredients. Most importantly what we don’t know, we google. But I think often restaurants take us to be far less informed than we actually are. Trying to to make us pay for almonds when you serve us peanuts is a trick you shouldn’t try to pull.
Couple of years back, I went to this lounge in Mumbai, opposite the KFC building on linking road. I asked the bartender for a Pinacolada and what I got was cranberry juice with vodka and coconut water! When I asked the bartender in which part of the world was this drink called a Pinacolada, he said, “There was no coconut milk so I added coconut water, there was no pineapple juice so I added cranberry juice and vodka or white rum, how does it matter?” It is no surprise that this lounge closed down soon after that. Diners were not as slow as they thought us to be.
So if you really want to lose that high tipping, potentially loyal diner, treat them with a “What do they know!” attitude, and they will never set foot in your dimly lit, dark wood ornamented restaurant again.
Rule No. 2: The Waiter Forgot Our Food
When you are staring lustfully at the food on other tables, waiting for that tandoori chicken to arrive. It has been fifteen minutes, and when you ask the waiter he says that it will be ready any minute now. You’re sitting up, staring at the kitchen door, trying to catch a glimpse of your meal with a noisy stomach. Finally, after complaining to the manager the food arrives and it is cold by now. If you had a gun, the waiter would be running for his life by now.
Even worse is when your curries have been served, you are waiting for the rotis, which do not appear until the curries are cold. Running orders are the at the top of the food KLPD list. At the peak of the meal, when the second round of rotis has not been served, it is like a speed breaker in a Formula1 race. You’re chewing ravenously and when you reach for rotis, they are all gone. Then even though you were already eating the next table gets their rotis first, even before your running order, which should have been first. Bummer!
Rule no. 3: Hair in the Food!
I have been through tiny, curly arm hair in my fried rice, band-aid in a paratha and a rat running out of a kitchen. Believe me, even if I read about someone finding a cockroach in their food on Zomato, I will never venture into that place. I don’t think anyone will.
Hair in the food is such a common occurrence that it is agonizing. Food hygiene is a deal breaker, it cannot and will not be pardoned by any diner or any occasion, no matter how good the food is.
Rule No. 4: Weekends & Rush Hours Aren’t About Taste
On an early evening with friends one Saturday, we start with a delicious platter of vegetarian kebabs followed by a mixed vegetable curry. The curry is thick, creamy and delicious with lots of paneer and other vegetables in it. Even the vegetable kebab platter has large pieces of fresh, succulent mushrooms and crispy dal kebabs. The food is perfectly pleasing.
After an hour or so some more friends join in and we order another round of kebabs platter and the same vegetarian curry. The restaurant is pretty crowded by now, and this time around the portions of food look smaller. The paneer is cut into smaller pieces, the curry has been watered down and the vegetables in it are lesser. The portions fall short and we order another round, this time around the paneer tastes stale, the curry has a few pieces of veggies swimming in it, the mushrooms have shrunk and the dal kebabs are soggy instead of crispy.
Thank you for telling us that we are not welcome on weekends, more importantly, if we are dining in the rush hour we have to put up with low quality food and smaller portion sizes. Most restaurants are short staffed or worse, unprepared for the rush on weekends. After several Food KLPDs on weekends, I’d stick to that one restaurant, which is well prepared and also ready to say no. This dish is over or unavailable, instead of serving unappetizing food on weekends just say so.
Rule No. 5: Food with Frills, No Taste
For me, this is the true definition of a Food KLPD, and it has happened to me a bunch of times in 5 Star Luxury Hotels, in their specialty restaurants. The menu will describe the dish as the pearls of the Himalayas slow cooked with exotic vegetables and served with lentils cooked in secret spices from the royal kitchens of Avadh. The description transports you into a magical world, and you are expecting this dreamy looking dish from paradise, especially designed by the Hotel chefs for you.
The dish often looks equally promising, with earthen pots, roasted gulab studded fancy platters. In fact, I presume they were decorating the plate for so long that by the time it arrived at my table it was already cold. It is even more disappointing when the dish turns out be like a dal khichda and the exotic vegetable is snake gourd! Big, fat – Food KLPD. It is even more interesting when the restaurant has an old award certificate hanging at the entrance!
Rule No. 6: It Tasted Better the Last Time
So, you go to a restaurant when it has just opened and love the food, tell your friends all about it. Then go down there after a couple of months to celebrate your birthday and the entire meal turns out to be a big let down. Often the restaurants start with high standards of taste and quality but are not able to maintain those standards once the place starts doing well. Often the quality is not taken seriously or left to managers. I have observed that restaurant owners’ who take personal interest in day-to-day operations and customer relations are far better in maintaining standards in the dining experience. You don’t want to go to restaurant where each visit is a gamble, do you?
Rule No. 7: Bad Recommendations
When the restaurant staff is not well informed about the menu, or the items on the menu, at times they end up giving wrong recommendations. Ideally of course, no dish on the menu should be bad. Also, the diner’s preference may be different from the waiter’s taste. The staff must be told what to recommend by the restaurant management and the kitchen staff, else a methi malai matar will really ruin the experience of a spicy food fan.
The staff should be able to inquire about preference and know about each dish in detail to be able to explain it to the diner. A good method we used in our restaurant during my training was to have the staff taste one item from the menu daily, so they would be well informed about the dishes.
Rule no. 8 – UN Happy Hours
Please don’t have Happy Hours if you can’t afford to have them. Many restaurants end up serving watered down drinks during the Happy Hours. I have had LITs that tasted like Cola far too many times to trust Happy Hours anymore. I just go for beer, which I hope cannot be diluted. If you do want your spirits and cocktails to sell, please don’t take your customers to be fools.
Rule no. 9: Changing the Cook or the Menu
When that favourite restaurant you go to suddenly decides to take your favourite dish off the menu, or worse decides to change the cook. You will be surprised how many restaurants have cooks not Chefs in their kitchens. When there are cooks and no Chef in a kitchen, there is no standard recipe, procedure and each time the restaurant cook changes, so does the taste of your favourite dish, or dishes. A total setback when you are looking for some comfort from your favourite dish at your favourite restaurant or should I say a food KLPD?
Rule No. 10: Promotions Over the Plate
We have seen those gorgeous succulent kebabs, that crispy khasta roti and dal makhani in the newspaper ads. The place looks chic. Everyone is talking about it on twitter. The PR Company is seducing us with pictures of delicious food and there is a big hype created around the launch of the place.
What we get in our plate is dry, over cooked kebabs, which taste like chewing an eraser coated in marinade. The khasta roti is like shortbread and the dal makhani tastes only okay. Little suggestion, kindly taste the food yourself, make a handful of outsiders test it before you go about making big posters of the food. When there is a bigger hype created, the diner has more expectation and the degree of Food KLPD is much higher.
If you want that drooling foodie with a fat wallet to be afraid of trying your food again, focus your attention on the promotion over the food you are putting in his plate.