Masks are being removed and spaces are back at full capacity, but the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are still being felt in the restaurant industry. According to the National Restaurant Association, wholesale food prices have risen 14.5% from Jan 2021 to Jan 2022. Coupled with industry labor shortages and other factors such as rising gasoline prices affecting delivery costs, the only thing which is not lacking are the challenges.
“For the restaurant industry as a whole, it’s still in crisis whether people think it or not,” says Josh Wolkon, founder and owner of Secret sauce Food and drink. “They think it’s just back because warrants are everywhere. It’s still super, super difficult and it hasn’t settled into a level of normalcy or “new normal” yet, whatever that looks like.
With Denver Restaurant Week back March 11-20, thousands of guests will flock to the nearly 200 participating businesses. Here are a few little ways to dine better during restaurant week and beyond.
Be patient and compassionate
Don’t forget: your restaurant experience won’t be the same as in 2019. Full-service restaurant jobs are down 12% nationwide as of February 2020 before the pandemic, so it may take longer for a server to take your order and for you to get your food. Expect to spend more time at the table and don’t be frustrated if the service is slower.
“I think it’s more important than ever that people put in place the golden rule of treating people the way they want to be treated,” says Miranda Garcia, CEO of Tamayo in LoDo. “Just be a good person. Be respectful.”
Do not remain strictly professional
For employees who are work, stress levels are high, says Wolkon, whose restaurants include As eat serve and by Steuben in the Uptown neighborhood. Making the effort to be friendly and start a conversation will go a long way.
“Engage with your server,” he says. “Know that if you’re in a restaurant that’s understaffed, it’s not as fun when you’re constantly in the weeds… Look at the staff still working, and they’re struggling. They work overtime every week and customers are upset. You must have a certain level of sympathy, compassion and commitment. Just say, ‘How are you?’ »
Expect changes to the menu
Simply put, restaurants pay more for their product. For diners, that means your favorite restaurant’s menu might look a little different. Don’t be surprised if your main course costs more (average menu prices are on the rise 6.4% nationally), some ingredients are substituted or not on the menu.
“Some [of our] the special ingredients come from overseas—from Thailand—and the prices are very, very high right now; some items are up 200%,” says Ounjit Hardacre, Executive Chef and COO at Thai Girl Kitchen & Bar. “So I would like customers to understand that if there are some ingredients missing, we may have to replace them with something else…so the texture and taste might be a little different.”
Make reservations directly with the restaurant
Rather than using a reservation system like OpenTable, make your reservation by calling the restaurant or through their website. This saves restaurant costs, Wolkon says. And if you’re more of a date night at home type, avoid DoorDash or Grubhub by calling for takeout and picking up yourself. This helps support your local spots and saves you from shelling out over $10+ on delivery.
If you don’t come, cancel
We understood; Things happen. But if something happens and you won’t be there to fulfill your table reservation for two, cancel as soon as possible.
“No-shows on restaurant reservations have been a problem for a long time,” says Katie Lazor, executive director of EatDenver. “As much as you can, honor your reservation or cancel it whenever you know you won’t be able to get to that restaurant. It really helps the restaurant team plan a great night of service and take care of their existing customers and any customers as best they can.
Eat earlier (or later!)
Instead of going out for dinner at 7 p.m., eat a lighter lunch and make a reservation earlier. Or, push back your dinner plans for an hour or two. Choosing to eat out during off-peak hours will reduce the burden on resource-strapped staff. “If they come earlier and not during peak time, that would be helpful,” Hardacre says.
Raise any issues directly
Errors will occur. And when they do, provide feedback directly to a manager. This gives the restaurant a chance to resolve any issues on the spot.
“If you don’t have an ideal experience, we’ve entered the culture of online reviews and ratings,” Lazor says. “And what I hear all the time from restaurateurs and managers is that they always appreciate hearing feedback while customers are still in the restaurant and having the opportunity to talk about it. and transform your experience while you’re still at it.”
Wolkon says if you’re not comfortable giving feedback on the spot, contact the restaurant directly afterwards. “The worst thing you can do is log on and write a negative review right away,” he says. “Restaurants are always trying to recover, and if you go online and air your frustrations publicly, it’s hurtful all the time, but it’s especially hurtful right now.”
Good tipping, even with automatic tips
Tipping protocol may also look a little different than on pre-pandemic days. Some restaurants include automatic gratuities on every bill, including Hardacre’s Daughter Thai, which includes a 5% “kitchen appreciation” charge for backroom staff.
If you see charges on your bill, you can ask what they are for and where they go. In general, it’s always good practice to tip around 20%, but you might want to be a little more generous when dining out for Restaurant Week.
“I think it’s important for customers to know that you’re getting a little discount, so if you can do more than that, that’s great and something to consider when choosing the restaurants you go to. visit,” García says. “If you are able to tip more than the standard 20%, that would certainly be appreciated.”