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Beware of the Open Kitchen

Open kitchens are beautiful, but you are on display 24/7.
Open kitchens are beautiful, but you are on display 24/7.

I recently had the pleasure of dining at a popular new restaurant in town that recently opened. I’d estimate the restaurant was at least a multi-million buildout given the well-equipped kitchen and beautiful interior design. The restaurant features an open kitchen that faces the main dining room (which works well because their kitchen is outfitted with top-of-the-line restaurant equipment that’s stunning to watch someone cook with). Unlike other open kitchen concepts I’d seen, the kitchen wasn’t placed behind a large piece of glass or a small pass window; located just a few feet away from the first row of tables, the only separation between the kitchen and dining room was a long table at the pass.

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

It was…until my mother and I overheard a scuffle between the expeditor and our server over our request to have our beef dish re-fired and cooked well done. Some background: our server neglected to ask us to what temperature we wanted the beef cooked, and we forgot to specify. Our server graciously whisked away the dish to get it re-fired for us, but the expeditor at the pass was more than a little peeved in requesting Wagyu beef to a temperature beyond medium rare.

“You know how chefs are,” our server graciously answered when I inquired about the conflict.

When you work for a restaurant supply company, and you have a fervent passion for cooking and food, you do know how chefs are. And whether or not the chef was correct in stating that the Wagyu beef cooked to medium rare was already at the perfect temperature is beside the point—if your customer wants a Pinot Grigio with his steak, you let him. Egos are common in the kitchen and sometimes that ego turns elitist. Who cares if your client wants an overcooked piece of meat—they’re the ones eating it, right?

After my inquiry, our server returned with an offer of an additional glass of wine on the house for each of us so that we could enjoy it with our meal. We appreciated the gesture, and because of it we won’t hesitate about coming again. However, from the restaurant’s point of view, you’re out 2 glasses of wine (at $15 each) because someone couldn’t keep their mouth shut. It’s an easy mistake to make, but it could certainly get costly if it happens more often.

restaurant kitchen behind glass
Utilizing a large, glass window evokes the feeling of an open kitchen without all of the risks. | Photo By Barebibotra

When designing your restaurant, seriously consider if the open kitchen concept will work for you. Not only does it prevent cooks (and servers) from venting about particularly frustrating customers (and hey, maybe that’s not a bad thing), but most “kitchen talk” might be frowned upon your main clientele. Fact is, open concepts might help keep staff to tow the line but it could also affect your overall tone and synergy in the kitchen.

Still want an open kitchen without affecting the dining area? Try an open concept behind glass. Diners will love watching chefs cook but there’s little risk of actually offending any of them.

About Natalie Fauble

Natalie Fauble is the Online Marketing Manager - Content & SEO for Tundra Restaurant Supply. As a digital marketer with a passion for the restaurant industry, Natalie helps companies shape their brand through thoughtful, fun and innovative content strategies. When she isn't blogging for Tundra Restaurant Supply you can find her in her vegetable garden or in the kitchen whipping up one of her favorite dishes.

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2 comments

  1. Nice piece Natalie but i feel the chefs are there to create experiences for all guests and to help guide them to new flavor profiles that they may not be accustomed to. Our society is to fixated on the customer is always right kick and i feel that anyone who feels that way should go to a corporate style set up or Diner where they aim to please the masses and every request is taken care of with out haste. Now ever restaurant serves a purpose for different people, and none are better or worse, the are just different. But when you go to the boutique style restaurants and bars you’re there for their experience, to broaden your horizons to take your experiences to new heights. I feel that not liking a dish is just as important and liking it and is apart of the overall experience. Yes, guest are entitled to their own likes and dislikes but a restaurant like the one you reported about are not short order cooks either.

    Other than that I’m not a fan of open kitchens in terms of operations but they are cool to see. As an operator , you are right that we need to think of all the aspects in considering our brand/restaurant and at the attention to detail is paramount. Hope you have a great weekend

    • Great points! I do agree that some chefs are there to create a special experience, and many are viewed as “Stewards of the Land.” And while the argument could be made that you shouldn’t bother trying restaurants that’ll broaden your horizons if you’re not ready to take the step, odds are your “foodie” daughter pushed you to come along and didn’t give you the choice. 🙂

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