Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It's the Display, Dummy!

We all know the expression "A picture is worth a thousand words." Well, in the food business, a display plate might be worth a 50 covers during a slow to medium lunch service. The concept behind the display plate is simple: allowing the patrons to feast their eyes on one of the daily specials, entree or appetizer, will increase sales and enthusiasm. Not only does it work, but it's fun to get creative with the plate in the morning before service. Any professional cook will confirm the importance of aesthetics and the fun that can be had with plating.

But what happens when those display plates look a little too appetizing?

Yesterday, I witnessed two of the most common answers to that question… either the food on the plate disappears or the plate itself starts to (or does) disappear entirely.

I'm not sure what goes through the heads of these customers. Here's

Scenario Number 1: The Disappearing Food Act.

We're in our slow season but the lunch rush between 12-2 can be busy enough that I might have 6-12 people on line at any given time and I can't pay close attention to all of them at once. Helping the first three customers on line, I noticed out of the corner of my eye an older gentleman with two companions eye the display plate for our entree that included two pieces of mushroom flan. Enticed by the three-hour old food, the man removed one of the pieces of flan from the plate and motioned toward his mouth. Catching him in the act, I moved down the line and requested that he not eat food from the display plate. His response? Put the flan in his mouth and tell me "Too late." Adding insult to injury (the plate, not me of course), he didn't even show the courtesy to finish chewing before he spoke!


Scenario Number 2: The Disappearing Plate Act

As if watching patrons take cold food off the plate and munch to their heart's content isn't bad enough, sometimes I look out at the counter and see that the entire plate (or bowl) is gone. This happens more frequently than I care to admit - we must have lost a dozen ceramic bowls during the holiday season to patrons overcome with desire for our winter cobbler. But yesterday, the act was disrupted and my exchange with the customer went like this:

David (watching a customer remove the display plate from the counter: Excuse me, ma'am, can you please set the plate down?

Customer: Is this one mine?

David: Well, you haven't ordered anything yet, so no, it isn't. Would you like the entree?

Customer: I want a cup of soup. But I'll take this instead.

David: That's a display plate. I'll prepare a hot entree for you in just a moment.

Customer: Can I have this plate? It's very pretty.

David Thought Bubble: Where did I go wrong in life?


Most days, I just shake my head, roll my eyes and move on to the next person. But this time, I took a bit of pride in making such a beautiful display plate. Go David!

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