I’m getting more like my grandmother every day. She hated eating out, and made an enormous fuss when brought into restaurants by my mother. She’d say that there was nothing for her to eat, sulk when mom ordered for her, move stuff around the plate with a fork as if the food was contaminated, and basically eat next to nothing, which infuriated my mother who then had to put what was on the plate into a paper napkin. This was in the days when styrofoam containers for uneaten food were hard to find in restaurants.
Granma, if you asked her, complained about specific things having to do with food and the dining experience.
She found the food too salty, didn’t like eating in a room full of strangers, questioned the quality of the ingredients, and wasn’t too sure about the value.
I only recall one dish I had in her Brooklyn apartment, and it was very good, and this isn’t nostalgia talking: A pan seared, bone-in veal chop smothered in tomato sauce and sliced onions and garlic. The veal was tender, but well textured, with just the right amount of fat, and perfectly salted.
The thing is: Granma didn’t have margins.
Ask any chef about margins, and if he or she tells you that doesn’t matter then they have deep pockets; investors who don’t care for some reason about percentages in profitability; will be out of business soon; or, are being disingenuous.
Among the biggest costs to a restaurant are rent, labor, and ingredients. Hey, granma was paying rent whether she cooked or not. Labor? Many restaurants cut back on front-of-house, and expect more of that with an increase in the minimum wage, which will result in a different service model, to say the least. Ingredients: Granma didn’t reuse oil for meal after meal, didn’t buy cheap meat, didn’t use lots of salt and sugar as enhancements. And she didn’t serve what passes for dining out these days: The biggest margins are on pizza, burgers, and fried food.