The 45-minute chair (and 5 other restaurant secrets revealed)

I’ve been writing about restaurants for more than three decades. (Note that I do not give an exact number.) Over the years, chefs and restaurateurs have passed on to me what passes for restaurant wisdom, the tricks of the trade as it were. What do you think?

Restaurant Secret #1 —The 45- minute Chair: You’re Outta Here

The perfect restaurant chair is one that seems immensely comfortable for 45 minutes. After that point, you can’t wait to get out of it and they can give your table to the next party. Think Finca.

Restaurant Secret #2 — Decibel Level: Too Loud to Linger

A restaurant should be loud enough to indicate this is a happening place (nothing’s worse than the silence of a dud) but quiet enough to talk but loud enough to get tired of talking against the racket but not so loud you’ll never go back. Can you hear me, 

Restaurant Secret #3 — Eating in the Dark: Can You Taste What You Can’t See?

Our senses are connected and we’re light- loving creatures. Dark restaurants are romantic—right up to the point where you can’t stand it. Tuscany gives diners lighted menus.

Restaurant Secret #4 — The Right Breadbasket: Fill’em Up

Low cost, long shelf life—bread can make a big first impression for cheap. This is a place where restaurants often cut corners or stop paying attention—how many times have you been served bread straight from the fridge? 

Restaurant Secret #5 — Avoiding Sticky Fingers: Salt and Pepper Shakers

Restaurant designers want them to be cool enough to suit the space; not so cool everyone will take one home. Bambara learned this the hard way when it kept losing it’s funky S&P shakers to light fingered diners. 

Restaurant Secret #6 — The Signature Drink

Liquor pays the bills. These days, every restaurant must have a signature drink. Preferably pink, like the Alamexo margarita with jamaica.

Restaurant Secret #2 — Every Menu’s Sweet Spot

 We’re not talking dessert. Restaurateurs know that most people tend to look at the top right of a menu first, and that’s where they often put the items with the biggest profit margin or the one they want to sell the most. The top of the list, the bottom of the list and anything with a picture also tempt diners.

Restaurant Secret #2 —The Margin Your Caesar Salad, for example, makes the aged prime rib affordable. Caesar ingredients are inexpensive, but the result is impressive and worth way more than the raw cost. That allows a restaurant to take a lower margin on a dish that otherwise might be too rich to serve.

Mary Brown Malouf
Mary Brown Malouf
Mary Brown Malouf is the late Executive Editor of Salt Lake magazine and Utah's expert on local food and dining. She still does not, however, know how to make a decent cup of coffee.

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