Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"No Substitutions"

Are there any restaurant policies more obnoxious than the 'No Substitutions' written on a menu? It seems that every wannabe hipster place now decides that they care so much about their craft that they can't possibly let you ruin that burger by adding bacon or changing the cheese it comes with.

And that's usually what it is, too. It's not like these are Cordon Bleu trained chefs with such a passion for their food being served in the correct way that they'd rather lose you as a customer than alter the dish that took them 5 years to perfect. No, more likely it's a god damn panini, and they won't substitute cheddar cheese for Swiss. Would this breach the conventions of the Sacred International Brotherhood of Bread-Toasters?

There's only a couple of possible explanations for this, and they're all bad.

One is that everything is made in advance, and thus they can't change it. Unless it's pulled pork that's been cooked for hours or a sauce prepared in advance, I doubt it. And when that's the case, usually they'll just tell you for that one item, it won't be written on the menu.

Two is that they steadfastly refuse to spend more than 45 seconds preparing your particular panini, and it would be a huge hassle to fetch the other cheese. A variant of this is that the store is run by obsessively cheap @$$holes who are worried that customers are going to come in and request 'Would I be able to substitute the cheez whiz for some beluga caviar instead?', thereby blowing out the profit margin.

This is weak, because there's a much simpler solution - charge them for it. If it's a hassle? If the new ingredient costs more? Add a buck to the price, or whatever it takes for you to profitably do the thing they're asking. That will quickly determine which customers really want it. Hint, if I'm asking, that's me.

Three, and I imagine most likely, is just that they're giant hipster douchebags with a carrot up their @$$ about how good their food is. I once knew a trendy pub place where the only burger they served had blue cheese on it. And they would actually refuse people that asked for different cheese. Yeah, way to be a purist about a type of cheese that lots of people really don't like. What happened to 'the customer is always right', knob-jockeys?

Four, (and this is the most charitable explanation) is that the owners just got sick of dealing with annoying customers wanting twenty-thousand things done to their sandwich. Look, I hate being in line behind these folks too. But that's why it's called a customer service profession. Your job exists partly to kiss the butt of whichever clown comes in wanting to buy your stuff. At the point that you're unwilling to do that, you're in the wrong profession.

I broadly stopped going to these places. Frankly it's very rare that I want to change an item, but these notices just give me the scours. Clearly you turkeys are too good for my low-brow dollars! I'll just have to take them elsewhere.

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