Saturday, December 4, 2010

My pet peeves for the pen and pot

I’ve come to find that cooking and media relations are pretty similar. While one is a passion for me and the other is my vocation, they are both a source of enjoyment when handled properly.

But they are also a source of some frustration. I just don’t believe some m.r. practitioners and restaurant owners/chefs always do the right thing.

Food/message preparation and presentation require combining ingredients to make them palatable for your clients and public. So I present to you my top pet peeves for both industries.

1. Know who you’re doing this for:

M.R. pros: Stop writing news release and documents to please your boss or client. If you want your news releases picked up in the media, you have to first write it in the proper Canadian Press Stylebook format. The goal is to have new and relevant information and have as much of the news release in a story/coverage. But, if your first paragraph doesn’t follow standard writing skills you’ll often lose the editor or news director who reads through your news release or story outline.

All businesses and divisions within should practice the CP style of writing. Too many companies are laissez-faire with their employees’ writing skills and don't enforce a company-wide style.

Restaurateurs and chefs: 'Substitutions will be politely declined'. This was on the menu of a restaurant I went to recently for brunch. All I have to say is, “What? ... What?”. First to restaurateur – what are you thinking? The customer should ‘almost’ always be right. Of course you don’t substitute a potato with a lobster tail, but why can’t you substitute potato for broccoli? And if you really don't want substitutions just verbalize it, don't have it printed on the menu. To me, that’s the ultimate f*** you to customers.

And to you chefs, if this is your directive to the owner/manager well shame on you. You should be artists and innovators who adapt to what the client wants, within reason.

Again back to the restaurant where I had brunch: We wanted to order an item, but didn’t want the egg sunny-side up. Response? “No, you have to take it the way the chef prepares it.”. That’s just plain ludicrous. It wasn’t even changing an item.

2. Can’t find anyone:

M.R. pros: Especially in these uber digital age days, you must be available to your employer and the media 24/7. Yes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The key is to build relationships with your industry’s media. They will respect your time and use those late hours sparingly. As well, you have to respond quickly to inquiries, even if it’s just to acknowledge you received the voice-mail or email. Don’t leave any media contact unanswered.

Restaurateurs and chefs: Please teach or direct your servers to have their ‘head-on-a-swivel’ as well as keen peripheral vision. It's not acceptable for servers to walk around the restaurant floor with tunnel vision. They have to anticipate what customers may want or need to enjoy their meal.

3. Not sure where this fits peeves:

M.R. pros: Just the facts, ma'am in news releases has to be your goal, not hyperbole and superlatives. They're very, very bad. And always use a copy editor and a couple of people to proof-read your material. Unfortunately, this is a blog and I’m taking a chance going with this straight up.

Restaurateurs and chefs: I can’t believe any restaurant manager allowing a server to ask someone if they want change from the cash they’ve left in the bill folder. Servers should just pick up the cash and bill and say, “I’ll be right back with your change”. The server has to understand that the ‘service’ part of the evening doesn’t end when the customer puts the cash on the table, it’s when we leave the restaurant.

There it is – my top pet peeves of the restaurant and media relations industries. I have a couple of others, like the pretentious menus and poorly written news releases (not even considering style), but those can be for another day.


  1. I had to laugh, having just had a meal at a not-inexpensive restaurant with waiters who were artists at not noticing....followed by a meal at a mid-level, newly opened restaurant where the waiter asked me if I wanted change. Spot on! gadgetgirl_ca

  2. Great explanation, thanks for the posting!
    Restaurant Equipment