Kansas City Restaurant Week can bring out the worst in diners. Here’s how to be a good one
From Jan. 13 to 22, Kansas Citians can eat at more than 200 participating restaurants offering special menus during the annual event. But many establishments are still struggling with staffing even while they're expecting bigger-than-normal crowds.
For the next 10 days, foodies and avid diners will have a chance to celebrate the annual Kansas City Restaurant Week by visiting their tried and true spots and discovering new favorites.
More than 200 restaurants, serving Southern comfort food to German and Ethiopian cuisines, are participating from Jan. 13-22 across the metro. Many restaurants will have curated multi-course menus.
This year, a portion of the money made during Restaurant Week will be donated to Cornerstones of Care, a local nonprofit focused on kids and families.
KC Restaurant Week can mean big business at a normally slow time for the food industry. To prepare, many restaurants are buying more products, enlisting more help and increasing their hours.
“We called in some people to help us out outside of our normal staff because we're expecting a large influx of customers,” said Bradley Gilmore of Lula Southern Cookhouse. “We're trying to get mentally prepared, physically prepared, and just make sure we ensure a great experience for the guests that are coming out.”
If you’ve already made reservations, or if you’re still deciding where you want to dine, here are tips about what to do — and not do — during restaurant week.
Bill Teel, executive director of the Greater KC Restaurant Association, said patrons should expect restaurants to get busy during the week.
“Restaurants are still struggling a little bit with staffing,” he said. “Restaurant Week might be a little bit more of a challenge this year in terms of getting you in and getting you out, so keep that in mind.”
Restaurants like Lula don’t normally offer three-course dinners. That can mean kitchen and service staff have to adjust to additional steps.
“It's almost a new learning experience for the staff as well,” Gilmore said. “It takes a little more staff, it takes a little more focus.”
Gilmore said customers should also remember that there are diners in front of them finishing their meal and patrons behind them waiting to be seated as well. While the bustle of Restaurant Week may cause frustration, he said patrons should remember to be kind and respectful to hosts and service staff.
“Don't yell at the hostess, it's usually not her decision that your table's running behind,” Gilmore said. “Remember to talk to the staff the way you want to be treated. If there's a problem in the situation, we are here to fix your situation and help you get seated and help you. When people forget that and don't treat the staff with respect, it becomes tough to deal with.”
Making a reservation for Restaurant Week, versus walking into a restaurant during busy service, can help staffers better plan for the day or evening ahead.
“Make reservations if you can, and be a little flexible if possible, too,” Teel said.
Gilmore recommends over-communicating if that reservation changes.
“If someone's party is gonna drop down in size or increase in size, that is totally fine,” Gilmore said. “But it helps us out if you give us any kind of ahead of time warning or communication. ”
Don’t overcomplicate things
Participating restaurants designed a specific, multi-course menu for the week, with several dishes to choose from in each course.
Teel recommends sticking to that Restaurant Week menu and not asking for substitutions.
“They've gone through quite a process to get everything set, to get all the product in and have everything ready,” Teel said. “So don't ask for special changes to what's on that Restaurant Week menu.”
Gilmore said substitutions are fine, within reason.
“We want our customers to get exactly what they want. So if you read something you don't like, just tell us ahead of time so we can fix it in the kitchen versus fixing it after the fact,” Gilmore said. “If you like all white meat for our fried chicken, for example, let me know ahead of time versus after. Those are the big things that'll help us keep our pace of service up.”
Don’t stay too long
To accommodate the high customer volume during Restaurant Week, it’s important for staff to turn tables over quickly. But that can be hard if customers stay too long at their table after they pay the check.
“We allow the customer at least 10 minutes after checkout, after dinner,” said Cherven Desauguste, chef and owner of Mesob in midtown Kansas City. “The turnaround times for the table, it's crucial.”
Tipping is always recommended when you dine out, and typically makes up a portion of servers’ wages. Gilmore says diners should remember the extra pressure on staff during Restaurant Week.
“They're working harder than they would normally work because of the extra courses,” Gilmore said. “It's gonna be longer hours. We have one staff and we're opening a whole other day so everybody's gonna be working more than 40 hours this week. Everybody's gonna be working harder, so it's important to remember to take care of your service staff.”
Desauguste also reminds customers to keep in mind that service staff is not responsible for how dishes come out. If you’re dissatisfied with a dish, he says, don’t take it out on the server.
“Just be mindful, and show some appreciation that they're working for you,” he said.