Chow Bella

10 Things Metro Phoenix Chefs Say Diners Don't Understand About The Restaurant Industry

Sure, we've been to plenty of restaurants, but without actually working in the food and beverage industry, it's hard to understand what goes into making a restaurant tick. If you've always been curious about what happens behind those kitchen doors or how the business really works, then we've got some answers.

From the basics of food costs to just how many hours go into every dish, here's what metro Phoenix chefs say are the biggest misconceptions about the industry. 

What's the biggest misconception the average diner has about the restaurant industry?

Pauline Martinez, co-owner of Perk Eatery

That restaurants pay way less for food than what you pay at the grocery store. On some items that can be bought in bulk, it may apply, but generally we pay close to the same and sometimes more than what you pay at the grocery store. 

Michael Rusconi, chef and owner of Rusconi’s American Kitchen

I don’t think guests understand that when they make a reservation and [don't] show, it costs the business money because it’s too late to book that table, and we have planned (spent money) for them to come. 

Cruz Robles, chef of Bevvy 

I can’t speak for the whole industry, but [I think] there’s a misconception about chefs that we do this for the money and fame. That may be true for some, but the majority of chefs I’ve worked for and with do it for their passion as an artist. We cook to make people happy. I love to see the reactions of people eating something I’ve poured my heart into. So when the diner picks up on passion, those are the magical moments that chefs live for.

Allison DeVane, owner of Teaspressa & Tea and Toast

I think one of them is that the restaurant industry doesn't offer serious careers. It is a very dynamic industry with lots of different opportunities for both men and women. Not everyone can be in it, but I think consumers should start to look out for all the females influencing the industry as well. 

Andrew Nam, chef of Stingray Sushi

That customers are ALWAYS right.

Jacques Qualin, chef of J&G Steakhouse 

Most of the time, [diners' misconceptions are related] to poor branding. If a guest comes in with a different picture of what style or products you are serving, they will always be disappointed. It’s like a movie trailer that has you convinced the movie’s a comedy, but when you buy a ticket, you realize it’s a serious drama.

Chrysa Robertson, chef and owner of Rancho Pinot

You have got to be kidding ... there is not enough space here! For me, it's the attitude that we can accommodate any whim, wish, or desire that you "feel like." I don't understand why people go out to dinner with the attitude that they can have whatever they want, even if it's not on the menu. I can only speak as a chef/owner, but I put together a menu that reflects my style. I didn't open a cafeteria for a reason.

Travis King, executive chef of The Bottled Blonde 

The biggest misconception in the hospitality industry today is the belief that restaurant servers are super wealthy and don't need your tip money to survive. This is bullshit. If you can’t or won’t tip someone, then don't come out to eat. Having been in the industry for more than 20 years, I know how one table short-tipping a server can ruin other diners' chances at having great service. It’s hard to shake off getting stiffed by a table when you're busting your hump to ensure the guest has a great experience.

Silvana Salcido Esparaza, chef of Barrio Cafe

Oh, there are way too many misconceptions to mention them all. I think folks think chefs cook and prepare everything on the table. Sorry, I would be dead by now if I had to sling my comida chingona. Instead, I let talented raza like my niece, Leonor, do that for me. Another misconception is that we are rolling in money. The only thing I roll in is tortillas!

Jake Stucky, executive chef of Topgolf Gilbert

I think most diners think restaurants make a lot of money off of their dishes, and that everyone in the back preparing their food is classically trained, wears clean white coats, and looks like Bradley Cooper in Burnt. The truth is that with labor and food costs on the rise, along with rent and utilities, most restaurants (fine dining especially) are barely squeaking by, and all the folks in the back of house are probably making $10 to $12 an hour and are hot, tired, sweaty, and work two jobs to get by. In every job in the industry I have worked, the hardest-working folks in the kitchen are the dishwashers, and they almost never get love from anyone! Shout out to the dish pit homies for all you do!

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Teresa is a writer, editor, traveler, and food enthusiast. She loves chocolate, espresso, and Chihuahuas.
Contact: Teresa Traverse