Serious Eats: Talk
Building Trust in a Restaurant Setting
@Littauer asked a great question in my most recent post (white chocolate cakelets) regarding how chefs build trust in the their customer base. As someone who at least attempts to specialize in unique and unusual desserts, it can be tricky. I've noticed, though, that most pastry chefs tend to have bored palates and often the "weirdest" dessert on their menu is both their personal favorite and lowest selling.
In a restaurant, a pastry chef relies on the servers to sell desserts. People (well, most of them) don't walk into a restaurant with intent to order dessert; they're hungry, want maybe a cocktail, an appetizer, a main course, and to probably take home some leftovers. After the mains are cleared, it is the servers' job to drop a dessert menu and make a suggestion. A dessert order raises the bill, therefore their tip, and, if the pastry chef has done their job well, they've tasted the desserts and know what to recommend. Whenever I make a menu change I make sure everyone on the front of the house staff tastes the new dessert and any questions they may have are answered. I keep up to date allergen information posted somewhere easy to see, so servers can make informed recommendations.
Another way for pastry chefs to build trust or even a fan base within a restaurant is through things like brunch pastries or petit fours. At my first chef job, we opened for lunch first, and gave out animal crackers with the checks. Once we started doing brunch service, I took care of the pastry baskets and jams. And at my current job, we're doing pre-opening events with tasting-sized versions of menu items so people know what to expect from us.
Any other chefs/professional bakers feel free to chime in!