The USA has always held some intrigue to me and I first visited there in 1979 – consequently, I have spent many interesting, educational and fun times in that amazing country. Having just returned from four weeks in the Mainland and Hawaii, here are some aspects of the hospitality industry I noted.
The amount of food served on the plate has always been huge in comparison with the portions served here. Then if you analyse the plates you will see a huge amount of carbohydrates are used which traditionally have a less expensive food cost than protein. What has changed is that the price point per plate has increased dramatically. The wastage of uneaten food on plates is still noticeable albeit a lot of food is taken home –you box it yourself at the table.
This shot shows the half of a sandwich which I could not eat and so it was ‘boxed’ to go – the price was near US$19. Last year in the same restaurant, the same sandwich sold for near US$15. I go there, Palm Springs California, every year to visit friends and this is the best Jewish deli outside New York.
WAIT STAFF SERVICE
USA wait staff is amongst the most friendly and efficient in the world. That permanent smile and that I-Can-Do-Anything attitude is infectious and appreciated. Sure they work for tips and have to do so as their wages are appallingly low. If you have a Union job in a big Hotel, for example, your hourly rate may be around US$8.75 to US$9 per hour. Otherwise, your hourly rate can be abysmal. In one case, in speaking with a waiter, the wait staff work for tips only and no wages (totally illegal but then if you want a job – ruthless employer) and the waiter told me he made around US$25 per hour from tips. Then there’s was a trunk system and so the bar staff, kitchen and others had to be paid out of that hourly rate. Still, the staff is fantastic and used to being totally busy. There is a much better staff to customer ratio than here. The busboy system is excellent although sometimes very noisy.
RESTAURANT DÉCOR & ATMOSPHERES
There is, as here, much more casual dining than ever before. Tablecloths a thing of the past – cutlery in containers on the table where you are seated, paper napkins of various qualities abound. Over the 4 weeks, I was there, I did not see a linen napkin. This means the whole atmosphere is more casual and yet the American customer still expects swift service – and they get it. You can eat a two-course meal in a good eatery in 30 minutes. Boy, do they pump it out in this casual eating situation!
MORE ETHNIC EATING
More than other visits, I noticed a much stronger influence on ethnic eateries. This is huge in Hawaii and while the call for American style eateries is still very strong, you can notice more Indian, fusion Asian, Mexican, South American and upscale restaurants like Le Colonial in San Francisco which is Colonial Vietnamese. This very smart restaurant is up an alleyway off Post Street and the fare is excellent as is the service.
DIVERSE WINE LIST OFFERINGS
As is the case here, the wine lists now list very diversified wines from around the world and no longer is it that you can only buy Californian wines in California. International wines from around the world are on show and available with the influence of Spanish and French Rosé very clear – great wines. To take the multicultural aspect to its ultimate – try a French (Alsace) Gewurztraminer in an excellent Thai restaurant in Kehei, Maui (Hawaii) served by a Korean/native Hawaiian man. And a great eating experience.
These are a few of my observations from my recent trip. And my opinion is that we still do it so much better than anywhere in the USA and that is a fact.