Attending an authentic sagra: a good enough reason to visit Italy!

Throughout spring and summer, posters adorn Italian walls with the word ‘sagra’ clearly taking prominent position in the advertising, so what does this word mean?

The literal translation is festival, but the definition of sagra is a local fair and celebration connected with food and local produce; for example, the town of Baone, in Veneto, hosts an annual Sagra dei Bisi (festival of the green pea). During the event, the streets are filled with people dressed in medieval costume and local residents prepare different dishes that must include the peas within the recipe. Among a number of traditional recipes, the most famous is definitely Risi e Bisi (a delicious risotto with peas). After all the tastings, every evening culminates in a music show with Italian live bands.

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Actually, almost every town in Italy at some point during the year will host a food festival. This year for example is the 80th Fish Festival at Chioggia, Venice. The sagra lasts for ten days and attracts over 100,000 people each year; music and theatre act as a backdrop as visitors sample fish dishes, fresh from the Adriatic sea, such as stuffed clams and mussels, griddled sole, pickled cockles and mixed fried fish. Attending a sagra is the perfect way to immerse yourself in Italian life. Add to this the opportunity to sample local cuisine as you sit at long communal tables to eat with the local population and you get a real feel for how Italians come together to celebrate.

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Fish Festival, Venice

Finding out about a sagra is very straightforward as most of the posters follow a similar format: the main heading will tell you where the festival is held and the date; these are mostly in bold typeface and large enough to read from a passing vehicle. Once you’ve found one that interests you, the poster will give you the start time, destination and other events that will be staged. You don’t have to be a local to attend and most towns welcome outsiders and tourists to their celebrations. The lines of parked cars stretching out of the town will indicate that you have arrived at the right place, and those who arrive early are usually the last to leave due to the sheer volume of traffic attending! In fact, some sagre (the plural of sagra) are so popular that the towns have a coach service to ferry people in and out of town to keep the streets clear for dancing.

Sagre take place throughout the year, with many taking place in the summer, so during your holiday to Italy this year, keep a keen eye on the local posters and find a local sagra, and for one evening become an honorary Italian and enjoy all the hospitality the town has to offer!

 

“At Christmas with your parents, at Easter with whomever you want!”

Easter or Pasqua is the second most important Italian holiday after Christmas. This holiday covers a long weekend in Italy, with the additional Italian tradition of Pasquetta (little Easter, also called Easter Monday) which, according to tradition, you are free to celebrate as you wish. In fact, young people during this holiday tend to stay with friends having pic-nic in the countryside or spend a long weekend in another city with no parents at all. A famous Italian saying for this time of year is:

“Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi”

(At Christmas with your parents, at Easter with whomever you want).

Visitors to Italy who are not spending time with friends may be interested to find that every city has their own traditions and, while you may not have friends and family to celebrate with, there are several ways to enjoy uniquely Italian traditions for Easter.

Chocolate and painted eggs

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credits to lacucinaitaliana.it

As chocolate became more and more popular in the early 20th Century, the skills of knowing how to color Easter eggs started to fade, and chocolate eggs began to take the place of painted hens’ eggs. Chocolate Easter eggs have now overtaken decorated eggs in Italy as the most popular gift at Easter.
Italians take everything chocolate very seriously – and Easter eggs are no exception. Chocolate eggs have become increasingly elaborate as manufacturers tempt people to buy their eggs. In every city in Italy, every supermarket, shop window and market stall will have a huge variety of chocolate eggs in the days leading up to Easter Sunday. They range from the tiny, solid milk chocolate to the massive, showy hollowed out eggs containing sometimes quite elaborate gifts. All of them will be wrapped in foil or cellophane with decorative ribbons.

Tradition in Florence

This tradition started in 1096, following the return of a Florentine knight, Pazzino di Ranieri de’ Pazzi, who raised the Holy Cross banner in Jerusalem during the Crusades. For his bravery, he received pieces of flint from the Holy Sepulcher of Christ. Upon his return to Florence, these stones were used to light the Easter Vigil sacred fire and then ported around the streets of Florence. Today Florentines commemorate this event with a Sunday procession during which an antique cart is pulled by a team of white oxen during a parade of 150 soldiers, musicians and other people dressed in 15th-century attire. The procession starts at Porta al Prato and ends in Piazza del Duomo in front of Santa Maria del Fiore. Once arrived, a dove-shaped rocket (La Colombina) holding an olive branch is shot towards a cart loaded with fireworks, setting off the scoppio (the boom). This yearly event is meant to bring a bountiful harvest, stable civic life, and growing business.

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“scoppio del carro” in Florence

Easter in Rome

Rome is the city where the Vatican state resides, and who at this time a year is a sort of Mecca for Catholic pilgrims (do note that the Sistine Chapel does have exceptional closures during this long weekend celebration). Lucky for Roman visitors, however, all the other museums will stay open. On Good Friday many people gather in Saint Peter’s Basilica to listen to the Pope’s mass at 5 pm, and immediately following, the Pope starts his walk to remember the Christ’s Via Crucis with a candlelit procession starting at the Palatine Hill. After making 14 stops along the way to remember the walk of Christ and pray, the holy pontiff ends at the Colosseum. The beauty of this procession also lies in the gathering of many pilgrims with torches who follow: even for those who are do not consider themselves religious, this event is magic.

Traditional Easter food is the second most important celebration during Pasqua. If you want to eat at a restaurant, you’ll definitely want to first check if the place is open and second, make a reservation, noting that several restaurants do close from Good Friday till Pasquetta. While dining in Rome, you won’t want to miss the Roman traditional foods of Pizza Sbattuta, a sponge cake, hard boiled eggs, ham and corallina, a typical salami for Easter, as well as different varieties of salty cakes. You will also want to try the traditional lunch, consisting of oven-baked lamb, carciofi alla romana (Roman-style artichokes) and colomba (dove-shaped cake).

Food Italian traditions for Easter 

In Lombardia (and not only), the Colomba is the most famous dessert, a dove-shaped bread made with almonds, sugar and egg whites. Today this cake is known worldwide, but originates in the region that boasts Milan. Another northern tradition is the Pinza Pasquale from Trieste, a sweet bread with a three-point cross carved on top. A Southern Easter tradition is the Casatiello from Naples, a salty cake containing cheese, sausage, salami, and even hard-boiled eggs. Catania, Sicily has a special kind of Easter cookies, aceddu cu’ l’ova. These cookies are simple and have different shapes (the most famous one being a dove), and once made they are given to family members and friends as a gesture of affection and good luck.

How Italians drink coffee

As a non-Italian, the two biggest challenges you may face in discovering the Italian culture and cuisine probably are: cooking “pasta al dente” and preparing a true, authentic, Italian coffee (everywhere known as espresso).

Essentially, there are two to make an Italian coffe: with the traditional three-chambered aluminium pot, like the famous Bialetti’s Moka, known as Macchinetta or Caffettiera, or with an espresso machine.

In both cases quality is, however, quality is of the absolute importance. No faked products here! The same goes, of course, for the quality of the coffee. Only choose Italian brands that have been roasted and ground especially for espresso machines or moka machines.

Italians themselves claim that the quality of their coffee ultimately depends on the purity of the water. So, unless you lives in Naples (the Italian city where supposedly they make the best espresso), we suggest you use bottled instead of tap water.

Even though the investment is much higher in case you decide to opt for an espresso machine, it is also relatively easier to select one that will make you good espressos.

It may be difficult to find a good traditional coffee machine, better if you choose for a good brand right from the start (not necessarily the most expensive one!). The coffee brand is also crucial to prepare a good espresso. An important advice is to take great care of your coffee maker and to replace the filter and the rubber ring as often as needed. Never (never!) clean your coffee maker with detergents or harsh chemicals. Just rinse it with care after each use.

TYPES OF COFFEE SERVED IN ITALY

When we think about Italian coffee, espresso is the first word that comes in everyone’s mind. In Italy it is not just a kind of coffee; when you order un caffè in Italian, you will automatically be served an espresso.

Here are the typical coffee drinks you will find in Italy:

  • caffè (espresso): a small cup of very strong coffee, the typical espresso (20 to 25 ml)
  • caffè doppio: 2 espresso served in one cup
  • caffè ristretto: en even more condensed version of an espresso (less than 20 ml)
  • caffè macchiato: an espresso with a drop of milk. You can order either a macchiato caldo (drop of steamed milk with froth) or a macchiato freddo (drop of cold milk)
  • caffè Americano: weaker than espresso and served in a large cup or a mug but still stronger than American-style coffee. It consists of an espresso to which hot water has been added after the brewing process (about 80 ml)
  • caffè lungo: where more water (about double) is let through the ground coffee, yielding a weaker taste (about 40 ml)
  • cappuccino: it is not just an espresso with steamed milk. To prepare a cappuccino properly you have to pour the steamed milk very carefully as to add 1/3 of steamed milk before the final topping (of about 1/3) of foamy, frothy milk. Italians usually drink cappuccino only in the morning, never after lunch or dinner. The name Cappuccino comes from the resemblance of its color to the robes of the monks of the Capuchin order.
  • caffè Hag: also more and more called un deca, a decaffeinated coffee. Can be combined with any of the version above
  • caffè corretto: an espresso with a drop of liquor
  • caffè borghetti: an espresso with a drop of borghetti liquor
  • caffè freddo or shakerato: espresso shaken with ice and sugar and served in a glass, usually in summer
  • caffè latte: not really a coffee drink, as this is basically hot milk mixed with coffee and served in a glass.

You don’t need to ask for bread!

Bread is a fundamentals in Italians’ diet and this explains the variety of Italian breads.

You don’t need to ask for bread while eating out in Italy, because bread is served as standard in restaurants.

Despite not defining Italian cuisine as pasta does, bread is more rooted in Italy’s history and traditions. It has been the main food of poor people for centuries and its preparation is still connected to popular traditions.

Typical rustic Italian bread

In Italy breads vary by regions, sometimes even from city to city. They have different flavours, shape, ingredients.

However, all around Italy you can find rustic Italian bread made with just four ingredients: yeast, water, salt and flour. Not usually a “pretty” bread but deliciously tasty. The fermentation of the yeast is what gives this bread its tastiness.

Simplicity is the main characteristic of rustic bread, as is life in the countryside. Rustic, as Italy has been for decades, and as it can be even today sometimes.

For the true lovers of Italian bread, have a try with this homemade bread recipe.

Fascinating Italian breads from North to South

Italian breads, from the north to south of Italy, are an important staple at the family table.

Ur-Paarl

Let’s take, for example, the Ur-Paarl. This is a typical bread from Trentino Alto-Adige (together with the Schüttelbrot, the traditional bread form Valle Isarco, and the Pusterer Breatl from Val Pusteria), a region on the border with Austria (hence the German name of this bread).
It consists of two round and flat breads attached to form a number eight shape. It is made with rye and spelt flours and yeast. Fennel’s seeds and herbs typical of the area can be added. It is perfect both with jam or cold cuts. The original recipe for this bread belongs to the Benedictine monks of Val Venosta and it has been rediscovered thanks to the last baker-monk, Fratel Alois Zöschg, who kept it. Since it is a long lasting bread, good even after a few weeks, Ur-Paarl was cooked just twice or three times a year in farmers’ wood stoves.

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credits to blog.giallozafferano.it

Tigelle

Two very singular types of bread are tigelle or crescentine from my city of Modena and piadina from Romagna. Tigelle are typical of the Apennines but today widely eaten all around Emilia. Chestnut-growing is very popular in this area and tigelle’s origins are strictly linked to it. Tigelle are named after the stone used to cook them. Originally, a tigella was made with clay loam from chestnut-growing and water and then shaped in a round wooden mould with low relief decorations, such as flowers.
They were then dried in the sun and cooked. Tigelle (the bread) were cooked in a fire place and the whole family took part in their preparation. A dough made with soft wheat, water, milk, brewer’s yeast and sometimes oil or lard was then put on a hot tigella (the stone), covered with a dried chestnut leaf. Several tigelle were piled up and put in the fire place. Long chats came along with the cooking. Once tigelle were ready, they were filled with cold cuts or cheeses. Today they are eaten more or less in the same way, with cold cuts, lard, jams or spreads, but are cooked in modern metallic moulds.

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credits to greenme.it

Piadina

And then piadina, a round thin flat bread typical of Romagna. A famous Italian poet named Giovanni Pascoli wrote a poem dedicated to this bread.

Delicious piadina romagnola with Italian sausage and spinach
Piadina romagnola
Piadina is made with wheat flour, lard (today, due to vegetarian life styles, oil is also used), salt and water. As simple as people from this region.

Piadina is usually eaten with cold cuts, cheese, meat, vegetables. The most popular filling is with Squacquerone (a local soft cheese) and rocket. One of my favourite is with grilled peppers, onions and sausage. Yet piadina with Nutella is the best experience life can offer.

Piadina has always been poor people’s bread and is still made at home. But all around Romagna small take-away places for piadina (called chioschi) are very popular. The peculiarity of these chioschi is in their colors, striped either white and red or white and green, depending on the locality.

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credits to paneangeli.it

Pane Carasau

One of the most peculiar Italian breads is undoubtedly Pane Carasau from Sardinia, a very thin, crispy bread also known as Carta Musica (Musical Paper), for the sound made during chewing. Ingredients are durum wheat flour, yeast, salt and water. It is usually dipped into water for a while, to make it softer and be rolled up with cold cuts and cheeses. If big crusty crumbles from left overs are often soaked in caffèlatte. Its origin seems to date back to the Bronze Age and has always been known as the ‘shepherds’ bread’. Until few decades ago, its preparation was a family or even neighborhood ritual. The women involved in the making were said to be paid with oil and ricotta cheese.

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credits to sardegnacultura.it

Pane di Altamura

There are endless types of traditional breads across Italy, I’ll list one more: Pane di Altamura typical of the Apulia region. It is baked with a very slow rising process inside a wood stove. The real recipe uses local ingredients including yeast, grain, sea salt and local water, which make it unique. This bread holds the D.O.P. mark from the EU (Protected designation of origin)

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credits to comprainpuglia.altervista.org

Panettone is on the table!

Christmas is just around the corner and, where Italians are concerned, food is one of the main components in the festivities.
There are many traditional products eaten by Italians during the Christmas season, and two of the most famous are the Pandoro and the Panettone.

PANDORO

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Pandoro, credits to perbellini.com

Pandoro is a traditional Christmas cake made with flour, butter and eggs, which was originally produced in Verona. Verona is not only the town where the first Pandoro was made, but remains the place most associated with this delicious creation.

It is important to note, however, that the origins of the pandoro are often linked to the skills of Austrian pastry chefs, inventors of the bread of Vienna, from which inspiration was sought to produce the first pandoro.
Pandoro is also associated to a famous cake typically linked to wealthy families of the Venice Republic during the Renaissance. This cake, the “pan de oro”, or “bread of gold,” was covered in thin, gold leaves.

Pandoro as we know it today was also most certainly inspired by a star-shaped cake known as the “nadalin,” which was prepared by some families in Verona in the 1800s. In fact, pandoro even keeps the star shape of the “nadalin” alive.
The name Pandoro, meaning golden bread, perfectly describes its colour, which is provided by the eggs in its batter and its sugary coating. The shape, as previously explained, resembles a star.
The Pandoro is often warmed and served with cream, hot chocolate or Nutella poured on horizontally cut slices, thus enhancing the similiraties with an eight-pointed star.
Since the 19th century, pandoro has been produced on an industrial scale and it has now acquired national fame, being sold in all Italian supermarkets. Next to industrial production, there is also a parallel handmade production, which in the last few years has increased its sales by 20%.

PANETTONE

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Panettone, credits to perbellini.com

Pandoro, credits to perbellini.com

If Pandoro is traditionally linked to Verona, Panettone belongs to the history of Lombardia, in particular to that of the city of Milan.

In the 13th century, an ancestor of Panettone already existed: it was made of bread, yeast, honey, raisins and pumpkin. Starting from the 1800s, it acquired the shape of today’s Panettone. It is a cake made from flour, butter, eggs and sugar with candied citron and sultanas.
Several legends exists about the birth of Panettone. Some people mention the story of Ughetto degli Atellani, a boy who fell in love with a girl, Adalgisa. In order to be near Adalgisa, Ughetto pretended to be a pastry chef, so that he could work in Adalgisa’s family bakery. While there, the lovestruck young man tried to invent a new cake by mixing flour, eggs, butter, sugar and sultanas. Ughetto’s creation was a smash hit, earning him favor with Adalgisa’s father and paving the way for the two to be married.
Another widespread legend is based on the story of a cook working for Ludovico il Moro, who had to prepare Christmas lunch. After baking the cake, the cook forgot it in the oven and it burned; a boy named Toni, a kitchen porter working with the cook, suggested a solution: cooking another cake with the leftover ingredients, which were flour, butter, eggs, citron peel and raisins.
When the cake was served, everybody liked it and the duke wanted to know the name of the cake, which was called “pan del Toni”, Toni’s bread, which then evolved into the name Panettone.
Panettone has a less romantic shape than pandoro because it has a cylindrical base, and ends with the shape of a dome. Even if its shape may not be as evocative of Christmas festivities, Italians adore it, and comsume huge quantities of panettone during the Christmas period.

Both Pandoro and Panettone sell like, well, hotcakes during Christmas time. At the same time, Italians take their choice of panettone or pandoro very seriously. Some love Pandoro, but dislike Panettone, while some others are the complete opposite. Usually children prefer Pandoro and those who don’t like raisins and sultanas will never choose Panettone.
One thing is for sure, those who like both of them will get the better of it, because they’ll get to taste a slice of both!

If you ever come to Italy during the Christmas period you can’t refuse to try them…so choose whichever is the best for you and try it in the pursuit of the perfect Italian Christmas!
In the UAE you can find Pandoro and Panettone in all the Italian grocery or at just about any supermarket.

Do you know that the “gnocchi” recipe come from Middle East?

The Italian word gnocchi translates to dumplings, but it is thought the name may have come from the word nocchio which means a knot in the wood or possibly from nocca which means knuckle. It should be noted that the word gnocchi is plural and refers to several gnocco (singular) however, the singular word is hardly ever used and the word gnocchi is often used in the singular.

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making gnocchi, credits to gingerandtomato

Origins of Gnocchi

The original recipe is thought to have originated in the Middle East and although no one can be sure when Italian gnocchi were first made, the earliest written mentions appear in 14th century Italian cookery manuscripts.

Gnocchi became a staple dish in Italy and was gradually introduced by the Romans to other countries in Europe during their many conquests and over time, many countries developed their own type of small dumplings from the earliest gnocchi recipes.

Moreover, gnocchi were introduced to South America by Italian immigrants during the early 20th Century and quickly became integrated into many South American cuisines including in Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, Venezuela and most notably in Argentina where today the 29th of every month has been designated Dia de Ñoquis (gnocchi day). The 29th was chosen because it was usually the last day before pay day so many people had run out of money. Gnocchi was the perfect meal as not only was it cheap but it was also filling. It was customary to place a coin under the plate whilst eating to encourage prosperity.

Similarly, Italian migration to North America saw an increase in Italian restaurants, many of which would have had a favorite gnocchi recipe on the menu.

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credits to Cooking@home in Dubai

Today

Gnocchi can be made by a variety of ingredients, such as pumpkin, bread and semolina flour. They can be made and served also with spinach, saffron and even truffles. They are boiled in water or broth, like pasta, served with many sauces such as pesto, tomato, butter and cheese.
Other types of traditional gnocchi are Gnocchi alla Romana (from Rome), made with semolina flour, topped with cheese and baked in the oven, or Gnocchi Gnudi, from Tuscany, made with ricotta and spinach.
Today, gnocchi are mainly made from potatoes, and has become a traditional dish in Italy. Despite the long description, the dumplings are very easy to prepare. They can be served with different sauces, but are especially good with pesto sauce, amatriciana sauce, meat sauce, four cheeses, butter and fresh tomato sauce or simply with butter and sage. They are also one of the most refined dishes, worthy of the most sophisticated menus.

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credits to saleepepe.it

Mercato AE: an Italia Kitchen Group successful project!

Mercato is the last Skelmore Hospitality Group’s concept (the one of Roberto’s Restaurant & Lounge in DIFC) which opened in Dubai last May 2016.

Their motto is “We don’t just like food, we love it”.

“It perfectly shows!” we could answer them.

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Mercato restaurant and retail 

The restaurant incorporates a retail space featuring fresh pasta, including roasted coffee beans, cured meats, bread, pastries and an open kitchen which let the clients see with their own eyes the baker and the chef making bread, pizza or pasta from scratch. The chef takes great care in selecting the best quality ingredients.

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Mercato’s kitchen: an Italia Kitchen project and realization

As you enter Mercato, you are welcomed by a fragrance of fresh bread, vibrant colors, and a vivid atmosphere inspired by Mercato Centrale in Florence, an historical place to buy groceries that has been renewed and it has become a meeting place for food lovers and gourmets. That is exactly what Mercato is.

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Open Kitchen at Mercato with Italia Kitchen equipment 

For all these reasons, it was an honor for Italia Kitchen Group to be part of its project and realization.

We asked to Mercato’s manager, Mrs. Grazia, what he think about the work that Italia Kitchen’s project manager and technicians made for Mercato:

Time that Mercato project’s born, we immediately thought of relying on someone with great experience and seriousness that could provide us support in any emergency situations, requirements found immediately in Italian Kitchen Group…THANK YOU !

So if you haven’t already, visit Mercato to experience deliciously prepared dishes and the best customer service in town!

                                                                                                                                    by Martina Bettella

Do you know how to deal with difficult customers?

If you are part of the industry that handles the customer relationship, surely you have got to interact with angry  or rude people at least one in your life. This kind of encounter could be frustrating and exhausting for both, yourself and the customer.

However, now that you have come this far, you have a choice. More than not loose a client and prevent a negativity mood, you could be satisfied of yourself to been able to help someone’s problem, or just you might transform a bad experience into something positive, despite your interlocutor’s attitude. So, let’s see some advices to learn how to deal with arrogant and constantly angry customers.

The following tips can be used normally both for a call-in conversation and for face-to-face meetings

1. Be respectful

This is the critical time of the conversation: an angry customer called you and he is angry because of something you cannot control. To loose your temper could be very simple now, especially when the customer handle the situation like a personal matters. Worst case scenario, the customer decided to insult you because he has a problem with the product you have produced or it doesn’t play with his expectations. Patience to him, once they took their rage out on you, even the angriest customer will agree to calm down and and listen to you so that you can help them. After all, this is the real reason why they are calling you. No matter how difficult it may be, always have the utmost respect! There might be several reasons why they came to you to complain.

2. Listen carefully

Even while the customer is ranting and raving in his monologue, always listen carefully what he is telling you. This can help you for many reasons: it allows you to concentrate on the words, ignoring his tone of voice and can avoid annoying repeated complains. Take note and listen; is he talking about a single issue or different situations?

3. Recapitulate the problem

Once the client has calmed down, it is time to be heard. Explain what you understand calmly but firmly help you to demonstrate to the listener that you have listened what he said and you are fully aware of the issues to deal with. It also allows you to make sure you have not forgotten a word or to it helps you look into some important points. Sometimes, in the anger the problem can emerge partially. In this way, there will be no doubts.

4. Simple solutions

Very often, the problems with an angry customer can be solved with simple solutions. Probably it is not the first time you listen to someone’s problem, that is why you may just have the solution. After allowing him to vent, immediately offered him a simple solution, perhaps not definitive, but still “possible”. Pay attention at this stage, not to further irritate the customer (he could be still angry).

5. Provide information

If a simple solution is not available, then you must deeply explore the issue with the client. Provide information about the process that leads to the problem, trying to recreate with him the conditions that carried that particular circumstance. In this way you can demonstrate your professionalism and your dedication on the resolution of the problem.

6. Find resources

If you know you can not solve the problem by yourself, try to involve someone who can help you, better if you succeed getting him in touch with the customer. Do not ever perceive this as an attempt to delegate the problem to others, always consider yourself as the reference between the two people.

7. Make the customer feel important

Always update the customer when you solve some problem and let him feel important. For example, send him Christmas wishes. Good manners could transform a customer in a faithful customer, especially after an issue.

8. Take him out (I am joking!)

Finally, always keep in mind to never start a “words war” with your customers. Some of them could insult you and the temptation to face charges is too strong. Only fight the temptation. If you were an employer, you could lose your job. If you were he manager, you could ruined your reputation forever. If you have quite reached the limit of your patience, try to distract yourself: if you are on the phone, put him on hold and take a breath, if he is in your office, run off in your employers room. Sometimes, to solve unpleasant situations, you just need a break and someone’s support!

 

How to create the perfect Food Menu

One of the hardest challenges when opening a new restaurant is creating and modifying your menu. The menu is what brings customers in and pays the bills, so it is essential to balance room for trial and error with the perfect variety of dishes. If you are creating a menu (or changing your existing one) and need some help getting it right, the following tips will help to bring you in the right direction.

1. Start with your environment 

The first step to menu planning is to think about the location of your restaurant, café or eatery. What are people looking for in your area? What is currently popular and where are there niches? What are the socioeconomic considerations in the area? These factors should all play a part in the creation of your menu. Are you surrounded by fish and chip shops? Perhaps look at some fresh, gourmet eats for your menu. Find something your audience will find exciting and enticing. Take a holistic approach to your menu and consider the location and type of clientele and how this fits with your menu.

2. Focus on a theme

Every restaurant has a style, theme and atmosphere that are important to match to your menu. A coherent menu is essential: you don’t want to confuse or discourage potential clientele. Although it is good to be different, everyone likes the classics so try to find a balance between the two. Remember, your customers have a lot of control as to your success, pleasing them is just as important as doing what you love.

3. Be flexible and change often 

Your first menu shouldn’t be your last! Make sure what you create, even if it seems perfect, has room for change. You want to be able to change things that don’t work and try new things to see if they could be successful. Regularly changing your menu is not only a great way to find out what works and what doesn’t, but also a way to build excitement for your guests. Try to find a regular schedule for change and stick to it. When it comes time to change the menu, remember that you don’t have to change everything, just keep the best and mix up the rest!

4. Keep it small

No one likes a huge menu with too much to choose from. Research has found that more choice causes indecisiveness and could even result in a guest leaving. While you may think lots of choice is great, it can make it confusing and frustrating for the customers. A simple, small menu is easier for everyone. Your guests will like it, you won’t have to buy as many different kinds of produce and your chefs will be able to focus on quality over quantity.

5. Use specials to test menu items

Specials are a great way to test and learn for a restaurant. They give you the opportunity to see what clients like without making them a permanent addition. This is a great way to make smart choices on your menu and make the most profit.

6. Have a ‘signature’ dish

Your signature dish should be the golden egg on the menu: it is a special dish that showcases your chef’s talents and your restaurant’s style. It is what draws people to your establishment and what they walk away talking about. It should be the star, but remember to make all your dishes worthy of remembering.

7. Price your menu accordingly

There are many factors that come into play when pricing menu items. Try to consider all of the things that could affect your profit margin and make sure these are covered. Public holidays, equipment, utilities, rent, produce and prep, breakage, staff pay and any incidentals are all outgoing costs. You may need to do a bit of trial and error to figure out how to cover them all. Consider price points and look at your competitors and clientele and remember you may need to mix up the menu when it comes to cost. Not all dishes will equal profit, some will be in the positive, some won’t reach it. By balancing this you should be able to maintain your overall food cost goals.

8. Make your menu attractive and engaging

The design on your menu can have as much impact as the dishes do! Where you place things, the shape and feel of the menu and what kind of colours and visuals you include all affect how a guest uses it. Smaller menus are a tick and items at the start and end of the menu are usually the most memorable. A4 books are great, particularly for pubs and similar venues, as they are easy to read and hold and can be stood up on tables.