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Thread: Too many restaurants serve hot food on cold plates.

  1. #1
    CaLoonie Buddyboy546's Avatar
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    My wife and I love to eat out at restaurants. We also love to explore new places, new restaurants. In my experience fine dining restaurants always warm the plates they are serving hot food on. It makes sense. However, my experience with restaurants below the fine dining level shows that at least half of them do not warm their plates when serving hot food. Heavier food, such as stew type meals, are forgiving because they have enough heat (thermal capacity) to get away with it. Lighter food on the other hand, such as rice dishes or the like, have little inherent heat and so quickly go cold. The worst combination is lighter hot food served on thick, cold plates. It drives me crazy, especially as I am a paying customer who expects a reasonable standard of presentation. Worst case scenario is at a hot buffet where food is never as hot as when freshly prepared and is often offered with a stack of thick, cold plates. Large buffets often have plate warmers but they are more often than not switched off!

    If I were dining at a new acquaintance's home for the first time, it would be rude of me to ask if the plates would be warmed. In the same way, it is rude to dine in a restaurant and ask it the plates would be warmed when ordering the meal. Why should I have to in any case? One would not ask if a salad would be served on a cold plate. This is pretty basic stuff. Sadly it is common to be served a really good dish, hot at the time of service but which becomes less than pleasing half way through because it has lost so much heat to the cold plate. And I am by no means a slow eater.

    Why do restaurants do this? They can and do lose the patronage of people like me. I accept it might not be important to some people (not clear why) but what business can afford to consistently give a negative experience to a sizeable proportion of their customers? What do you think about this issue?

    I have done some research and found some advice on the web, but nothing from a well known chef or culinary college. Can anyone cite such a source? Here is what I have been able to find.







    http://chestofbooks.com/food/recipes/American-Woman-Cook-Book/Service-Suggestions.html



    Hot Food Should be Served Hot on heated dishes. Cold Food Should be Served Cold on cold dishes.




    http://tygroupd.blogspot.com/2009/07/food-presentation.html


    BASIC FACTORS OF PRESENTATION


    Temperature:



    Good presentation of food means nothing if the food is not served at the correct temperature. To ensure the quality of hot food, it must be served on hot plates. All food should also be of the right temperature before it is placed on the plate. Hot food should be covered with warm food/plate covers to retain the temperature. It is vital that hot food is served to the customer immediately.



    Cold food should be served on chilled plates. It should be thoroughly chilled before serving – either refrigerated or held on ice before plating. As with hot food, cold food too should be served immediately after plating.



    The most basic factor in Food Presentation is Temperature. HOT FOOD SHOULD BE SERVED PIPING HOT AND COLD FOOD MUST BE SERVED CHILLED. Successful co ordination of temperatures requires good planning and execution.





    http://www.phouka.com/ant/book01/chap-03.htm



    ... hot food should be served hot, and that heated plates and serving dishes are necessary to accomplish this.





    http://www.egyptchefs.com/eCompRulesHace06Team.asp


    Hot food should be served on hot plates and cold / chilled foods on cold / chilled plates.



    http://www.chiangmai-mail.com/085/dining.shtml


    ... good hot food should be served on good hot plates!




    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18097/18097-h/18097-h.htm


    Hot food should be served hot, and on hot plates.
    This thread is currently associated with: N/A
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    I couldnt agree more. And while I sense you have a good grasp, I think it's worth mentioning that the logic here is to retain the heat during the course of the meal.

    Fundamental physics: Heat transfers immediately from the hot body to the cold(er) body. so the heat from your food will automatically transfer from the food to the plate, if it's at a lesser temperature. It doesnt have to even be cold, just a lower temp -- but the colder it is, the more quickly the heat will transfer from your food to the plate.


    So I agree that serving food on aptly warmed plates should be common practice. Any decently outfitted restaurant ought to have plate warmers of some sort.
    Sometimes it's storing the destined dish/plate on the pass under the heat elements before plating the food. Others have warming panels at the plating station, before the pass... but the pass should also be heated. Others have a warming stations specifically for storing plates and dishes in a warm space.

    Lastly, some dishes are warmed in an oven where plate and footed are heated together as part of the finishing process (Think many Mexican places where melting and/or browning of cheese before serving).

    It's all standard stuff.


    HOWEVER, I also think it's a matter of where you are and how much you're paying for your meal that might suggest if these things are present. As you also mentioned, some of the 'finer' places do it. And they dont even have to be that expensive, just that they're attentive to this detail. But you'd be hard pressed to find St Huberts or East Side Mario's doing it (correct me if I'm wrong?)

    And also a MAJOR oversight of restaurants that are just starting out that never have even heard of this concept, or if they have, see it as an unnecessary expense. As you point out, they dont warm their plates at home, so why would they here? -- but maybe they should at home? (My stove has a warming drawer... and when I'm serving food for myself, I dont bother, but when I'm entertaining, I put the plates in here for the sole purpose of warming them up as I'm plating 8+ dishes all at once).


    Oddly enough, however, my experience with Olive Garden (laugh if you must) -- A chain restaurant in the US, and maybe only a titch better than ESM's, but at least they have the hot/cold plate thing down right. My plates are usually hot and my meal is hot for the duration. The salads come out in a chilled bowl, and the salad bowl you are given to serve your salad is also chilled.


    So it's certainly noticed when it occurs. The plates dont have to be scalding hot... but they should feel warm to the touch and your meal should stay consistently warm to the last bite.
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    I wonder if health and safety could be one of the reasons behind this. If a warm plate is your preference, maybe you should ask the server if they can accomodate the request. They may be able to give you the reasons behind why they use cold plates to serve. It is a small request and I don't think it is rude of you to ask since you are a paying customer, but there may be some sort of conscious reasoning behind it, rather than just oversight
    Ciel likes this.
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    CaLoonie Buddyboy546's Avatar
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    These are both considered responses, for which thank you. Just a comment re asking ahead of time for the plate to be warmed. While I do object to having to do that on principle, there are many other aspects to enjoying a meal that I expect and should not have to list off to the wait staff at the outset.

    The other day I ordered a hamburger at a restaurant I had eaten at many times before, but this was my first hamburger there. It turned out to be on a cold, untoasted bun on a cold plate, and I did not enjoy it as a result. When I mentioned it to them later, they confirmed that they never toast their hamburger buns but would be happy to do so on request. I could give other examples. My point is, if I have some unusual request (eg. my wife asks for sweet and sour sauce to be put on the side as she is diabetic and can then limit its use), it is reasonable that I make it up front. Asking that plates be warmed, that hamburger buns be toasted, that the salad I order be served before the main course not as part of it, those are different. There would be too many things to up-front review with the wait staff to ensure they adhere to reasonable serving practices.

    I guess it boils down to the question is it a standard, fair expectation that hot food be served on warmed plates. If it is, and I suggest strongly that it is, too many restaurants are delinquent. My purpose in posting it here is hopefully to raise awareness, particularly among restaurant operators.
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    Quote Originally Posted by torontogal12 View Post
    I wonder if health and safety could be one of the reasons behind this. If a warm plate is your preference, maybe you should ask the server if they can accomodate the request. They may be able to give you the reasons behind why they use cold plates to serve. It is a small request and I don't think it is rude of you to ask since you are a paying customer, but there may be some sort of conscious reasoning behind it, rather than just oversight
    While absolutely true that there may very well be a logic behind it, there would be no health code or safety violations that would prevent them from serving hot food on a hot plate... the plate should be just hot enough as to not draw the heat from the food., not scalding hot as to be unsafe or dangerous to touch. Although that MAY happen if the dish itself goes into an oven, as to finish it -- but I would then further expect to be warned upon delivery to my table.

    Chances are if you were to request a warm plate from a server at a place where they don't already do it... they wouldn't know HOW to get that plate warm. Not because they arent smart enough, but because chances are, they dont have the facilities to provide it or they'd already be doing it. Instead, they could wind up microwaving your meal before they serve it to you, and NOBODY wants that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Buddyboy546 View Post
    Just a comment re asking ahead of time for the plate to be warmed. While I do object to having to do that on principle, there are many other aspects to enjoying a meal that I expect and should not have to list off to the wait staff at the outset.
    Touche...

    It would be like asking the wait staff "can you be polite, treat me and my party with respect?" or "can you bring me a a napkin?" or "can you put ice in my beverage?" etc... you shouldnt have to ask for what should be naturally expected. What you're asking for, at least in common sense venues, should be automatic (at least a warm bun as part of a burger should be... anywhere).

    I guess it boils down to the question is it a standard, fair expectation that hot food be served on warmed plates. If it is, and I suggest strongly that it is, too many restaurants are delinquent.
    I'd say it's about setting your expectations, which would rely on the calibre of the venue -- or at least the consideration of the management and/or staff. I wouldnt expect it at most chain restaurants, at least where a dish or meal is less than $15. But likewise, it shouldnt be THAT obscure either. As I mentioned earlier, if the likes of Olive Garden can handle it, then why not similar sized chains? I've had cold plates at the likes of many chains where I'd pay $15-$20 for a dish, yet I go to a local family diner, where I'd pay even less for a meal, and alas my plate is warm... (which is why the coleslaw is served in a dish on the side.)
    Last edited by bhlombardy; Mon, Jun 18th, 2018 at 10:09 PM.

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    Canadian Guru DaveP's Avatar
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    Wow. I think there's a 'first world problems' thread here somewhere, maybe this thread could be merged with that.

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    Good info
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