I think every sandwich should have a pickle. It could be the classic kosher spear or small slivers of tart circles, but pickles must be there. When I say pickles, mind you, it doesn’t have to be cucumbers. It could be as creative as pickled green beans, okra, beets, capers or even peppers. Whatever the case is, a sandwich always needs a little bit of acid, a splash of sour brightness to cut and balance it properly. A hamburger will always need a slice of pickle, a crab cake a drop of lemon juice and even a ham and cheese sandwich requires a dollop of tangy mustard. Without the zest, there is no zing.
Imagine my surprise when I was recently told that my grilled chicken sandwich did not include pickles. In fact, at this particular restaurant, they no longer carried pickles and only served toppings like lettuce, onion and tomato when requested. According to the server, there was so much waste occurring (customers discarding toppings) that management decided to do away with the toppings in order to reduce costs.
Now let’s be honest: food costs and waste can destroy any food business. But how did this problem come about in the first place? If a menu clearly stated that a sandwich came with onions, lettuce and pickles — a customer should be able to request these items be left off if not desired. But a savvy restauranteur would also train their staff, instructing the servers to ask questions while taking orders. And the same restauranteur would train the kitchen staff to be on the lookout for tickets with special orders and requests, helping to minimize waste and reduce food costs.
I shared this conundrum with my friends and Michael intuitively pointed out the existence of the “I paid for it” syndrome. In his opinion, there are customers who choose to waste, simply because they paid for it. That is, they paid for the sandwich, so they want the option to discard with whatever as they please. What a bunch of bull. If you subscribe to this type of entitlement mentality, please, get yourself some help.
The main factor to consider in this scenario is the product as presented. Does it make sense to offer ingredients like lettuce, pickles, tomatoes and onions? If you don’t know, poll your clientele. Ask your staff. But whatever you do, don’t make blanket decisions that impact operations and results in less service, not more. Customers go out because we want to be served. We want to be asked how our dishes should be prepared — and the answer always is: to our liking. And above all, we want our pickles, damn it.