In Customer Service 101, it seems that the customer is always right. In kosher dining, it too often seems that the customer is always wrong. How is that working in terms of keeping customers coming back?
I asked my good friend Marc Epstein, owner of Milk Street Café in Boston, for help understanding why this problem seems legion in much of the kosher food industry. He nodded his head hopelessly. “The dynamics are not geared to customer service. First there is the attitude that many but not all rabbis have to supervision: ‘You need me. If you don’t do what I want, I will remove your hashgacha (supervision).’ Second, the customer has driven 10 miles to eat at your place and passed 250 better restaurants than yours. The person behind the counter also knows that the person eating kosher usually has nowhere else to go.”
Why would any kosher restaurant owner get better at pleasing customers, especially in areas with few kosher restaurants? Marc nods his head. “There is no economic incentive to change a kosher restaurant, but owners could adopt a different mindset. First you have to love feeding people and then you focus on the food.”
So here’s an incentive. Love. Pride. Distinction. It seems that if you viewed providing kosher food as an expression of both love of people and love of mitzvot, you would want to do everything you can to drive the non-kosher market to join you and make the kosher market feel great about observing this tradition. As if to say, “Hey, people, this is what kosher looks like.”
Erica Brown, “Overheard in a Restaurant”, The Jewish Week (4 December 2015), 58.