Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Challenge to Restaurants

NO MORE! PLEASE! photo from awesomebites.com
I have a complaint. It doesn't have to do with everyday restaurant service, it has to do with restaurants' participation in food oriented fundraisers. I'm talking about fundraisers like The Taste of Sacramento where a whole bunch of restaurants, breweries, and wineries supply eats and drinks for a foodie fundraiser. You know the kind. You pay $50-$100 for a ticket and then go in and graze small bites and appetizers from the many restaurants that are donating food for the event.

The problem is this: the go-to small bites that restaurants are going to are either pulled pork sliders or carnitas tacos. I'm tired of it.

Example: Last Friday I went to the Christian Brothers High School Wine, Beer, Food Extravaganza. It was a great event with good bands, a lovely location (the high school grounds), and plenty of eats and drinks. But I would say as much 70% of the savory items were either carnitas tacos or pulled pork sliders.

Don't get me wrong. I get it. Beef prices are rising, chicken can be tricky, pork is forgiving and cheap. Tacos and sliders are small and easy. Thing is, at an event like this I would think you should regard it as a marketing opportunity to get new customers. You want to stand out and be memorable. You want me to remember that you were participating - that you were even there! 

There was a restaurant that night, for instance, that I had never heard of. We asked questions about where they were for future reference. They happened to be a Mexican restaurant, so guess what? Carnitas tacos.  At the same time, across the way was Tequila Museo Mayahuel. See? I specifically remember them because they had what I considered to be the best 'bite' of the evening. It's a restaurant that I have yet to eat at. I am more interested to eat there now because they served a small cup of their Crema de Chile Poblano soup. It was hot, flavorful, spicy. I loved it!

My point is that if you want to be memorable, if you want me to give your restaurant a try since I've never been there before, then the tacos and sliders are NOT going to do it. With a dozen sliders around the event(s), I'm not going to remember yours. They all blur together.  I even said to people, "You would think we were at a pulled pork slider competition." Honestly, we are tired of it.

So I'm challenging restaurants. I challenge them NOT to serve either carnitas tacos or pulled pork sliders at chartiy food events ANY MORE! Mexican restaurants can do taquitos, flautas, anything but tacos. Other restaurants can do skewers, canapes, etc. Use pork. That's not really the issue (the type of meat). It's how you are using that pork. There are plenty of other inexpensive bites that can be made besides sliders and tacos.

The next big food charity event like this is coming up with The Taste of Sacramento on September 21st. I ask everyone to check and see how many tacos and sliders are there and report back to me (in case I don't go). I really hope restaurants take this message to heart and we see none. But I think that's a dream and there will still be too many.

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