A friend of a friend is convinced they’ve uncovered a novel way of getting extra perks from the kitchen while dining out: buying a round of drinks for the kitchen.
More specifically, the person in question believes that this act can be something as simple as rocking up to the kitchen, pre-meal, and leaving a pack of cold ones for the kitchen team.
Having worked as a professional chef for the majority of my 20s, I had some immediate reactions to this claim: First, this is not a concept I’ve ever heard of before, nor have I ever experienced benevolent diners knocking at the back door bearing a 6-pack of suds. What’s more, while I always encourage tipping generously and extending that to the kitchen, if it’s strictly “extras” someone’s after, this probably isn’t the easiest or cheapest way to go about things.
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Every kitchen is, of course, unique. But one aspect that unites all is that the general tone of the workplace is set by the head chef. To put it bluntly, not every head chef will be thrilled to see their kitchen staff receiving free alcohol in the middle of service, so it’s definitely not advisable to go behind the chef’s back and drop off beers with the line cooks directly. Even if you are able to do so unnoticed, perhaps risking some jobs in the process, the chances of the line cooks sending an amuse-bouche or middle course to your table without the permission or knowledge of the chef are next to none. And do you know which table you’re dining on in advance? Because they sure as heck won’t.
So I’m going to presume that the plan of action here is going through the leader of the brigade, or perhaps the sous chef, who really is just an extension of numero uno. Sure, they might be receptive to this gift, but only if all of their team are taken care of. That means you better show up with cold ones for the dishwashers, too, and the untold number of prep chefs diligently working away behind the scenes.
Once again, while this is a generous gesture, if you’re doing it specifically to receive something in return, you should instead just take that money and spend it on an extra appetizer or entree to split among your group, or put it toward any optional extras that might feature on the menu, like truffles or caviar.
That’s not to say surprise middle courses are off the menu, though. Here’s how I’d instead advise increasing your chances of receiving those: Become a regular, be friendly to the staff, accept recommendations, and try the specials from both food and drinks menus. The more you visit a restaurant — especially on days that might typically be slower — the more likely the staff are to remember you and want to reward your loyalty.
Interestingly, while researching this urban myth, I discovered that in some instances, restaurants have added the option to “buy a round of beers for the kitchen” on their drinks menus. Honestly, good on them. But if you do come across this next time you’re dining, buy the round of drinks as a sign of respect for the kitchen team, and in acknowledgement that they are likely underpaid and overworked.