Originally Posted by velochic
Now, I've never worked in a commercial kitchen, so I don't know all of what he is saying, but why they can manage it on the East coast and not here is beyond me. ;)
I don't think it's a matter of being able to, but about wanting to.
I work in a large, extremely high-volume restaurant. On a Saturday night we generally have between 12-15 line cooks busting their behinds back there. That doesn't take into account the prep cooks or kitchen management. We do accommodate special orders, to a degree, and customers do not understand the level of communication necessary to get their dish made correctly when they've decided to create their own entree. For example (and this is a very simple request, relatively speaking), someone orders a sandwich made with fried chicken instead of grilled chicken. The station at which that sandwich is made does not have a fryer. So the person in charge of expediting the food (he or she is akin to the conductor of a symphony....making sure the right things happen at the right time) has to tell the person on the fry station to make the chicken and get it to the other station so the other cook can build the sandwich. Sounds simple, right?
The fry cook has now been interrupted from making his own orders. The sandwich station has to wait for the chicken. Meanwhile, there are six other items being made for the table with the special sandwich, all at different stations, and they're all computer timed to (hopefully) be ready to go to the table at the same time. The computer does not take into account the extra time needed for the special chicken....it sends the order to each station as it has been programmed to do. (If someone orders a well-done steak and her dining partner orders fried calamari, the steak order gets sent to Broil's screen as soon as the order is submitted. Assuming it takes, oh, 18 minutes to cook a well-done steak, and 4 minutes for fried calamari, the Fry screen will not receive the calamari order until 14 minutes after the order is submitted.) So, if the kitchen is already struggling to keep up, that piece of fried chicken can delay the entire order....everything else will be ready, and the food runner will still be waiting for that sandwich.
Now keep in mind there are many nights where we do $1,000 in sales per hour. The restaurant seats almost 300, there is usually a wait at the door, plus we do take-out. Imagine how many orders are coming in, and consider how many people make special requests. So if you've decided to design your own meal, for whatever reason, and your dish isn't ready when everyone else's is and you have to wait for it....that's why.
Special orders slow things down and cause stress on the kitchen. A slow kitchen means guests wait longer to eat. I can understand a restaurateur not wanting to go that route. You have to keep the majority of your clientele happy to be successful in the restaurant business. If the majority of your clientele are families with young children, it makes sense to do kids portions or have a kids menu.