An Open Kitchen Inspires Trust (Like a Blog!)
I ate at Momofuku last week, which is a moderately new noodle bar in New York's East Village.
The restaurant is a long and narrow space, with a counter running the length of the shop, dividing the eating space from the open kitchen.
Jeremy and I (and nearly every other patron in the restaurant) were thus given a good perspective on what it takes to run a kitchen in a New York restaurant on a busy Thursday night.
The food took some time to arrive, and in that time, we observed one of the employees (let's call him "New Guy") make several mistakes preparing meals. The owner of Momofuku caught these errors, fixed them, and let New Guy know what he'd done wrong.
When our food finally arrived, I was slightly annoyed to find the noodles were underdone. When I mentioned this to Jeremy, he said that he overheard the owner saying the same thing, but to send out the meal anyways because it would take another 5-10 minutes to make more noodles. Given the restaurant's super-busy state, and that we'd been waiting for well over 20 minutes for dinner, it was an understandable decision to make. I would certainly eat there again, despite my sub-par meal.
As Jeremy observed, it takes a certain amount of confidence to have an open kitchen, just as it takes a certain amount of confidence to have a corporate blog. It puts some of your dirty laundry out there. The upside is that your customers know that you make mistakes, but look to fix them.
I'd go back to Momofuku because I trust that their process is good enough to catch and fix most mistakes, and in the specific case of last Thursday, I had the datapoints of a busy restaurant, New Guy working in the kitchen, and a long wait for dinner, which allowed me to understand why the owner would send out a meal even though it was underdone.
In general, open communication allows customers to understand the trade-offs that a business is forced to make, and while they make not always like it, a reasonable customer will accept it (and you probably don't want unreasonable customers anyways!)
As an aside, Steve Rubel says a great product will have more pictures on Flickr than an average one, and there are several pitures on Flickr than are tagged with Momofuku. Also, you can check the New York Times review of Momofuku.