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A Restaurant Etiquette Question

  • j

Maybe this is a different question than usual or maybe I've just not been keeping up on board discussions.

There's a place that serves a merguez sausage that just kills me. It is different from merguez I get elsewhere and is far above and beyond anything I've tried to make or bought at local butchers. I just love the stuff and I want to know the source. (Although it is not impossible, I think it unlikely that they make it in house). But I am self-conscious of the fact that to ask the restaurant where they get their merguez is tantamount to telling them that if I can source it for myself I will spend less money with them. So I have been unable to ask. For 15 years.

How do people feel about asking about sources? I don't want to put these guys on the spot. It is fair enough if they would prefer to not reveal their supplier for this very reason.

Any thoughts?

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  1. 15 years?! 15 YEARS???!!!! Just ask them already. When I owned my resto, I'd always answer questions like that truthfully. Chances are it might be a purveyor that only sells wholesale to restos, but maybe not. After 15 years of loyal patronage, you've earned the right to know. Unfortunately, most restos here in the Bay Area are so full of name-dropping "sources", it reads like a Playbill- Micro greens from Star Route Farms, pork from Full Belly Hogs, Satsumas from Capay Farms. TMI..... Adam

    1. ask. all they can do is say no, and then youre just where you are now.

      1. I was a head chef and now going back into the business. Unless some secret recipe passed down for years or a top 4 or 5 star restaurant ... I think it is perfectly acceptable to ask. And as a chef ... I would be willing to come out and answer the question for the people. Now some may not, but I am open and love people to learn more about cooking. That is why I have a restaurant to share. I have asked and always found a good response and I would always respond the same way. If it is not some big secret ... no reason not to share.

        1. There's no harm in asking. When it comes to suppliers, it's hard to keep that a secret if there is a delivery truck out front or back of the restaurant. Competitive businesses have been spying on deliveries forever. The restaurant may say they have it made special for them with a proprietary recipe, but if you know the source...it most probable you will be able to find and purchase the item somewhere else.....Hot Dog companies are famous for this. Hot dog joints say they have the dogs made special for them....but in reality it's not really very special and just a type of tube steak available to wholesale customers. There's a famous deli in NYC who claims this, but their hot dogs are made by the same people who make the popular push cart hot dogs.....I know this for fact, because when I purchased some to take home, the identifying band was still attached to the links.

          Most well run restaurants are proud of their suppliers, e.g. meat purveyors and bread bakers.....in most cases you will not be able to purchase from a wholesaler....but they may have retail outlets...or direct you where you can purchase....unless the supplier is a butcher type store. then you can go directly to the source.....again, there is always the spying method to find out.

          1. Why not ask them if you can order it through them - they can mark up the price a little and make some money off you - then you can find out where it's from and eventually start ordering yourself - everyone is happy!

            1. Wow, 15 years?! You are patient! I have an idea though...Would it be easier/less awkward to ask them in a letter or email? That way your identity would remain protected, and things can be a bit less embarrassing (although I see no need to be embarrassed) when not done face to face. Just an idea. Shoot, give me the name of the place and I would happily investigate for you, seriously! :)

              1 Reply
              1. re: enbell

                I've have done the same, you rename unknown. True, good point.

              2. Ask them and if they hesitate ask if you can order some through them. after 15 years you should have a relationship with them

                1. First, ask them. No question.

                  After 15 years if you've tried everything else I'd start thinking that perhaps they do make it in house.

                  1. I always ask! Worst case is they tell you it is a secret, but I doubt it. It is still nice to have someone else cook, right?

                    1. Ask and if they won't tell you go around the back and check out their trash.

                      I worked for a restaurant group and that's what we did when we were interested in learning what they were using.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: monku

                        My thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts.

                        1. re: JonL

                          Let us know what happens.

                          I know your dilema. I go to this place and asked for the recipe for their home made Portuguese sausage and they said it was a secret. I figured it out and can make it at home.

                          1. re: monku

                            I do think there's a difference between sharing a vendor versus sharing a recipe.

                      2. As a regular customer for 15 years, I seriously doubt the establishment will fear that uncovering this secret will make them lose you as a regular.

                        I even ask at places I've only gone to once, shock of shocks. And even get a good answer.

                        1. Why don't you ask if there is any chance you can buy a few pounds of it from them? I think that would sort of be akin to buying coffee by the pound at your favorite neighborhood coffee shop. Yes they'd make more money selling you coffee by the cup each morning, but they still get to at least sell you something, and earn your continued patronage.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Rick

                            I like that idea. Good thinking. If nothing else, it's a good lead-in to the followup question, "who do you get it from?"

                          2. For 15 years? This post belong to Dear Abby. I have asked plenty of restaurants where they source their meat or produce. Some even tell me without asking, they are proud of it.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: PeterL

                              Yes, I see that a lot with restaurants that are concerned with sustainability & organics & locally-made produce - the farmer is right there on the menu. One place even has tasting menus featuring the meat and the farmers come as guest stars, just like at a wine tasting dinner with the producers as honorary hosts. It's fabulous!