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This closed question* contains a comment by @rumtscho:

I’m voting to close this question because it is about the common behavior of restaurants, which is outside of our scope

I don't find any prior decision in Meta that would indicate that "restaurant practices" are out of scope for SA, so this feels like a policy decision being made unilaterally in a question comment. Can we please make the policy decision here, in Meta, with discussion?

So my question is: should questions about restaurant practices be in or out of scope for SA?

(*note, the question should have been closed regardless)

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  • About that closing comment: I now think that I have chosen an unlucky wording for it. It is not that all "things done in a restaurant" are out of scope, I closed it for being a specific subtype of question - see the first paragraph of my answer below.
    – rumtscho Mod
    Commented Sep 29, 2022 at 21:28

3 Answers 3

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New Suggested policy:

Restaurants, like Food History, are orthagonal to whether a question is on-topic or not. Basically, if the question would have been off-topic for home cooking, adding "in a Restaurant" doesn't make it on-topic. Equally, if the question is otherwise on-topic, adding "in a restaurant" doesn't close it.

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  • @rumtscho this work?
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 22:57
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I believe that certain types of restaurant practice questions should be allowed in SA. Specifically, such questions should be allowed if they:

  • are asking "what is this practice" or "how is it done" or other factual information (as opposed to "why?" or particularly "why not?")
  • are potentially of interest from a cooking perspective (so a question about pans or food reuse would be on-topic, but not a question about bookkeeping)
  • are reasonably scoped (e.g. "UK Indian restaurants" but not "how is this done worldwide")

Here's the reasons this should be the policy:

  1. We already widely answer one type of restaurant practice question, literally thousands of times on SA: health code requirements. It would be bizarre to answer only restaurant health practice questions and reject all other types of restaurant practice questions
  2. "How do real restaurants do this?" is of interest even to strictly home cooks
  3. Our community contains many members who have, or currently do, work in food service and can authoritatively answer such questions
  4. Our community also contains folks who are in professional food service and want to ask questions about professional cooking
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  • I agree with points 2, 3 and 4. But there is a catch: while these questions are of interest to our user base, providing correct answers to them takes not a professional cook, but somebody who professionally knows the processes in a wide range of restaurants - maybe somebody like a sales rep of a restaurant equipment. And not only the answerer has to have that knowledge, it is the mass of voters who need it, else plausible-but-wrong answers will bubble up. For 1: the reasoning behind our handling of food safety questions is counterintuitive, and leads to rules with practical problems. (cont.)
    – rumtscho Mod
    Commented Sep 29, 2022 at 21:21
  • (cont) I wouldn't want to create analogoous policies for other areas, so for me, it doesn't help in arguments on scope. I think that one of its negative side effects might be to mislead you into believing that the way we handle these safety questions is somehow related to restaurants, but in fact it is completely independent. Also, just as a reminder, a downvote here on Meta means "I don't want this option to be implemented as policy", not "this post is not useful" - I do find your post (both question and answer) useful, thank you for them!
    – rumtscho Mod
    Commented Sep 29, 2022 at 21:25
  • @rumtscho SA is full of plausible-but-wrong answers about lots of things. You've posted a few yourself. Heck, StackOverflow is full of them, and there the answers are actually testable. So "this might lead to plausible-but-wrong answers" as a criterion for exclusion is, at best, based on highly wishful thinking.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Sep 29, 2022 at 22:08
  • Yes, we do have a lot of them, and this is one of the most serious problems on the network. This is exactly why we have to be extra vigilant to keep them at bay. It is like mold - nobody will ever have a kitchen which is free of mold spores, but it is important to not tolerate moldy fruit lying around, and to prevent it by e.g. heating, ventilating, and storing food at colder temperatures. Similarly, the network cannot hope to be misinformation-free, but it should (and does) actively prevent the types of question that are especially prone to attracting misinformation.
    – rumtscho Mod
    Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 11:51
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To clarify something first: There are some questions which I believe are contained in what FuzzyChef terms "restaurant practices", and they are already in scope. These are the cases in which an asker wants to emulate restaurants, and asks what restaurant-level techniques exist for cooking something specific. They even have a tag, [restaurant-mimicry]. Also, I don't think that we want to open ourselves to pure rants (which typically get formulated as "why do they do this" questions, which FuzzyChef also argues against). So the remaining category here seems to be questions about the prevalence of restaurant practices, basically "how commonly is X done in restaurants" (or its subtype, "is X done in restaurants [at all]").

At first glance, having these questions sounds reasonable. People who work at restaurants should know what is done in restaurants.

Looking closer, people who work in a restaurant know really well how things are done in their restaurant. Or maybe 4-5 restaurants, mostly in a single geographic area. So we will have questions about the general prevalence of a practice, answered with a collection of single data points (even if answerers present them as relating to all restaurants in general) - or in other words, a poll.

In the earliest days of the network, poll questions were in scope. Pretty soon, people realized that they do not work well, together with big-list questions (indeed, some older Meta posts don't distinguish the two). That is why they were forbidden, out of hands-on experience with them. They just don't mesh well with our system design. There was quite a long period of time in which they even had their own close reason, until the company decided to revamp the wording of reasons, and so they were by default folded into "opinion-based" as the closest remaining heading.

Also, there is another requirement for questions that was, at the beginning, common for the whole network, and is still written down in our own Help center: We only take

practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face

and we don't take subjective questions, especially when

your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: “I use ______ for ______, what do you use?” there is no actual problem to be solved: “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.”

I would argue that questions of the type "do restaurants actually do X" fail these requirements. They seem to be powered by sheer curiosity. Also, the answers will indeed be of the type "My restaurant does X [in way ABC]", sometimes insidiously hidden in a (most probably mistaken) generalization, "restaurants do X {in way ABC] all the time". So this is a second reason why these question go against the basic design of the network.

For me, the second argument wouldn't be a dealbreaker. A lot has changed since Jeff (the network founder) argued passionately against "frivolous" questions which would make the sites less serious and professional. We even have sites which do nothing but types of questions he disapproved of early on.

However, the first problem - the polling part - is a very serious no-go for me. It is not just part of a now-gone-boss's strategy; they were tried, and found to not work well.

Also, if we drop the parameter "about restaurants: yes/no", which until now has been orthogonal to site scope rules, these questions fit nicely into existing categories. They are poll questions; they are questions-without-practical-problem; and they are questions-about-human-behavior. From this point of view, allowing this subset of questions will create an odd-one-out exception.

Again, this is not to be understood as an argumentation against all questions which are somehow related to restaurants; these questions can be further treated according to existing rules, with closing the closable ones and keeping the in-scope ones. In this case, I personally find the status quo reasonable.

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  • I'm not arguing to change the status quo; you were in your comment, where you stated that all restaurant practice questions were out of scope. If that was a mis-type, then that's fine, we're not changing anything.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Sep 29, 2022 at 22:11
  • Your basic argument appears to be "we don't allow polling questions, and by this elaborate logic, all questions about how restaurants do things are polling questions, regardless of what else the question contains." Your logic would apply equally to all history of food questions, all cooking technique questions, all ethnic cooking questions, etc.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Sep 29, 2022 at 22:25
  • It doesn't apply to all questions from these fields. You can see the acceptance as a two-step decision: first, we check if the question is a kind of question which is SO-conform (and that excludes poll questions, list questions, and many others) and only if it passes this check, it is checked if its content is within the topic scope. It is a hierarchy of checks, if you will, and the subject matter is secondary. So indeed, there are questions about history of food which are closable, but also questions about our core topics, such as preparation techniques, which are closable.
    – rumtscho Mod
    Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 12:02
  • And yet there are still tons of other questions within these fields which are not closable, and we accept them and answer them happily. In fact, if there is a question which is about restaurant practices and is not a poll question will stay open under the current rules - and that's one of the reasons why I don't see a need to create a new topic-based exception and decree that out of all possible questions, poll questions about restaurant practice should stay open.
    – rumtscho Mod
    Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 12:06
  • You were the one to specifically call out restaurant practices in that comment. Again, if the fact that it is about restaurant practices is irrelevant to whether or not it should be closed, then why call it out?
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 18:35

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