What's going on behind those smiles at the host stand? Service with a smile is the name of the game, but find out what the hosts are really thinking. I spoke with several hosts at restaurants all over the country to get inside their heads. Here's what they want to tell you.
'hospitality' on Serious Eats
Think about the last time you were in a bar where you were not known, and the bartender reached out and shook your hand. How often will a mixologist look up from the execution of his "mixology" when someone new bellies up? The phrase most necessary, but least often heard, in cocktail bars is "How are you enjoying your drink?"
Conflicts with customer, even disappointed patrons are unavoidable. Even at the greatest restaurants in the world, occasional gaffs in service are inevitable—the steak that comes out a shade overcooked, or the forgotten appetizer. But how restaurants deal with these problems is what separates good service from excellent, and what ultimately can convert an unhappy guest into one who leaves with a good experience to relate to his friends. Over at the AmEx OPEN Forum, we talked to a few chefs around the country known for the excellence in service to figure out the best way to deal with these inevitable run-ins.
With front of the house servers and back of the house cooks, effectively managing restaurant staff can be a difficult juggling act, even at the best of times. Yet in the hospitality business, the happiness and satisfaction of your employees translates directly into the satisfaction of your customers, and eventually the bottom line. We recently talked with some of our favorite chefs from around the country known for their great hospitality and came up with a list of essential tips for all restaurant chefs and managers.
I'm just going to come out and ask a burning (read: possibly inflammatory) question: Why is restaurant coffee generally so terrible? Seriously, why is it that you can drop a C-note on a beautifully crafted dinner paired with wines recommended by a gifted sommelier, but when the (impressive! delicious!) desserts are presented at the end of the meal they're inevitably accompanied by brown slop that tastes like it was filtered through a gym sock and subsequently microwaved? More importantly, can anything be done about it?
Way back when I first asked Seattle restaurateur and chef Tom Douglas if I could come work in his kitchens, he asked if I also wanted to try some front-of-the-house shifts. I didn't hesitate: No way! I was terrified of cranky customers, the incredible amount of multitasking, and the risk of ticking off the cooks. It's hard to be a good server. How do you keep your cool when somebody's all fired up and in your face?
As times get tougher, for restaurants and everyone else, more establishments have started to impose steep fees for missed reservations.
Last week, I learned that many believe a server should never address a customer about a tip. Others chimed in to agree.
I have never before said a word about a tip. Maybe my thank yous are slightly more emphatic when a tip is extremely generous, but I’ve never approached someone in the reverse situation and asked what was up. But Friday night, I felt different.
Restaurants are struggling to find ways to bring in customers. If movie theaters have mommy-and-baby showings on weekday mornings, why can't restaurants have an early family seating?
Los Angeles Times The Los Angeles Times profiles four waiters who, among them, have provided more than 100 years of service to diners: Vladimir Bezak, Sergio Guerra, Pablo Zelaya, and Manny Felix (who "has a smile as big as an iceberg wedge"). They are the types who know you dropped a fork before you need to ask for another. They remember the hold-the-onions request without writing it down. They are a rare breed of "veteran career waiters," and even though they work at Southern California celebrity hangouts, "if you’re expecting any juicy stories, forget it—when pushed, they all fall back on the famous discretion of a great waiter.” This was a feel-good piece, and a refreshing one, without a...
In today's New York Times Julia Moskin lays out in clinical, terrifying fashion the awful current state of the restaurant biz in New York and the rest of the country. Although Moskin has dug up some truly terrifying statistics (between October 2008 and January 2009, the New York restaurant business lost more than 10,000 jobs, and nationally the restaurant industry has cut more than 100,000 jobs since September), I didn't need to read them to know that things are bad all over. What have you noticed where you live? Here's what I have observed and heard from many well-known chefs and restaurateurs about their collective plight: Servers have bigger stations with more tables and diners to take care of. The...
On this week's Chewing the Fat, Alton Brown talks about what he discovered about the whole notion of hospitality when he hit the road in Feasting on Asphalt.
Chicagoist has a really fantastic interview with Grant Achatz of Chicago's highly-acclaimed Alinea, talking about all sorts of things like his philosophy as a chef and restauranteur, and how his creative process works in his kitchen and with his colleagues. This was my favorite thing to read: C: What food-related websites or media do you keep an eye on, for ideas and feedback?GA: I do it a lot less now, but I used to be really into all the blogs, like eGullet, LTHForum, all of those. I don’t read them so much anymore, I don’t know why. I feel that some of it is that they’re losing some credibility. There’s a lot of good, honest material there, then there’s a...
The Washington Post's Joe Yonan has a short but great Q&A with NYC restauranteur extraordinaire Danny Meyer up today: "Let's say I get a salmon dish at Union Square Cafe, and it's not too salty, it's not under- or over-cooked. There's nothing particularly wrong with it, but I'm disappointed with how it all comes together, and I think, "eh." What should I do?" "Tell me. Please tell me. And have the confidence to accept my suggestion for a solution. I have a choice. If it's a $25 entree, I have $8 or $9 invested in it. Would I rather save that $8 or $9 and have you go tell the world "eh"? Or do I make sure you leave the...
Restauranteur Danny Meyer is best known for running eleven of the best places to eat in Manhattan, including Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, The Modern and the Shake Shack; his latest is Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business. 37 Signals has a great post up, Danny Meyert: Hospitality Is King, with excerpts from the book, an interview and a speech he gave at NYU recently: "The customer is not always right. While the customer is not always right, he/she must always feel heard." Meyer said his business strategy is built on both good service, defined as the technical delivery of a product, and "enlightened hospitality," which is how the delivery of that product makes its recipient...