There was this customer who used to come in for lunch and dinner from time to time, until one day he announced to me that he would not be back. “Why?” I asked incredulously. Turns out that he was mad because the chef never went out to his table to say hello. “He used to do it all the time when he worked at the other place,” he told me.
Uh, he’s kind of busy
Now, this guy is worth millions. And yet still he needs to have that chef out there on the floor working the room. At the time I thought he was close to insane. Didn’t he realize that this chef has a new restaurant and is working close to 100 hours a week? Didn’t he see that the chef is busy coming up with new menu items, training his new staff, cranking out a lot of food because he can’t yet afford to hire the staff he needs to run his place properly without his leadership in the kitchen?
I don’t care
He was right. No matter how busy you are in your kitchen, or how socially challenged you might be, it is imperative that you get your butt out on that floor. As I said last month in an earlier post- https://tabletalkpdx.com/2013/12/31/i-provide-a-service-portland-restaurants-service-consulting/ -you are selling a service. For most people it isn’t about the food. It is more important for them to see the personality responsible for their lovely dish than it is to actually eat the lovely dish. For the three years I worked at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, I watched the customers eat it up when he would walk through the dining room and wave and say silly things like, “Hi, how are you?,” or, “Alright, let’s get you something to eat.” I thought the whole show was quite ridiculous. There is a reason why he is worth close to a billion dollars and I am worth about ten.
My favorite restaurant
My favorite restaurant in the world is a place called Vij’s, in Vancouver, B.C. Every time that I have had the good fortune to eat there (which unfortunately has only been about five times), I can always count on Vikram Vij walking through the dining room and saying hello. “So nice to see you again!” Like he remembers me.
But, it doesn’t matter–it still makes me feel like a million bucks in front of my wife and kids. It actually is very effective. My daughter ate there last week with her boyfriend–I won’t bore you with the details of the surprise tickets to Justin Timberlake from the boyfriend–and sure enough he stopped by their table three times (of course, I would, too, they are both quite adorable).
The poor boyfriend who has to tolerate our foodie family came back from that trip unable to stop talking about how amazing his dinner was. Yes, the food is incredible, but don’t underestimate the power of the chef-owner coming by to say hello. Customers are not going to care if you get your food from local, organic farmers, or that you only serve food that is in season if they don’t have a face to associate with it.
So, when you are drowning in your new restaurant’s kitchen, not sure if you are going to make it through the night without passing out, pick yourself up and go say hello to the people eating at the place. They will come back again and again. And tell everyone who will listen about how amazing you are.