Do and Don’ts of good restaurants
The restaurant industry is one of the sectors one of the sectors most affected by the Corona crisis. is affected. What restaurants we especially missed and why?
BY THE EDITOR // KARIN M. KLOSSEK
Even before the Corona crisis, it was by no means easy to run a restaurant well. We sincerely hope that those who had worked very hard to delight their guests before the Corona crisis will not only survive but also be able to operate profitably again in the medium term.
FIVE CRITERIA THAT MAKE A GOOD RESTAURANT:
The following criteria are universal. From our point of view, they apply equally to a simple restaurant in Sydney, which was called NO NAME, served salad from large plastic bowls and only gave a choice between two pasta dishes, as they do to a restaurant in New York, which has been awarded three Michelin stars.
You find this comparison unfair? Read on for a moment and then judge:
I. THE RECEPTION
This is a critical moment, because if something goes wrong here, the opening has such a strong impact on the rest of the restaurant experience that it is difficult to catch up. Similar to a sprinter who has trouble getting off the starting block.
It’s easiest to score points on this part of the restaurant experience, according to the Chinese proverb
“If you can’t smile,
you shouldn’t open a store.”
In the restaurant, it is the impression of hospitality that the guest wants to feel as soon as he enters the restaurant. Eye contact, a warm smile and 2-3 sentences of small talk are already enough.
But, the receptionist at the Zweisterne restaurant in Berlin buries herself in the depths of her screen for quite some time after a brief flippant glance and a question about the name. The table had been reserved and confirmed by name via email.
Is the search function of the program used there really that slow? Without looking up from the screen, a numerical code is hissed to the young lady in service so that she can lead to the appropriate table. Very bad start.
The owner of the small stand-up pizzeria in Frankfurt’s West End always had a friendly, open smile for the customer just entering the door, and of course the first glance went directly into the guest’s eyes, just to see how he was probably doing that day. He always had two or three words of encouragement ready and you already had the feeling of being welcome. So simple.
The daughter of the house in one of Stuttgart’s very good residential districts first examines the newly arrived guests thoroughly with a long look from top to bottom and back up again before she, almost reluctantly, leads them to the table with the menus already tucked under her arm. From her father, who comes to the table during the evening and on whose skill and hard work in the kitchen the reputation of the very good restaurant is based, she has not inherited its warmth. Profession missed.
II. THE DIFFERENCE
Of course, regulars are very important for any restaurant. If you let new guests feel too strongly that they “don’t belong,” there is little chance that they will become regulars.
We by no means expect the chef to make the rounds of the restaurant. Someone who cooks fantastically and motivates the kitchen brigade to perform at their best doesn’t need to be an entertainer. But it’s either all or nothing. Should he or she dutifully (or willingly) wander from the kitchen to the restaurant, please do so for the entire round and not just visits to the tables where regulars sit.
In every restaurant there are top tables, tables that are okay and tables that you are only happy about when the rest of the restaurant is full and they are the only way to get accommodated after all.
And yes, the top tables are often reserved by or for regulars. All right. But as a guest who is in a restaurant for the first time, being led to the table that is in the immediate vicinity of the checkroom and restroom and then having to realize that fifty percent of the tables remain empty for the next three hours is not fun and stays in the memory.
Especially since we are most annoyed that we had not complained right away. But “in case of doubt for the accused” we had assumed that all other tables were reserved.
The welcome at Thomas Keller’s PerSe restaurant in New York, on the other hand, was extremely warm. Although it is clear from the reservation by e-mail that between the restaurant and the place of residence lies the Atlantic Ocean and therefore the chance to become a regular guest is very small, the reception is so warm that immediately after entering the restaurant we get the impression that they are happy about our visit.
The table we are led to is one of the nicest tables in the restaurant with a fantastic view of Columbus Square. The reservation had already been made two and a half months in advance, because the excellent quality of the restaurant is also known to many New Yorkers and other culinary tourists. The guest room fills up to the last seat in the course of our visit. Three stars – everything done right.
III. THE CARD
A glance through the menu is enough to separate the wheat from the chaff. The menu needs a focus and a signature. The length of the card is not decisive.
The restaurant on the beach in Portugal has only a few dishes on the menu and has a clear line. The dishes are prepared as it is common in this region of Portugal, two dishes are not available in the evening and the emphasis is on fish dishes. Perfect.
The menu at two-star restaurant L’Arnsbourg in the tiny hamlet of Bärenthal in France’s Moselle department is extensive but coherent. It is hard to choose between the menus, because they are perfectly composed and make your mouth water just reading them. Magnifique.
The menu of the Quattromani restaurant in Palermo tells exactly who caught the fish, who raised the cattle, who grew the herbs, who baked the bread and who produced the cheese. Perfetto.
In restaurants that literally offer everything from matjes from the North Sea coast to obatzten from Upper Bavaria, or that want to show the entire continent of Asia on a map, or that don’t even bother to linguistically modify the common phrases used by convenience suppliers, we would prefer to close the menu immediately and go home – if GloriousMe weren’t downright polite.
IV. THE WINE
The cost of a restaurant is determined by a number of factors: The location and accordingly the rent, the quality of the kitchen brigade and service, other personnel costs, the equipment of the restaurant, the use of goods, etc.
In terms of revenue, the cost of purchasing beverages and the ratio of revenue from food to revenue from beverages are not insignificant.
GloriousMe belongs to the category of realistic guest. It is clear to us that an extensive wine cellar represents a not inconsiderable capital investment and that an adequate margin is necessary for any business. We love the restaurants that offer qualities in different price ranges on the wine list that makes restaurant owners and guests happy.
A wine list that features exquisite wines should also feature some wines that are more affordable. Of course, the search for young, ambitious winemakers who deliver very good quality but do not yet play in the price categories of the established stars takes time and effort.
However, it’s worth hiring a curious sommelier or wine consultant, because we love discovering up-and-coming talent. The controller, looking at the business dinner bill in front of him, usually takes less offense at the amount of wine consumed “The guests were just thirsty and the atmosphere was good”, but a bottle of wine at a price that paid for a last-minute vacation in pre-Corona times goes nowhere and never well.
The other end of the spectrum is even more painful: if the wine in the glass is so obviously of the lowest possible quality that you wake up the next day with a stinging headache and regret having drunk even half a glass of it, the suspicion is that the margin was the sole criterion here in the wine offering. A second visit is not necessary in this restaurant.
V. THE DEPARTURE
This part of the restaurant experience is basically no magic either. No matter what price category you’ve eaten and drank in, leaving is a very important part of the overall restaurant experience. Far too often, the farewell consists of disinterest.
One occupies oneself (again) more intensively with the computer screen or the reservation book than with the guest who has already paid, one simply rushes past the guest without a greeting or one just turns one’s back to the guest at the checkroom.
A friendly word on the way seems too much trouble, let alone a sentence that one would be glad to welcome the guest again.
A restaurant run this way, no matter how many toques or stars it’s decorated with, gives diners the feeling “The transaction is complete.”
On the other hand, with the restaurants that put a smile on our face even when we say goodbye, we start thinking about when we might return there as soon as we step out onto the street.
COMPLAINTS IN THE RESTAURANT AND ALL OTHER PLACES
The handling of the complaint is decisive. If a justified complaint is only acknowledged with a shrug of the shoulders, completely ignored or commented with the words “I’ll have to talk to the kitchen first”, this is also a sure way of not getting another reservation.
For many years, the fish restaurant in Düsseldorf was a valued place to enjoy seafood. When the appetizer was once unsuccessful (as a regular guest you can estimate that) and we had sent the detailed note about it afterwards by e-mail to the restaurant with consideration for all other guests sitting near our table, this was not even worth a response. This is how you successfully reduce the number of regulars. Our time is also precious.
On the other hand, a complaint that is made with charm, genuine interest and an apology has a good chance of being talked about appreciatively with friends and acquaintances, and we will be happy to come back, because anyone who has ever cooked knows that something can always go wrong.
In case you’re wondering why we’ve only mentioned a few restaurants by name. With restaurants, as with anything else, we always like to voice praise publicly and criticism privately. And some of the restaurants we mentioned in this article, where we were regulars in Sydney and in Frankfurt am Main, unfortunately no longer exist. They closed their doors a few years ago, but we miss them very much after years because they delighted our heart not only with good food.
The food can still be so perfect. If the restaurant lacks hospitality, there is no reason to come back.
Conversely, we like to come back again and again and tell enthusiastically about it. And that goes for a pizza as well as for an 8-course meal.
We are confident that the restaurants that cultivated hospitality and skill before Corona have a future after Corona. The loyalty of their guests will last through the take-away phase. Nevertheless, we send a prayer to heaven that it will soon be possible again to provide a range of seats that will allow these restaurants to survive and make a realistic price calculation possible.
During the shutdown, many potential guests have experienced how much fun a home-cooked meal can be, but also how much time and effort is required for logistics, preparation and restoring the kitchen to its previous state.
Authentic, warm restaurants with good quality food and drinks are an essential part of any country’s culture in GloriousMe’s view.
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