Let me start off by saying that I’ve had the privilege to eat at a number of restaurants, from hole-in-the-wall places to fancier joints, that still know the meaning of the word “hospitality.” So please don’t take this to mean that I’m not supportive of the incredible work that many restaurants do to make their customers welcome. I’m continuously blown away by the steps that restaurants take to make life easier for their diners, and I have every confidence that that will continue.
A certain restaurant, which shall remain nameless, was recommended to me by another food writer recently, so I headed there to check it out last night. I will skip right over the series of hoops that this restaurant makes you jump through in order to enjoy an admittedly fairly competent meal there. It’s not that those issues were unimportant. Or that the food was not appreciated. It’s that this next issue just said it all about this particular restaurant. I picked up a business card for the restaurant while I was at the hostess stand so that I would have their contact info easily to hand later.
Later, when I pulled it out of my purse, I noticed something. The restaurant’s business card included just 3 items – the restaurant’s name, the name of the chef, and the name of the general manager. Now, while those are important pieces of information, and while the chef and general manager do make a lot of things in a restaurant happen, I did wonder how much more important these people thought their names were than, say, the phone number. Or the address. Or an email address. Or really any piece of information that might be useful to the customer. It was as though, considering the information they could have put on a card, they rejected anything that might appeal to anyone other than the most rabid worshippers at the altar of this chef. Here, as I see it, is the thought process of this restaurant:
- If you don’t remember the address…you should. Because we’re Important.
- If you don’t know the phone number, well…that sucks for you.
- If you want to contact us regarding eating at the restaurant, or any questions you might have regarding food allergies, pricing, or other information not contained on our website…you can come down to the restaurant. If you don’t know the address by heart…well, see above.
- You may want to contact us, but we really don’t care what our customers want. We’re Important.
While restaurants that move away from the old school white tablecloth schtick to celebrate a chef-focus are often fabulous, shouldn’t hospitality be part of the equation somewhere? There’s a thin line between a focus on the food, and the exclusion of all the other little things that make up the customer’s experience. I’m not talking decor, or noise level, or light level. While I recognize that many people focus on those things, they’re less important to me than whether the chef can, in fact, cook. But while I did enjoy the actual food there, there is a limit to my masochism. No doubt, there are plenty of chef groupies who are happy to swallow what in attitude is basically a massive middle finger from this restaurant. And I expect the restaurant will continue to be packed with them. I haven’t included the name of the restaurant here, partially because it wouldn’t do any good, and partially because it’s less important than the real question here for customers – Why are we gluttons for punishment?