We are pleased to announce the 50 winners of the 2011 OpenTable Diners’ Choice Awards for Restaurants Providing the Best Service. The list of winners is derived from 7 million+ reviews submitted by OpenTable diners for more than 12,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
With a whopping 19 of the winning restaurants located in the South, including three from Charleston, South Carolina, it’s clear that Southern hospitality is alive and well. The West is second best with 13 of its restaurants landing spots, followed by the Northeast with 12 winners, and the Midwest with five honorees. Restaurants in the always-influential states of California and New York earned, respectively, nine and six nods from OpenTable diners.
Restaurants serving American cuisine earned an impressive 13 awards. Overall, however, French restaurants remain the gold standard for white-glove service, with 18 of the Diners’ Choice Award recipients serving the cuisine of France, which just so happens to be the birthplace of fine dining. In honor of his win, Executive Chef Eric Ripert of award-winning French restaurant Le Bernardin shared his perspective on service.
Our obsession is consistency. We have very high standards for delivering the ultimate experience to our clients. It’s not an easy task and then we have to duplicate that for each individual, each service and every day.
Have you added any other rules/sins to the list of 129? If so, what are they?
Actually, yes, our list has grown. We are up to 136. The latest example is: make sure your uniform is current, i.e. don’t make a mistake and wear an outdated style.
The point of the rules seems to be to create a perfect experience in which each diner is a star and nothing mars it. While you’ve obviously gotten that down pat now, were there times early on that you’ve changed a policy?
We are very proactive and update our policies according to the current climate of what we want to see if our service. When Le Bernardin opened, the service was very formal, but 15 years ago, we decided to make it much more personal, seamless and relaxed, keeping the high standards that we have.
Speaking of changes, do trends in service influence what happens at Le Bernardin? Is there one in particular you’d never embrace?
You will definitely never see a waiter at your table offering fresh ground pepper. Also, the way we approach the table, our staff will never say, “Hi folks, my name is X, and I’ll be your waiter tonight.”
What does it take to work at Le Bernardin (outside of a very good memory)? What qualities are you drawn to, as an employer?
We are looking for people who are highly motivated, with basic knowledge, who are obviously honest, hardworking and team players.
Can you name other restaurants you enjoy where you particularly appreciate the service?