The restaurant world is abuzz about regulars this week. The New York Times recently talked to William Herz, a regular at NYC Theatre District stand-by Sardi’s for almost 80 (!) years (Forget a favorite table; Mr. Herz even has his own cup.). And, the folks behind legendary Manhattan media magnet Michael’s have started tweeting about the movers and shakers who regularly power-lunch there each day.
While diners love being regulars, restaurants love regulars because they, like every business, depend on repeat business. I spoke with New York restaurateur Dean Philippis, owner of Mill Pond House and Piccolo Restaurant, whose restaurants are regularly filled with — you guessed it — regulars. He says, “Every time that door opens up and it’s a regular, well, it’s the most flattering compliment a diner can give you.” Such flattery is always recognized by Philippis and his staff. “We make sure we remember their names. We know what tables they like to sit at. We have their drinks on the table before they have to order them. We never take them for granted.” From bringing restless children ice cream while a frazzled parent enjoys an entree or dashing out for slice of pizza for a picky young diner, he says, “It’s about the consistent level of care a guest receives.”
Obviously, it’s not difficult to become a regular at a restaurant. If you’re looking to speed up the process, it helps to book on OpenTable as it’s easy for the staff to tell that you’ve dined with them previously. Philippis also recommends that aspiring regulars frequent a restaurant on a weeknight. “During the week, there are more opportunities for my staff and me to engage with guests and really get to know them,” he shares. While the Bay Area Food Blog has just posted some fun tips for being a “good” regular, Philippis notes, “Diners shouldn’t have to do anything more than continue to show up to be embraced as a regular.”
Are you or have you been a regular at a restaurant and for how long? What are the perks of being a regular? Tell us your story here or join the conversation on Facebook.
Because this is a diner-centric blog, we usually talk about the experience of going to restaurants from a patron’s perspective. Lately, though, some folks have been wondering what waiters think about the diners they serve. Over in the UK, Simon Usborne of The Independent gets a top waiter to spill the details on “waiter speak” and how you may be being unwittingly manipulated — or insulted — by your server. And, InsideScoopSF scribe Michael Bauer asks his readers who have been on the other side of the table to tell him what waiters hate when it comes to tough tables.
As a former wait staffer, what I disliked most were diners who were perpetually looking for something for nothing. The folks who asked for extra this or that and then balked when I told them there would be a charge for it. Servers don’t set policy; management does — yet that never stopped the most parsimonious patrons from trying to (figuratively) kill this messenger.
Are you or have you ever been a wait professional? What do diners do that makes your job more difficult than it should be? Share you story here or over on Facebook.
Last week, Manhattan restaurateur Keith McNally took restaurant critic Adam Platt to task on a VERY personal level, attacking his appearance, after Platt penned a lackluster review of McNally’s latest venture, Pulino’s (where former A16 chef Nate Appleman now works). In an open letter to the New YorkMagazine scribe, McNally calls him “out of touch,” “balding,” and “overweight.” He also accuses Platt of inhabiting a middle-aged world. It should be noted that McNally is almost 59 years old, which is technically far beyond middle age (unless he lives to 116), so perhaps his remark wasn’t ageist so much as envious.
In the past two days, New York Post critic Steve Cuozzo sprung to his counterpart’s defense, telling McNally to “shut his yap,” while, elsewhere, restaurateur Tony May, of SD26, noted his displeasure with New York’s restaurant critics. In contrast to McNally, however, May kept things strictly professional, positing that many critics do not understand “the true flavors of Italian cuisine.” Meanwhile, Eater NY took a look at the scorecard for newish restaurant critic Sam Sifton of The New York Times, analyzing his first seven months of reviews, for fairness and trends.
Finally, the Los Angeles Times, known for its fine food criticism, looks at the skills it takes to be an astute-yet-svelte restaurant critic. After all the recent name-calling, is this a job anyone even wants?
David Hennigan, manager of the Crown at Whitebrook and Celtic Manor, has been chosen as the 2010 U.K. Restaurant Manager of the Year. The competition, sponsored by OpenTable, is run by the Academy of Food & Wine with support from the National Skills Academy for Hospitality and the Savoy Educational Trust, aims to identify “the person who has all the skills required to be a top class restaurant manager — great business acumen, loads of personality and confidence, the ability to get on with people, and a thorough knowledge of the trade.”
Besting five other very worthy finalists, Hennigan had to prove his skills in wine tasting, wine pairings, management, menu assessment, and front-of-house service. He then had to submit a business plan for a restaurant launch, which impressed the judges for its financial soundness.
Detroit Free Press writer Slyvia Rector gathered a list of common complaints diners have when visiting a restaurant. Frankly, I was shocked by what I read. Not because they were controversial, but because they seemed so banal (and petty). The top complaint of all was regarding diners being addressed as “you guys.” While this probably isn’t appropriate (or heard) at a white-tablecloth restaurant, if you’re elsewhere — say at a BBQ joint — is that truly offensive?
Other trespasses include servers who ask if diners need change when they’ve paid their bill, checks that are brought too soon, and the use of “the same dirty cloth all over the dining room.” The first two offenses probably depend on the volume of diners at a restaurant and, again, whether or not it’s a fine-dining establishment. The latter, however, is a problem of perception over reality. Every restaurant I’ve worked at, high and low-end, has had a bevy of bain maries filled with water and bleach, each with towels in them. It may have looked like there was one cloth on duty on any given evening, but, rest assured, there were many and they were returned to their bleach-y water after each use.
I had expected to read more grumbling about prices, portion size, waiting too long for an order to be taken or for food to arrive, lighting — and even temperature. So let’s hear it! What are you biggest complaints when dining out? Shout ‘em out here or share your gripes with your fellow Facebookers.
San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer understands that not every diner can (or wishes to) tolerate noisy restaurants. In his ratings, in fact, you’ll find a special category that addresses noise levels, such as this from his recent review of Ristobar: “Noise rating: BOMB; Too noisy for normal conversation (80+ decibels).” (He very much enjoyed the food, however.) Likewise, Washington Post reviewer Tom Sietsema began rating noise levels in restaurants two years ago, writing, “More than bad food, more than tipping quandaries, more than someone wondering if a free meal should follow a rodent sighting in a dining room, the most frequent concern I get from readers involves loud restaurants.”