I often say that “the restaurant business is one of 1,000 details and even though your restaurant gets 990 of them right, it’s the 10 you miss that the guest always sees.” This happens to the best of us, but some restaurants just get it all right. My wife and I had such a dining experience recently in Hailey, ID, our hometown.
I eat out across the country often and whether it's Toledo or San Francisco, 9 times out of 10 I get what I call an order taker. The server may be perfectly friendly but either has not been trained or does not care enough to tell me “what’s great” and what I would enjoy in the restaurant. Yes, it’s suggestive selling, and we are all aware of it, but far too many full-serve restaurants fail to grasp and execute this most important of concepts. You see, your customers are often first-time visitors to your restaurant (you want them to become regulars) who know nothing about what’s special or what they’ll really enjoy. These guests may not be looking for more than food and drink, but it’s up to you and your entire staff to give them more. In my opinion servers (really any front-of-house staff) who don’t know their products and don’t make suggestions are actually doing their guests a disservice.
Back to our amazing hometown dining experience. It began with the ambiance. We entered a very inviting space, and the wall coverings, décor, intimate seating and creative lighting all consistently reflected the concept’s Asian fusion menu. We stopped in without a reservation and the place was quite busy (on a Thursday evening), but the friendly and attractive hostess immediately found us a cozy seat at the sushi bar amidst all the action. Within seconds, our server came by, introduced himself, made several drink recommendations and told us he’d be right back for our order. We were in the mood for Margaritas but could not decide. At that very moment, one of the owners came by to greet us and also told us his favorite. We settled on an “Agave-Rita” and it was a perfectly mixed blend of Corazon Silver Tequila, Cointreau, fresh agave and fresh-squeezed lime. Our refreshing drinks set the stage for what was to come.
As we sat at the sushi bar, the sushi/line chef engaged us in conversation while he worked. I asked “How’s the unagi”? The typical response in anywhere USA is generally “it’s good”, but he informed us that the restaurant’s fish is flown in fresh from Honolulu several times per week. The menu had several mouthwatering choices and again, our line chef made two suggestions that were spot on. We shared the unagi as an appetizer and settled on the Togorashi encrusted Ranch Steak and Chilean Sea Bass with wasabi mashed potato. All were expertly prepared with indescribably delicious taste profiles.
Consistency is very important across any restaurant and it was evident that this place was on top of its game and firing on all cylinders. The staff was well trained, knowledgeable and cared to please. We enjoyed every bite and pleasantly watched other diners across the restaurant enjoy similar experiences.