Going all the way to please your guests is a must when it comes to giving exceptional service
Service is second nature to the hospitality industry, going out of your way for your guests should be par for the course. Enzo Cassini, General Manager at Zafferano, has quite literally gone miles out of his way for his loyal regulars.
He recalls one evening when a party of six who'd been going to Zafferano for more than 10 years, were enjoying a menu that included truffles. They wanted to learn more about the particular truffle they were eating and within 24 hours, Cassini had arranged a private jet to take them to Italy. Accompanying his guests as their tour guide, Cassini organised a truffle hunt, wine tastings and meals; he looked after every detail, including Champagne and caviar on the plane, and ensured that they flew to the nearest possible airport to the truffles.
Cassini says, "If one of our customers wants something, we'll go out of our way to provide it. In the past, we've lent a chef out for an evening. It's really important to look after your regulars, you have to give something back. These days, if you go into a bank and ask for copies of your statement, they charge 50p a sheet; in a restaurant, you can't have that kind of mentality."
At both Awana and Mango Tree restaurants, General Manager Nok Murphy believes it's the little things you do on top of good service that give you a competitive advantage. In the winter, they offer complimentary teas to welcome people and warm them up, and Malaysian and Thai iced teas in the summer.
"You create a relationship between customer and staff straight away without any selling involved," she explains. "We want them to feel like they're joining us in our home. By being flexible and letting customers know they can ask for things, you're creating a relaxed environment. We want fine dining without the stuffiness and don't like to tell people exactly what they can and can't do."
Richard Martinez, General Manager of Via Condotti, believes in a little extra as long as you remain within certain parameters. "One of our very good customers made a comment about wanting to watch a football game; I bought a flat-screen television and set it up for him that evening. We don't want people to think we're the sort of restaurant where you would watch sport, but it's OK to make the odd exception. Regular customers are a great support to a restaurant so if something is important to them, it's important to us. If you can accommodate requests, you create a nicer atmosphere and people want to come back. I've had a table of 12 with 11 eating. The other was kosher and had asked to have food and wine delivered; we agreed because one isn't a big deal, but if half the table wanted to do it, obviously you would draw the line."
Bumpkin takes the approach of going the extra mile with the staff first and foremost. General Manager Dariush Nejad thinks getting staff enthused, and excited about food and taking them to the places it comes from, is important.
"We have daily briefings, which are fun but reiterate the mission statement," he says. "When they care about and like what they do, they do a better job, and then running out for a newspaper is fine. It's not a difficult way to run a restaurant and makes things more pleasurable."
Anton Loxha, General Manager of the Radisson Edwardian Mayfair Hotel London, views extras as opportunities to create a talking point. When Shirley Bassey was a recent guest, Loxha discovered she only drank a particular Champagne they didn't stock so he ran to a nearby nightclub and borrowed some. She's been back twice and both times he's made sure they have it in.
Similarly, Princess Diana was at Clarke's (where Loxha used to work) and wanted a banana. With none in the kitchen, he ran out to buy some from Portobello Market; each time she returned, the ‘banana incident' was joked about. "It makes a difference, they tell people and it gets bums on seats, as they say," laughs Loxha.
For better, for purse
Alain Ducasse is the king of detail – from fresh herbs snipped tableside for infusions, to a choice of pens for signing the cheque, the man's got it all covered. We're currently rather taken with the handbag ‘shelves' at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, his Paris restaurant, which was refurbished by Patrick Jouin in 2005. The multistarred chef's chic lady guests no longer get a handbag stool (so 2004! ) on which to rest their Kelly bags; instead, they pop them on the mini shelf integrated into the Corian Regency-style chairs. How divine. Alain-ducasse.com