Food for Thought
What makes for a great experience at a dining establishment? Putting aside the decor, the menu, the prices and the cuisine, it is the serving staff that makes the difference.
I bet you can easily remember your most recent experience where you were provided with extraordinary or outstanding service. Maybe that’s because it doesn’t happen often enough, and why we gravitate toward a particular restaurant and even request a specific server.
Let’s begin this discussion.
I believe the answer can be summed up in three words – “attitude of servitude.” Servitude, as in providing service. An attitude of servitude means having a strong personal desire to provide the very best service possible, at each and every opportunity. It’s an attitude of personal pride and having an unwavering desire to deliver the best possible experience to the guest. I don’t think it matters whether it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack. And certainly the price shouldn’t make a difference; not when it comes to being brilliant at the basics.
The real question is what does that look like; what are ‘best practices’ that result in guests telling their friends they had an amazing person or people serve them the other day at this or that eatery? It begins when you walk in and are warmly greeted with a “good evening” and “welcome to…”
When brought to the table, you’re politely asked “will this be comfortable for you?” as opposed to flopping down the menus and walking away. Are you offered the name of the person who will be waiting on you or simply “your server will be right with you?”
When your server does come to the table the first time, it would be appropriate for them to say, cheerfully, something like “good evening, my name is Charles and I will be taking care of you this evening.” Often times I do not learn the person’s name unless I ask. If there are specials, do they offer to share that information with you, or if you didn’t catch them on your way in, too bad? Being informed that a menu item is unavailable as you order, in an apologetic manner, is a best practice. Returning after taking the order, having forgotten to tell you, is frustrating at best. Additionally, servers should know the menu very well and be very well versed in the major components for each dish in order to make recommendations and describe menu options.
Many dining places have a separate person deliver the meals from the kitchen to your table. In either case, do they make sure you have everything you need, taking the time to look and to ask before leaving? Too many times I have been left without a fork or a knife. Or I didn’t get to mention I wanted a side of mayo and have to wait until someone stops back by to ask for it and wait, all the time the food is getting cold.
Speaking of stopping back, do they? Shortly after you start eating? I have servers ask how everything is a few seconds after the runner delivers it and I obviously haven’t tried it yet; that’s when to be asked if you have everything, and a couple of minutes later, ask how everything tastes.
These are just a few examples of the numerous opportunities a restaurant’s staff has to wow us or not. With the number of restaurants continuing to increase in and around south Charlotte, providing exemplary service will go a long way toward increasing the likelihood the business will still be here in a year and prosper. Have some examples? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll continue this discussion.
Newer to the neighborhood
How sweet it is! If you have a sweet tooth and you’re a wine ‘apprecionado’ you will absolutely adore Petit Philippe. Having opened this past December in Myers Park, the location now offers patrons the opportunity to experience handmade ultra-premium ingredient gourmet chocolate confections. Additionally, a well-edited selection of boutique wines from California, Oregon and Europe are available.
Mark Meissner and Casey Hickey are the proud husband and wife team of this unique attraction. Prior to launching Petit Philippe, Mark’s work took him around the globe, including a two-year assignment in Grenoble, France. It was in Grenoble that his real passion for wine was stoked. Since returning to the States, he learned the art and science of garage winemaking and furthered his passion for wine when living near California’s famed wine country.
Casey earned her Diplôme de Patisserie from Le Cordon Bleu Paris, and worked in several California Bay-area pastry kitchens, including Scharffen Berger Chocolate’s Café Cacao. She also received professional chocolatier certification from Ecole Chocolat. Casey’s line of chocolates, Twenty Degrees, is named in recognition that cocoa trees can only be cultivated within 20 degrees of the equator. She has made arrangements with specific farmers to directly receive some of the most sought after cocoa in the world.
These are definitely not your grandfathers’ chocolates. Check out these delectable descriptions: Chambord Ganache – a blend of dark and milk chocolates and European-style butter allows Chambord’s distinctive black raspberry flavor to shine through. French Roast – fair trade, organic French Roast coffee beans roasted locally bring robust coffee flavor and enhance the chocolatiness of a 55 percent dark chocolate ganache; Kahlúa provides the perfect finishing note. Pure Peru (Peruvian Single Plantation 65 percent dark) – the fruity side of chocolate shines in this rare, 65 percent single plantation chocolate from the Alto el Sol plantation in Peru; a perfect choice for the dark chocolate puritan, this rare chocolate is silky and elegant. There are about 20 different offerings, each hand made, all natural and no preservatives. Having sampled these spectacular confections, I can tell you that they look as fantastic as they taste.
Petit Philippe will serve wines by flight and glass and offer chocolate tastings and best-in-class accoutrements including fine stemware, wine openers and related kitchen tools. Mark and Casey plan on hosting wine and chocolate tastings, private events and winemaker dinners in partnership with local companies and community organizations. Petit Philippe is located at 2820 Selwyn Ave. and on the web at www.petitphilippe.com.
Mark your culinary calendar
This year the Charlotte community can celebrate Memorial Day with a salute to our military heroes – the men and women who serve our country – at The Patriot Festival, May 30, a Monday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Symphony Park at SouthPark Mall. The festival includes live bands, military exhibitions, exciting vendors, food and activities for the whole family to enjoy. Participate in a special tribute to our Fallen Angels from the Carolinas who have given their lives serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, followed by an honor salute and taps at the end of the day’s activities.
The 2011 Patriot Festival will feature the first annual Rib Burn Off, spotlighting 15 of the area’s hottest talents from hip restaurants to your backyard enthusiasts. I am honored to be a judge for the Rib Burn Off and to be in attendance to honor our country’s heroes. I hope you will join me.
Opening ceremonies begin at 9:30 a.m. with a scheduled parachute jump by The United States Army Parachute Team, Golden Knights and again at 12:30 p.m. The U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute Team “The Black Daggers” are scheduled to jump at 4:30 p.m.
General Admission is $10 ($8 if purchased with your VIC card at Charlotte-area Harris Teeter), Military (with ID) is $5 and children 5 and under are free. Ticket donations can be made online at www.patriotcharities.org, at the SouthPark Mall Kiosk beginning May 1 and at the gate the day of the event.