At the Hospitalitarianism panel, the tablehopper’s Marcia Gagliardi chatted with Umberto Gibin (Perbacco, barbacco), Annie Stoll (Delfina), Giancarlo Paterlini (Acquerello), Nick Peyton (Cyrus) and Tim Stannard (Pizzeria Antica, Spruce, Cafe Des Amis). Stannard fielded one of the toughest questions, when Gagliardi asked him how he knows who will make it, who won’t, and how do you let people know.
The takeaway messages included these tasty nuggets: Yelp can be painful for restaurateurs, but is a source of information. Tim Stannard reads a thick stack of Yelp reviews along with any and every blog post or other review each Monday. Social media geeks, these pros wish you would stop “Twittering at the table,” (Stannard) and taking pictures of food before eating it.
Some San Francisco spots have adopted their own service style, which may mean ditching the serving tray (looking at you, Delfina). Annie Stoll worked at a spot that required delivery of drinks via tray, and there was always a shortage of trays. She had guests seated by the bar, and was frustrated by not being able to get them their drinks via hand delivery. “So no trays at Delfina,” she said.
Flour + Water did the right thing by having Steve Jobs wait in line like everyone else. Also, the restaurateurs felt Jobs behaved well by playing along as the rest of the general public.
Hospitality is in one’s blood, and some industry veterans felt drawn to restaurants at a young age.
Good people make a restaurant a success; and aggressively hiring the friends of stellar staff is one way to build a team.
Peterlini admitted he was born a maitre’d, and has kept the same team of nine or ten waiters for the last twenty years. “They know the drill,” Peterlini said, adding “I don’t like people to talk a lot (to guests). Use a lot of eye contact.” Stoll reflected on her first fancy meal at a restaurant at age 12; she used her first credit card to dine out as much as possible. As much as she loves the industry, she wouldn’t necessarily have her young daughter go into the same profession.
Stannard, who just opened Café Des Amis, has a high retention rate of staff and joked that he opens new restaurant locations as a way to keep folks engaged in a career with his group. “They’re going to grow somewhere, and I’d rather it be with us,” he said. The panel agreed that feeling welcomed by staff at a restaurant is always a goal, and that they want to walk out of a place that doesn’t do that. Technical service is one thing, a warm and eager environment can almost over ride a misplaced fork.