The center of attention in a four-star restaurant may be the food, but it’s the service before, during, and after that creates the experience.
At Le Bernardin in New York City, the service is as much the creation of Executive Chef Eric Ripert as is his exquisite dishes. Along with the restaurant’s founder Maguy Le Coze, Ripert has created the elements of service that keep Le Bernardin at the top of its class.
• Hiring – while they prefer staff with a two- or three- star background, they have been known to go with their gut instinct and hire the people they like, those that have the demeanor and willingness to please.
• Training – the standard of perseverance and constant training is set at the top and carried throughout the organization. General manager David Mancini and Maitre d’ Ben Chekroun want each hire to know what goes into every other job on the floor. The constant cross-training that goes on enables the entire staff from the captains to the busboys to operate in a seamless, fluid manner.
• Knowledge – The level of service expected by customers at Le Bernardin is matched and exceeded by the knowledge the staff constantly pursues. From the technical side (knowing the menu by heart, how each serving is prepared, the correct place settings, etc.) to the human aspect (learning to watch guests for clues, anticipating their needs), the staff is always learning.
• Attitude – over the years the atmosphere has become less formal, but Le Bernardin’s staff will provide what you are looking for: to celebrate, to eat, to do business, to entertain the family. Their goal is for you to enjoy the experience and leave happy with a smile.
• The Sixth Sense – Chekroun says that the ability to read a guest is the key to providing four-star service. “You can tell if someone is used to a four-star restaurant or it’s their first time. It’s our job to put them at ease no matter the situation. Intuition is very important on the floor – before a guest can ask “Where’s my waiter?” you must be there.”
• Teamwork – At Le Bernardin, service is like the proverbial chain – a weak link will compromise the whole thing. Anyone on the chain, from the time you make a reservation till the moment you leave, can ruin the experience. It’s all about functioning as a team; even though the service is broken into sections, that’s merely strategic. The entire team is expected to understand the ebb and flow of the service and step in before needed.
• Presentation – The hallmark of the food at Le Bernardin is the exquisite simplicity of the food, which calls for adding the final touch at the table. The sauces for the meal are served at the table, which provides several advantages: warmer service, better flavors, and eye-catching presentations.
Okay, let’s step away from the elegance of Le Bernardin and visit your church. Is it too big a jump to imagine that your guest services need to have the same elements of service as a four-star restaurant?
I think not.
In each of the areas above, why don’t you brainstorm how you can deliver four-star hospitality to your guests?
photo courtesy Kok Chih, CC