Restaurants and Joy

There’s nothing like a restaurant for simple, unarguable joy.  A night out at a restaurant, with friends?  That’s living the good life.  And when you’re alone, a restaurant can be an island of pleasure in the cold, uncaring ocean of a hard-knocks life.  You can expect even a simple neighborhood sandwich joint, a little taqueria, or a noodle palace to bring you comfort and convenience.

What makes a restaurant a success and keeps customers coming back? A few zillion things, of course: no single one is the final telling detail.  Location? Always the biggest reason. Cuisine?  Sure. French, Mexican, Italian, good old American home cooking—each can call in the customers. Décor and ambiance?  Of course!  People write entire Broadway plays about quaint little places where the lighting is just so, the waiters so special, the chef a charmer as well as a creative genius.  And, of course, there’s the real estate agent’s mantra: location, location, location.  That makes a restaurant a success, too.

When you’re trying to work out what makes a restaurant a winner, you can look at it from two basic points of view, each crucial. On the one hand, there are the details that directly affect the customer, in ways the customer recognizes.  The welcoming scent of a building as you enter, the warm greeting of a head waiter who recognizes you after a few visits, the texture of the tablecloth or sparkling clean surface of the table, the crisp, clean menu, well presented in elegant menu covers: these are things the customer knows and responds to.

Less obvious to a customer, but pressingly clear to the manager, are the details that allow the business to run well, supporting that “feel good” experience the customer does know. These details: the hiring of capable, friendly, intelligent staff, the development of varied and exciting menus, the development of an attractive presentation style and technique: these things, too, make a restaurant stand out.

Over the next year we’re going to discuss what makes a winning restaurant, and things that gain and keep customers. We’ll discuss food, and style, and fun, and even scungilli – Italian snail salad. We may talk about regional cooking, and about the solitary diner; about appetizers and appetite.  With luck this will become a favored place for food lovers and restaurant owners to come read.

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