I was all set to write on this topic alone until this past month, when we saw the news – true, false and still unresolved – of three local restaurants having some major issues that could prove fatal.
Sisley Italian Kitchen announced that they were closed and then pulled back and said only water damage prevented them from re-opening, all employees at TPC Valencia – including the chefs to the wait staff of the Oaks Grille – were laid off, and finally the owner of Southern Smoke would most likely lose his liquor license and maybe the restaurant too as he was found guilty of criminal charges.
Whoa Nelly. I’m in a bit of a shock. But I’m not here to defend or blame any of these businesses. I’m here to discuss what we should look for as consumers – in a restaurant, bar or winery – that is open and not dealing with crazy external issues.
More and more people are looking for an “experience” and that includes the tasting room as well as the winemaker’s story, the owner’s story, activities/lessons/tours/dinners/events at a winery. What would cost a winery business? For me it would be a less than hospitable person at the tasting room. Be that person that smiles when you answer a phone – a good measure of a person that is trying even when they’re not seen. Don’t be that person that announces the rules before even talking about the wine. Ask where we’re from, who we’ve visited today, what wines we might enjoy and please attempt to make some form of eye contact while doing all that.
Most of my pals have recounted winery experiences that have compelled me to also visit. The quality of the wine itself is first and foremost, but if it’s lost in a dull story or dull visit, then it’s just that: lost. I’ve also, by way of being a wine writer, shared stories that I hope would compel others to seek out a particular winery. Robert Parker giving something a 90+ may mean more to you than my words, but if you’re going to visit the winery you may need a tad more than a score.
For a restaurant to provide a memorable experience that may mean a true uniqueness to the menu, a superstar chef, the décor and I shouldn’t have to say it again: exemplary service. With UberEats and other food delivery services, restaurants have to really step it up to get diners into those seats. If the server asks if I’m having my “usual”, remembers my name, seats me in the section they know I like – then I know that they know that I know that it’s the experience that matters to me. I can forgive a slight error in my order or some other fault if the service stands out.
At a bar both the cocktail menu and the wine menu have to excite the patron and be competitive in pricing. And of course, on top of that, you better be able to deliver that craft cocktail in record time. Make eye contact with me – don’t hold up your index finger at me – if you can’t offer immediate attention. If you don’t have your cocktails batched, then let me know how long it might take you to make it.
The more someone feels they had an experience that meant something to them personally, the more apt they are to buy, enjoy, share with others and – want to work there.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.