What impression do your clients form of your business, and why does that matter? The experience I had in a country restaurant on a recent trip to France got me thinking about this.
A recommendation led us to this place, and we were not disappointed. While not particularly high end, like many restaurants in France they took not just their food but the whole experience very seriously.
Before your visit, your expectations are set on the website for both the quality and price of the meal. When you book, you are asked to provide credit card details, committing to a minimum expenditure if you do not show up.
Reservations are hard to come by and your time slot cannot be moved by even 15 minutes – I know because I tried. A sense of scarcity is created: you’re there for something special, not something subject to the whims and inconveniences of everyday life.
Every aspect of your visit is managed with the same level of attention. When you walk in, the entrance is welcoming, with warm lighting. There is an unusual sense of space, and your eye is drawn around the corner, where the passageway opens out to a breath taking view of the countryside beyond.
Your arrival is expected and, as an English speaker, you are greeted in English so there is no discomfort. Your table is ready and feels like a special one – because all of them are. The staff are diverse: young and old, male and female, of white European, Asian and African heritage. They reflect the clientele.
The dining experience is heavily curated. To eat, there is either a tasting menu or an expensive à la carte. Price is used to create the illusion of choice and direct you to the tasting menu: it’s the best experience (and they want you to have the best experience) and it lasts the longest. It is no doubt the best value too.
The food is unique and uniquely good. Things you would never dream of appear before you and they taste extraordinary – like ‘deconstructed pizza’. Each dish is clearly the culmination of a thoughtful design and creation process, and is presented beautifully. The flavours are so distinct that even a non-foodie like me can recall them individually weeks later.
At the end of the meal, you are completely full and very happy. Perhaps you have spent more than you intended, but there is no doubting the value you have received.
None of it is stiff or overly formal. The food is served with ceremony and with a smile – from humans to humans.
No question is too basic. The sommelier is helpful, not disdainful. The maître d’ is happy to stop and chat to a curious businessperson interested in how it all works. At the end of service, the chef-proprietor wanders out, greets people, and sits having a cigarette and a cognac with guests on a nearby table.