We’ve all done it. We hear about a hot, new restaurant and begin trolling social media sites to see what others think of the restaurant to help form our opinion of whether or not we want to visit. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even old faithful, Yelp, are all tools we use to scope out the deets on the newest culinary digs in town. I personally seek out what’s been said in the local media and dig up all I can on the chef – but I’m in food PR, so that comes naturally to me.
Sooo, what if a restaurant did that to you? Is it trolling now, or is it 21st century guest engagement and customization at its finest? If you’re Michael Muser, general manager of Grace in Chicago, it’s business as usual.
The September issue of Food & Wine magazine shared results of the publication’s first online survey about America’s best food destinations. In it, Chicago was chosen as the city with the best service, where Muser’s unique outlook on catering to Grace’s clientele leaves me feeling both shocked and awed. Not at the audacity of a restaurant to troll their clients in order to offer the most customized experience possible for a guest, but at the sheer amount time it must take to do so and the commitment to getting it right the first time.
That’s customer service on a whole ‘notha level! Read on:
The Secrets Behind Amazing Restaurant Service
BY MICHAEL MUSER | POSTED AUGUST 27, 2014 AT 11:30AM EDT
Michael Muser, general manager at Chicago’s Grace, explains the dossier-compiling and Facebook-stalking behind exceptional service.
Before You Arrive
We start a dossier on you. The second we take your reservation, we note your area code on caller ID, then Google your name and city. We open the diner-notes section on OpenTable and jot down everything we find: your job, your likes and dislikes. A recent example: Upon Googling, I learned a diner has a pretty intense food blog. First thing the guy does is pull out a notepad. We sent that blogger an extra amuse-bouche and a dessert. Do we take extra care of foodie customers and ignore the other guests? Of course not.
During the Meal
We try to surprise you. We saw on social media that diners coming in one night were huge U2 fans, so I sat them in our server Kelly’s section, knowing that she’s a U2 nut. Sure enough, it came up in conversation at the end of their visit. We once had a guest tweet out to Curtis [chef Curtis Duffy] that he was excited to eat at Grace, even though he was sick with a fever. When he left that night, we packed up a big container of chicken noodle soup for him. He freaked out.
After You Leave
We write up a report. It’s the server’s responsibility to take notes on each diner’s experience: You have a strong love for Sancerre, for example, so the next time you come in, we’ll swap out a Muscadet pairing for the wine we know you like. I’m well aware this all must seem a little creepy. Stalkerish. But if I can enhance your experience, I’m going to do it. It’s my job.
Mind you, Grace is a small restaurant – just 64 seats in the main dining room – and is one of the city’s most expensive restaurants, averaging nearly $900 for dinner for two including wine pairings, tax and tip. But every restaurant needs to start somewhere and even fast casual and QSR’s can glean pro tips from the fine dining scene.