The French have inspired people worldwide for many years. Wine, charcuterie trays, rich cheeses, amazing gastronomic edibles, and incredible customer service are a few things that come to mind. There are several subtle ways to incorporate French practices to upgrade your guests’ experience.
Whether you run a café, pub, or formal dining restaurant, use the following ideas to add a sense of flair for best-in-class service and upgrade the guest’s experience.
Upgrade Your Table Setting
Nearly every restaurant in France, even bars, will have a white tablecloth as part of their table setting for meals. It sets the tone of respect for the meal and symbolizes cleanliness. To modernize this detail, less formal places will opt for nice placemats made of quality cloth instead. White is easily kept crisp and fresh; however, more formal restaurants may incorporate black, and fun or eclectic places may incorporate bright colors that coordinate with the restaurant’s theme.
An overlooked aspect of table settings is flatware. Over time, utensils begin to dull, and scratches show. Upgrade flatware to pieces that are pleasant to hold and appealing. This small investment can have a large impact on the dining experience. The simpler style of utensil is best because there’s no need for filigree or fancy designs that detract from the overall ambiance.
Remember to have, at the least, a small centerpiece. Regardless if it is an actual centerpiece or off to the side of the table, it will add to the ambiance of your restaurant. Modernize it by using your restaurant’s theme or style as inspiration. For example, a farm-to-table bistro might use a small milk bottle as a vase, or a vintage lantern as a tea-light or candle holder.
The Baguette: Not Just Bread
If your restaurant serves bread with soup, stews, pastas, or breakfast meals, consider the baguette. In France, the baguette serves as a key piece of the meal. Great for jams, spreads, and cheeses, it’s perfectly structured for dipping and soaking up egg, soup and stew broths, or cleaning the palate between bites.
Partner with a local bakery or supplier to procure the freshest, crispiest baguettes. Store-bought won’t up your game here. Customers will delight in their personal loaf of crispy French bread. Be sure to offer upsells to a second or extra half if their baguette is nearly gone before their meal.
Adding an Amuse-Bouche
A long-ago and revived tradition to begin a guest’s experience is an amuse-bouche. Literally meaning a “mouth-amuser,” the amuse-bouche is a bite-sized surprise the chef creates and provides before the meal. Traditionally one bite, portions have grown to be a few bites and can be anywhere in-between.
The initial effect on guests is always surprise, followed by curiosity and excitement. Since it is not noted on the menu, an amuse-bouche is a way for a chef to play with techniques and their creative skills. While it could be specific for each meal, it is often something that compliments the overall menu and is served with any meal. Secondarily, the amuse-bouche acts as an appetite inducer, initially helping satiate the hunger, but whets the appetite for more, giving greater potential for dessert orders.
There are only two rules to follow for an amuse-bouche. First, it must be aesthetically appealing. The more pleasing to the eye, the more delicious it may be interpreted. Second, it must be delicious and make sense for your restaurant.
Opting for Upgraded Appetizers
Creating a successful menu is no easy task. So, while guests may enjoy a mouth amuser before their main dish, those who need more or are in a larger group will want to order appetizers. Beyond cheese sticks, hot wings, potstickers, or other appetizers, opt for less than ordinary. As breweries and local restaurants upgrade their appetizers, consider taking yours to the next level by offering an array of amuse-bouche.
A popular trend in local breweries and local restaurants is the charcuterie tray as an appetizer, snack, or light meal. Charcuterie is defined as cold cooked meats; however, trays consist of meats, salami, sausages, and pates along with cheeses and simple bites of accompanying pickled veggies, nuts and olives.
Larger trays may include dried and fresh fruits along with cheeses, meats, and veggies, along with crostini or crackers. Optional trays will exchange the pickled veggies with dried apricots, granny smith or fuji apple slices, and seasonal fruits. The best way to showcase these items is with digital menu boards that incorporate photos.
A non-traditional way of upgrading appetizers implements the ideas above; however, another option is with a hand-made dip, such as guacamole, ‘hand-smashed’ at the table by the waitstaff. Using fresh ingredients and smashing or mixing in front of guests adds to the connection between guests and your restaurant. Other ideas include fresh pate, aioli, hummus, or pesto.
Excellent Customer Service from Open to Close
French restaurants are well-known for their unmet level of customer service, ensuring an enjoyable experience. Their staff take great care to maintain the ambiance into the late hours without disturbing guests. This level of service proves to guests that their experience comes first, and they will certainly share their experience, which provides word-of-mouth advertising at the most effective level.
From the moment your door opens to the day until it is locked up, customer service should remain the focus of each employee. Perhaps a table has lost all sense of time and become caught up in conversation at the end of the night. They should receive ongoing service until they leave, even when staff are ready to go home.
Providing lasting customer service throughout a person or group’s stay will only upgrade their experience. Train your staff to discreetly clear away other tables, except the most adjacent ones. Continue making customers feel comfortable and allow them to take their time to leave. This level of service will be part of their memorable experience.
With all the options guests have for dining, it is critical to upgrade your service, from customer service to what is put on the plate. Implementing one or all these tips will certainly update your restaurant and provide a better customer experience. Share your success stories with us!