Where It All Begins

Bussers run the show at Brasserie L’Oustau. This entry-level position is one of the most important jobs in the entire operation and critical to providing constantly smooth and professional service overall. They must understand the importance of their responsibilities, be hyper-aware of what the most important thing is that needs to be done at every moment and then do it. Constantly moving, they are relied upon to be where they should be at all times.

You may never even notice the bussers at Brasserie L’Oustau because they’re constantly on the move.

Running a brasserie isn’t just about making food. Diners have an entire army of people working for them who have nothing to do with food preparation, but they’re the ones the customer is most likely to meet. These are the workers who at the end of the day are going to make the place sing or make it crash no matter how good the food is coming out of the kitchen.

When you dine with us shortly after you’re seated your water glass will be filled by a busser. Your busser may then bring your bread and butter, present your amuse bouche, supply appropriate tableware, bring your order from the kitchen, clear the dishes away and keep your water glass filled. Their responsibilities extend beyond your visit to include resetting the table with new linen and tableware, refilling sugar containers and salt shakers and pepper mills, polishing silver, wiping glassware and folding napkins, keeping the water pitcher filled… and that’s just the start of the list of what they are expected to do.

We interviewed two people recently, one a young man looking for a steady evening job while attending college and the other a recent high-school graduate. Neither candidate ever worked in a restaurant before. Both are bright, pleasant and very enthusiastic. Both have been hired.

Good bussers don’t stay bussers for long if they want to move up; it’s a quick promotion to server, hostess or sometimes even prep cook. With the promotion would come a higher salary and the possibility to benefit from the support of a busser.

Please know that your quiet busser will be given a percentage of the tip you leave; the server could not possibly be as good as they are without their help.

The Art of Being Seated

Let’s imagine that you’ve entered Brasserie L’Oustau for an early dinner and see there are many tables still unoccupied. You walk to the podium, tell the hostess the number in your party and that you have no reservation (it’s an early dinner, after all). The owner Michel Boyer and hostess take a quick look at a computer screen, murmur a few things to each other, confirm, ask you to follow one of them and you begin your journey into the maze of tables. What just happened? Why are you being led to THAT table?

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Welcome to Brasserie L’Oustau!

The computer display at the podium has a simple layout of all the tables and indicates which are currently occupied. Upcoming reservations are listed and tables for larger parties have been grouped. The servers have been assigned specific areas of the restaurant where they will be responsible for all those tables for the evening.

With that internal information, certain things are evaluated at the time you arrive such as which sections aren’t busy at the moment, which sections aren’t expecting reservations soon, which sections need your table to distribute the customers evenly, and which table is the “best” in the section that rises to the top. If you have a preference for a location (as in the front room, rear or upper dining area) you should feel comfortable to mention it as soon as possible.

The best table in each section constantly changes based on real factors: there are children (in your group or next to a table), the number in your party, the mood of your group (soft conversation or more jovial) and so on. Each of the criteria is assessed in the few moments Michel and the hostess consult the seating chart. Ultimately a table is chosen where they think you’ll be most comfortable based on your request, what they know about the available tables and what they perceive about your party.

There are other and more specific facts that could also determine which should be your table. If you’ve dined with us before and ask for a favorite server, he or she will be assigned a specific section where you will be seated. Also, in order to be able to seat walk-in parties of four or more, two tables for two will be left open next to each other as long as possible.

But even if there are many open tables it’s possible the restaurant will delay seating anyone without a reservation to accommodate meal prep timing in the kitchen. This is when you might be asked to wait in the bar for a few moments until your table is available. It is in no one’s interest to have too many customers ordering at the same time.

By now you understand that your table selection is a somewhat complicated process.

All that said, on the way to your table you might see a different one that you would prefer. Unless it is being held for a reservation arriving soon, that table will be yours. The ebb and flow of seating assignments will adjust to your request, and we wish you “bon appétit!”

OpenTable Reservations

A Napkin is Very Intimate

It sits on your lap, touches your mouth and greets your greasy fingers with abundant appetite. A linen napkin is soft and pure and willing to embrace and forgive; its whole purpose is to absorb your every gastronomic misdirection, absolve you and hold all evidence on a folded square of fabric then removed.

If you’ve never considered cloth napkins before perhaps now you can; the quality of your dining experience really does depend on them.

Even before you sit at a restaurant table the napkin influences the impression you have of what is to come. The napkin may be folded like a swan gliding on a plate-lake in one restaurant, a tulip bursting from a water glass vase in the next, or lightly nesting the flatware in a simple fold in yet another.

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Glassware, linen and tableware – silverware, candle, salt and pepper, etcetera – are all an indication of the type of meal to come. Casual dining might have paper napkins around a simple fork and knife on a bare table; fine dining could poise soft linen in tall stemware at place settings of 6 or more pieces. In all cases your expectations of the meal begin with the napkin.

Brasserie L’Oustau folds its linen napkins simply to reflect the casual and respectful spirit of the brasserie. We take you to the table where you will settle and easily enjoy your dinner and our hospitality. There is no pretense or posturing about our brasserie experience and the simple napkin fold indicates you are at a comfortable restaurant with good food, service and community.

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The simple fold of the linen napkins at Brasserie L’Oustau make it easy for diners to settle themselves and continue on to their biggest challenge: deciding what to order from our extensive menu.

There is one exception to our “keep it simple” paradigm; the bread basket nestles sliced baguettes on linen with an “artichoke” fold. Sometimes we like to shake things up a bit.

http://www.napkinfoldingguide.com