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

Hospitality Isn’t A Simple Act

Trying to explain hospitality isn’t easy and I’ve been stubbornly working for many days to discover this. I could look up “hospitality” in the dictionary or talk to a professor in the Cornell University hospitality program, but one answer wouldn’t be enough and the other would be too much for this arena. But hospitality is one of the most important considerations to Brasserie L’Oustau’s operations; providing a high level of hospitality is what makes the difference between acceptable and exceptional service, between a satisfied customer and one who will return again and again.

The goal of hospitality at Brasserie L’Oustau is to make you feel as though you’re a member of a special club, respected as soon as you walk in, and by the time you leave we want you to feel thoroughly cared for and satisfied with everything about your meal. We want you to return so we will know more about you to provide better service, such as who is your preferred server, if you have menu favorites or allergies and what table you would enjoy most.

When Michel Boyer opened Brasserie L’Oustau de Provence in early 2012 he brought more than a new restaurant to Southern Vermont; he introduced diners to a level of hospitality developed during decades of hotel and restaurant management around the world, most recently at Brasserie 8 ½ in New York. For nine years previous he was General Manager for food services at the New York headquarters for the United Nations. He proved his ability to understand and respect many different cultural hospitality paradigms and how to provide them through rigorous employee training and supervision.

Michel is keenly aware that the essence of hospitality is respect, both internally and outwardly to all customers. Our core staff members bring talent, enthusiasm and commitment to their positions and treat one another and their jobs with respect. These things bolster the positive attitude of all employees and set the foundation for any personal and professional interaction throughout the day. The culmination of this attitude occurs when we serve our customers with care and attentive respect.

A top hospitality employee has many characteristics which cannot be taught: warmth, optimism, curiosity, honesty, empathy, respect, diplomacy, sincerity, ambition, responsibility and accountability. We are able to hire talented and committed staff following rigorous interviews, screening and intuition. Michel’s intuitive abilities have been developed after years of extensive observing and evaluating the potential in many candidates. Being very selective assures that our customers have a consistent fine dining experience, and only people who complement the team and our service paradigm can do that.

Hospitality is the ancient practice of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm,  friendly and generous way. Brasserie L’Oustau hospitality makes those ancient practices real for today’s guests.

http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/RL/00437

Staying On Course with Comment Cards

Blogs and review sites are a wonderful way to find restaurants by reading notes from people who have actually eaten at them. However, they’re the worst ways for a restaurateur to discover that a customer has been unhappy with their experience. It’s too late for the restaurant to correct a problem immediately and directly with the customer, and the review might make potential customers less inclined to go to the restaurant at all.

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Michel personally reads all comment cards at Brasserie L’Oustau.

Like many fine restaurants, Brasserie L’Oustau offers all customers an opportunity to leave ratings and comments about their experience with us, either by name and information or anonymously. Our comment card is included in the bill folder at the end of the meal where there will be a pen as well. There are 9 rating scores, a few specific questions and an opportunity for personal comments which might take no more than a few minutes to complete.

All comment cards are important and taken very seriously; the praises help us know what we’re doing right, and the suggestions can lead us to make further improvements. It isn’t important for us to know who left the comment (although we appreciate that information) but it is important that we continuously get direct customer feedback; customer expectations are constantly evolving and we will stay ahead of the curve only as long as our customers keep us informed. Thankfully, well over half of our comment cards are returned with notes for all variety of reasons, and each is helping us make Brasserie L’Oustau a better restaurant for everyone.

With decades of experience in the hospitality industry, Michel Boyer opened the doors to Brasserie L’Oustau with the power of knowledge and self-confidence. The comment cards help keep our doors open to everyone expecting the finest dining experience. We thank all our customers who have or will complete a comment card at Brasserie L’Oustau, and we look forward to your return.

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