I think I am getting old and may have lost my bearings. I have realized that what I once considered commonplace or a given-giving that little extra something-has been lost, or I have become blind to it. I am not talking about customer service. Customer service is where you go when you want to complain. That term has become the dumping grounds for paid employees to listen to problems of dissatisfied customers. Do you think that the people on the other end of the phone enjoy being complained to all day long? I want to go back to the way things were. If you have good hospitality and passion about your craft, you shouldn’t need to hear complaints.
First and foremost, hospitality is not a given, nor is it free. It is the only cost of truly doing business in the world of food, drink and at the places where you rest your head for the evening. As a cook, my internal “DNA” cannot think about not doing some extra at every occasion. I want to give my guests that one little extra something on the plate or in the glass. There are many ways of offering something unexpected. The problem has become that our business thinking gets in the way and we blindly follow the pennies versus understanding the unreconciled value of our craft. Consumers want value for the dollar spent. Prices keep going up but we get less. What ever happened to putting the value of hospitality first?
I was amazed and re-energized by my last trip to Italy. The afternoon café culture still exists and thrives. We call it happy hour. You sit down for coffee or aperitif. When you order your drink, without asking, you are provided with a little something to go with your drink. It could be little pastries with your espresso or salty snacks or little canapes with your Campari spritz (more to come on that one). There is an understanding in giving you a little something more wherever your day may end. In some cases, hotels offer a more substantial service of food and drinks for the business traveler. Some may say it’s just a way to get people in seats, but there is a huge emotional value.
It is not what we see in bars and taverns in the US, if you can still find it. It is not that row of chafing dishes filled with every pre-made fried food, salted carbohydrates or processed cheese food imaginable. It is not about volume, it’s about quality bites or sips. In many of the restaurants we sat in, we got a little prosecco or aperitif to open up the palate and welcome us. It was the responsibility of the server to decide what they should give based on your order. What a concept-give trust and confidence in your service staff to provide a little something extra without having to ask their manager. We were in a beer bar, and they gave several additional tastes while we waited. Even with the little extra wait, I paid the check in full. I will go back every time because I felt that we were welcome in their home, not a table they needed to turn!
If you are a smart chef, a proponent of farm-to-table and preach whole hog and local artisan partnerships, there is always something in your kitchen that you can offer as a token of hospitality.
Think about sampling an olive oil with the bread, a tasting of seasonal products or cured meat hanging in the very expensive curing cabinet you had to have. It only costs you something if you throw stuff in the trash can. It even goes better with a story of why. Welcome people into your home and they will want to come back. Nickle and dime them for everything and see your house crumble.
I promise that in my house, wherever that is, I will always give you that little extra something to make you feel good about visiting.
Here is a Great Beer Apertif
Campari White Spritz
- Tall cooler glass or white wine glass
- 1 fl oz Campari
- 6 fl oz American white beer
- 1 slice of orange
- 2 fl oz lemon/lime soda
- Place the ice in the glass
- Pour in the Campari
- Slowly add the beer and stir with a cocktail spoon
- Place in the orange and top off with a float of Sprite
- Serve with a straw
Isaac by Brassifica Baladin
An Italian white beer if you can find it. If not try this local favorite.
Aperol – An alternative to Campari
It is a little sweeter and not as bitter as Campari.