December 6th, 2008

Feast

Good Instincts

One of the most impressive traits I have encountered in front-end staff in a large handful of high-end restaurants is a good memory for faces. I know it helps that I have the hair, but it's still true. The second time (a year later) that I was back at Anthony's, the man-at-the-door recognized me. By the third or fourth time I'd been to Splendido (spaced out over a minimum of six month intervals), one of the waiters recognized me from across the room by my voice alone. They all had some time to think about it, however, and possibly cross-reference with reservations.

No so today's encounter. My first trip to Simpsons in Edgbaston, a year ago, was technically a break between trains, four hours of idle, sumptuous eating on a long, sunlit afternoon when I was in no rush, and Birmingham was en route. I was by myself, they weren't too busy, and I had a number of nice, long chats with the staff.

Fast forward to today. I'm at Gordon Ramsay's Taste of Christmas at the Excel Center with 8000 other people on that day alone. The 8 restaurant stands in the middle of the venue have long queues, but they're moving with reasonable speed, time enough to hand over the show currency and retrieve a pretty little dish in exchange. I make it to the front of the Simpsons stall queue and ask for my slow roasted pork with savoy cabbage, pumpkin purée, mint and caper juice. The woman looks and me and said with a smile. "You've been to the restaurant in Edgbaston. You had a lot of luggage with you."

And that - even in the middle of a dense crowd of 8000 people - is one way to make a customer feel very special indeed.