Elevating the Atmosphere
Restaurateurs sweat the details to set a strategy for success
Great food is just one part of the restaurant dining experience. Countless factors contribute to the atmosphere, from the configuration of the tables to the volume of the music to the attentiveness of the service. We checked in with four restaurateurs who shared their strategies for getting the details just right.
A plan is essential to efficiently seat parties of different sizes, according to Adam Elzer, owner of New York’s Sauce Restaurant, Sauce Pizzeria, and Coco & Cru. Dining rooms are configured each night based on reservations, with room for walk-ins. “Depending on how busy it is, we may give guests a specific length of time associated with their reservation,” Elzer says. “We work with the kitchen and our staff on the floor to make sure they're meeting this without rushing guests.”
The light’s always perfect at Boston’s Eastern Standard, and general manager Caroline Markham monitors its three dozen lighting tracks obsessively to keep it that way. Bright lights at breakfast soften through the day. “We think of it as painting with light the way theater technicians dress the stage,” Markham says.
Heating & Air Conditioning
Keeping a dining room comfortable requires focus, according to Emily Hyland, co-owner of Emmy Squared, Emily and Violet in New York and Nashville. “Temperature is something a good manager is always paying attention to,” Hyland explains. “Every restaurant has unique HVAC, and it’s important to tune it in just right so it’s as cool as possible in the summer, and warm in the winter.”
Nothing sets a scene like music, and Rose Previte, owner of Compass Rose and Maydan in Washington, D.C., leaves it to a trusted expert. “My longtime bartender personalizes the playlist to the clientele and the hour, a lot of old school hip-hop with an international and Middle Eastern vibe,” Previte says. “People come for the music, and they’ll tell you that it makes them feel transported.”
Friendly, professional service makes all the difference. That means making sure the servers know the menu—and fixing problems quickly. “You have to take fearless, immediate action,” explains Markham. “To a guest, when something goes wrong with their meal, every second that no one has acknowledged the problem feels like an eternity.” And never give up. “We once had a grumpy Yelp reviewer who was really angry about something,” Hyland recalls. “I was able to have him come back in as my guest, wait on him personally, and turn his whole experience around.”