Think of the last time you went to a restaurant. What did you think when you first walked in? How did you feel? Were you greeted with a smile and an open gesture of welcome? Or were you left to figure out where to go and with whom to speak with first?
These markers are all nonverbal and they constitute your first impression of what will be a lengthier experience, and hopefully, a long lasting relationship.
I recently visited Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Easily one of the best restaurants and most unique dining experiences in the United States, and the world. This restaurant had been on my radar since its inception in 2004 and I can tell you, it did not disappoint. In fact, all of the nonverbals were on point.
From the moment we arrived at Blue Hill, we were greeted with upright and open postures, standing at attention with warm smiles. Any time I appeared to be looking for something, whatever I was looking for very quickly wound up in my purview. And all of this occurred before the meal even began.
Throughout the duration of the meal, I picked up on a few mechanisms that I found so effective. Here are three of my favorites:
- The presentation of a dish began from the moment the wait staff exited the kitchen. At no point was there a break in the awareness of an audience. This is huge in the restaurant industry and on stage. The kitchen door is your wing and the moment you enter on stage, you can bet someone is watching.
- Any time a dish was presented, verbal communication was limited to the name of the dish; simple and to the point. No unnecessary frills so that the food was showcased for what it was: simply sublime. For example, the first dish at our table was set carefully onto the table with: 'vegetables from the garden'. Not 'And here we have a selection of freshly picked vegetables from our very own...blah blah blah'.
- My absolute favorite was when a three or four top was being served a plate. At this point, multiple wait staff would present themselves each with a dish. They would form around the table, eyeing one another for timing purposes and in one synchronized movement, the dishes appeared in front of each guest simultaneously.
When I coach restaurant teams on their movements in the kitchen and the dining room, these are things we pay close attention to. In this industry (and in many others) the way you carry yourself is of the utmost importance. In a very quiet or very loud space, you want to say as much with your body as possible so that no words get lost unnecessarily.
At Blue Hill, I was enamored. I cannot wait to work with my hospitality industry clients – because now I know it’s really possible – and it truly makes all the difference.