What is in this article?:
- Make your restaurant a dining destination
- The importance of staff
This is part of Restaurant Hospitality’s special coverage of the 2013 South Beach Wine & Food Festival held in Miami Beach, Fla., Feb. 21-24.
While New York, Chicago and San Francisco are considered among the country’s top dining destinations, some of the world’s best restaurants are today found in cities that were not considered hot spots for a great culinary experience. So how do you make your restaurant a dining destination? Chefs John Besh of New Orleans; Jenn Louis of Portland, OR; Stephanie Izard of Chicago; and John Kunkel of Miami answered that question at a panel at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Food Network TV host Marc Summers moderated the trade panel, sponsored by Bullfrog & Baum.
How important is location?
Besh: There are chefs like the Paul Kahan and the Marc Vetri who target less-than-glamorous areas that are on the verge of becoming the next big destination. But it's not just the name on the restaurant that makes it a success. Everything has to come together to make a restaurant a success.
Louis: That's right. You can't just have great food. You have to have great hospitality and provide a great experience, too.
Izard: Having a name does help. After I won Top Chef, people began to follow me. We went to an area that was still undergoing revitalization, and customers came. But once they've followed you, you better have all the other important factors in place, including the right service — even what your staff wears to set the stage.
Kunkel: When a customer calls your reservationist, it all begins. You have to have everything in order, and that's not so easy in Miami, where the service population is so transient. We are constantly training new people to provide the level of service we demand.
So the location is just one part of what makes a restaurant a success?
Kunkel: It is, but you can't forget that you're running a business. That's why we do target areas that need to be revitalized. You get better rent prices and it gives you a better shot at success.
Izard: People like the idea of going to off-the-beaten-path places. Adventurous diners don't like to go to tourist spots. But, as we've said, once you've gotten them to your place, you can't let them down.
Kunkel: But then there are guys like Danny Meyer who will go into an expensive area to establish his Shake Shack in a city. Once it's a success with the local population, he'll move into less expensive areas.
Louis: No matter where your restaurant is located, you can't forget that one of the most important things we do is make our customers feel good. Some of them will come through the door and be in bad mood. If you can put a smile on their face before they leave, you'll always put butts in seats.
Kunkel: Too many people get into this business and have no idea how to run a business. If you don't understand the nuts and bolts of running a business, it doesn't matter where your restaurant is located. It won't succeed.
Louis: I was running a catering business and it was doing very well. Then my husband talked me into opening a restaurant and I had no idea how much of it would consume my time. And on top of that, we opened in 2008 when the economy fell apart. We were lucky because we got great press and we were smart enough to take care of our staff. We fought through the tough economic times.