What is it that makes us return to a restaurant? Is it the comfortable chairs, as our Executive Chef recently wrote about? Is it the astonishing mouth watering dish that you find yourself dreaming about when pondering where to stop for dinner? Or is it the amazing service?
For me, it has always been about the service. Anywhere from the greasy spoon where the ma and pa behind the counter engage you in friendly conversation, to the six course fine dining back server and front server experience, it has to have great service for me to return. Not perfect service, no no, I never strive for the perfect dining experience, just something that takes the dining experience from average to extraordinary. I understand that mistakes happen, and servers get busy, but it is how they conduct themselves in a professional and welcoming manner that keeps me interested.
We’ve all been there, the situations where you try a new place for the first time and you swear you will never be back. Once a place has a black mark for me, I swear I won’t go back for years! I don’t even realize how much time goes by…I almost forget the reason why I didn’t like it in the first place…but I won’t choose to give them a second chance unless someone else suggests that we go.
I have to say that my friends and I are a tough crowd, not because we aren’t easily pleased but because we expect great service. It’s the expectation where we come from. Most of us are chefs, restaurant managers, servers, bartenders, event coordinators, hostesses, dining room assistants, and just plain foodies!
My foodie friends and I recently met in Ann Arbor for dinner, a mecca of great places to dine! How can one from out of town even chose where to go? Well for us, Vellum had us from the get go. Their website was top notch, and their Chef de Cuisine was from Kalamazoo and a WMU graduate! We had to check it out once we had read that, and we were not disappointed.
For me the experience started with (if you’ve read my past blogs…you could probably guess) that’s right, an ice cold beer. I was pleased that they had Final Absolution from Dragonmead (one of my favorites) and Dragon’s Milk from New Holland on draft. They also had my favorite bourbon, Basil Hayden’s in which I enjoyed after my dinner.
But it wasn’t the great beer, bourbon, or even the modern American chow that blew my socks off, it was their attention to providing wonderful service. We were first greeted by a nice amuse bouche from the chef, they removed all dirt y silverware throughout the meal, and when our entrees arrived they presented us each with a complimentary sample of wine that paired nicely with our entrée selection. After dinner they surprised my boyfriend with a complimentary upgrade from his VSOP cognac to an XO cognac. We never wanted for anything, the food was great, and the Director of Operations, Ric Jewell was a real pleasure to meet. Ric Jewell and our server created the ultimate dining experience for us. We felt like royalty, and will return because of the service in the near future for sure.
The food at Vellum was a bit too modern for my taste; I like a more classical approach. Not moth balls classical, but just you know, somewhere in the middle. While their food was tasty, when I ordered the bone marrow, I expected a bone on a plate with a little demitasse spoon. Instead we received bone marrow custard, with braised short ribs and cute little root vegetables. Tasty, but not what I expected. So while it may not be the food that pulls me back to this modern year old establishment it will be their attention to providing excellent service.
So what is it that you look for in a restaurant? Comfortable chairs? Great food, modern food? Or outstanding service? We want to know!