It takes a village to run a top restaurant, from the chefs who dream up delicious dishes in the kitchen to the front-of-house staff who ensure a memorable dining experience. But when did you last thank the manager?
We put the spotlight on the professionals who make dining out a memorable, first class experience
Delicious food served by a restaurant just won’t cut it in today’s competitive dining scene. Stellar service is equally important, as seasoned restaurateurs like Wolfgang Puck, who has built a successful culinary empire spanning more than 100 restaurants, can attest. “You can serve the best food in the world, but if the staff are not polite, they won’t spend their money there,” he once told T.dining.
These are the professionals who make diners feel like VIPS, those who work long hours dealing with all kinds of whims and desires on a daily basis. But for Jasmine Low, the petite sommelier at Les Amis who’s always ready with a warm smile, she never considers it a chore. She says: “We always go the extra mile for our guests—and to see a smile on their faces is the best reward I can get.”
How does one go the extra mile in this business? Shotaro Aoki, who juggles manager and sommelier duties at Terra Tokyo Italian, goes as far as memorising the faces of firsttime customers, as well as where they sat and what they ordered, so that the next time they come for a visit, he can engage them in friendly conversation. He confesses: “Usually, they’ll be very impressed and happy to know I remember them from the last time. It makes a huge impact.”
For Victoria Vilchez, assistant manager at Ola Cocina del Mar and Tono Cevicheria, she’s always observant of what diners need. She shares: “Once I noticed a guest feeling very cold, so I approached her with a shawl before she asked for one. Saying she was appreciative would be an understatement—she was awed!”
Great service also includes giving good recommendations. Cé La Vi has brought in Mathias Camilleri, Singapore’s first master sommelier, to its team. He has been with the restaurant for a couple of months and is already in the process of expanding its wine list. “My goal is to offer a versatile selection to please every palate by covering as many countries as possible, sharing confidential and trendy grapes, and showcasing some of the most iconic wines,” he says.
Adam Bursik, bar manager at Origin
Bar, likes to keep it creative in the cocktail department to keep guests coming back for more. And they do, which Bursik also attributes to “being genuine and not pretending to be someone we’re not”.
“It’s all about anticipating diners’ needs even before they ask for something, without being intrusive TIMOTHY LIM WAKU GHIN BY TETSUYA WAKUDA
Service is a continuous learning process, so Timothy Lim, general manager at Waku Ghin by Tetsuya Wakuda, stresses the importance of further training. “Chef Tetsuya always reminded us that great service should be there, but not there,” he adds, affirming that the ability to read guests comes from lots of guidance and watching the managers work the floor.
Indeed, service is often overlooked—just think of the number of times you thanked the floor staff and not only the chef after that wonderful dinner. “One of the best rewards I get is when a diner personally thanks me after the meal,” cites Céline Chatte, head sommelier at Jaan. Jia Ling, assistant restaurant manager at Odette (she also handles the cheese trolley) agrees, stating that she loves getting to know people who spend time in the restaurant. “They can be very successful people, government officials or regular folks like myself who have become my friends.”
Great service is a combination of knowledge, understanding the guest’s needs, personality and flair— with a touch of elegance MATHIAS CAMILLERI CÉ LA VI
It’s important to know when guests are interested to make a connection with you— understand what they need and give it to them at the right time ADAM BURSIK ORIGIN BAR
I enjoy sharing my knowledge about wines with my colleagues and guests, as well as learning from them, too. Every day is a learning opportunity, and I always push myself and strive to do better JASMINE LOW LES AMIS
We have a Japanese saying that translates to ‘read the atmosphere’. I try to pay attention and understand what the customers want without them having to tell me verbally SHOTARO AOKI TERRA TOKYO ITALIAN
The front-of-house team isn’t only there to serve, but to create memorable and extraordinary experiences CÉLINE CHATTE JAAN
Service and food go hand in hand. You can have the best chef cooking the best food, but if the service isn’t good enough, the dining experience won’t be as memorable JIA LING ODETTE
I’ll approach guests and ask how their day was, instead of just asking about the food. In this way, I’ll create a more personal relationship with them, which they tend to appreciate VICTORIA VILCHEZ OLA COCINA DEL MAR AND TONO CEVICHERIA