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Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
A Keith McNally institution with bubbling ambiance & classic bistro fare…there is no better place to meet up with confidantes, impress guests, or feel a smidge like a celebrity (and potentially spot some). To put it simply, Balthazar’s customer love is like being hosted at somebody’s house for an elegant dinner party. You don’t enter a restaurant, you enter a bubbly world of imbibing champagne conversations and excitement. Despite the relatively high-end clientele, there is no discrimination at the front door (prices, equally, aren’t low, but very accessible). The maitre d' hasn’t a trace of a chip on his shoulder or feel overly empowered the way lots of douchebag maitre d’s do. He just wants to seat you—efficiently, politely, with grace.
I cannot think of a single time I’ve gone and haven’t felt special, and more alive when leaving. This is without a doubt, the effect of the customer service. God, they’re just so pleasant. And not pleasant like clerk-at-the-Marriott-front-desk-pleasant…. Pleasant, again, like your friend hosting you for dinner. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how they’re trained. I have never, ever, felt badly, for example, about being “served” at Balthazar’s. They genuinely seem to feel good about what they are doing. Perhaps they are lifetime waiters, I’m not sure, and truly enjoy the industry, or perhaps they’re just selected with very specific criteria, but I feel friendly with them—the waiters, bartenders, everyone—and not in a disingenuous way, ie, it doesn’t go too far. Just enough nice conversation, but never intrusive. You can have an entire dinner without even noticing them, or gladly engage them, and the moment you think about a new water glass, a clean fork, or have dropped your napkin, its already there waiting for you. It is just anticipation? Or is it magic? :)
[An aside: I’m cutting the cross-category lines with this post. Comparing customer love at a restaurant to customer love coming from a corporate hotline isn’t exactly fair. But I’ve seen the “hostess” mentality of restaurants and hotels applied to other industries very successfully (read: retail…Anthropolgie, a future post for sure), but perhaps still not a fair comparison because corporate hotlines are simply not in the flesh, and there is an intangibility that comes with looking someone in the eye. So, admittedly, if not a fair comparison, perhaps just a plea for more corporate hotlines to take a clue from the restaurant industry—treat me like a Balthazar’s restaurant customer, you, hotlines, you!]
The last time I went, with an intimate group, both my bartender and waitress were women, which is less common. “Oh gosh,” I thought, “Here we go, my perception of Balthie’s is going to change, and they’re going to be bitchy” as it’s hard not to find a waitress without a grudge…but these women, were, to put it mildly, fantastic. They totally humored my over-excitement with the menu, where many waitresses would sneer. They treated me NOT like another woman (women are so good at that) but simply. A non-issue.
I’d really love to work there for a day, and watch the behind the scenes “operations waltz” of this place...perhaps I’m a little biased, as it was three years ago today when I sat in one of the booths by the bar and had drinks for the first time with my now boyfriend. I credit him with my introduction to this little haven that I am now a major advocate of.