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Posts tagged as “Restaurant Review”

Customer Service

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SO, my primary job is working for this big software conglomerate and I want to make sure that I’m doing a good job so a frequent thing that I do is work later on some evenings “just a little bit harder than I want to” but I’ve found that if you do that too long you can burn out and so — GASP --- you need a way to stop yourself from doing too much.

My preferred technique, in recent years, is the OpenTable reservation. Later in the day, when I have SOME idea of when I might leave, I log in to OpenTable, set a reservation for one of my favorite restaurants, or a new restaurant, just late enough in the evening to still hit a coffeehouse and get some writing done. I know a few places which are open to 11, so if I can eat by 7:45, I can still get a couple hours of writing in. At worst, even at 8:30, I can get an hour of focus at a coffeehouse — assuming, of course, since I use that dinnertime to do my print reading, an hour for dinner.

Assuming an hour.

So tonight, I tried a new restaurant, Bird Dog in Palo Alto, and showed up 15 minutes early for my 8pm reservation (since I’d not been there before, and wanted a little buffer, and I’d finished my work anyway). They weren’t ready for me, so I sat in the bar, had a daiquiri, and read a chapter out of Peter Higgins’ NUMBERS: A VERY SHORT INTRODUCTION while listening to a very entertaining conversation between some very, very uppercrust ladies who just might have been minor celebrities. At a little after 8:10, the maître d’ came by to tell me a table would be ready soon. I finished the chapter, then pulled out THE EMOTION THESAURUS and started reading it.

At 8:30, I suddenly realized I’d been there three quarters of an hour and had not yet even been seated.

Shoot. Well, that happens. I packed my books up and asked the bartender for the check. He offered to comp me the drink, but I declined (since I was already running way late and thought I could probably get a quick slice at Pizza My Heart to get back on schedule). The waiter asked me to hang on a bit so he could check in at the host stand, and in moments, the maître d’ had arrived to show me to my table.

They comped my drink. They brought me roasted avocado and flatbread, pictured above. And all of the staff came by and apologized. But neither the comping, nor the apologies, were really needed, or were the deciding factor: when a problem was detected, they fixed it. Now, basically they gave me free appetizers and drinks, but I still had an expensive meal, and I’m likely to come back at least once, or to recommend it, or perhaps even blog about it --- how meta — so they’ll make their money back.

But what strikes me is that property of noticing a problem and expending a small amount of personal and financial capital to right it had far greater payoffs. They didn’t ignore the problem, or just toss stuff at me to paper it over; they fixed it, they acted sincere, and they delivered the rest of their normal service at high quality. I tried to be super nice in response, and I hope we all had a great meal. Their efforts to provide great customer service changed my attitude about the problem, and built a bond.

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Later at Coupa Cafe, one of my favorite coffeehouses, I struck up a conversation with one of the staff, and they recommended a new drink I could try. When I got it, the spectacular presentation of my personally recommended drink again reminded how great customer service doesn’t just have immediate benefits for the business; it creates relationships and attachments which are a perennial source of not just profit to the business --- which it does — but of connection in human lives.

And that’s what really makes it all worthwhile. That, and time to work on your books.

-the Centaur

Caffe Romanza @ Books Inc.

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pound cake and mocha frappe at caffe romanza

One of my favorite bookstore / cafe combinations in the whole world is Books Inc. I used to come here back when I only visited the Bay Area; I'd drive down from wherever I was staying, hang out next door for an hour in the fantastic used bookstore Bookbuyers, then wander over to inspect the new offerings at Books Inc before finishing off in the cafe upstairs.

books inc

It didn't just have good, sweet, frozen coffee-flavored beverages, it had a great upper seating area which was conducive to kicking back and working on a problem. I've written a lot of words and drawn a lot of drawings in this cafe.

coffeehousers at work

There's also an art gallery lining these walls, which my wife has shown in a few times. It really makes this a fun, exciting place to hang out and eat, drink, read, and write.

the art gallery upstairs at books inc

But as always, the ultimate test of a coffeehouse is the ample selection of power strips in which you can plug your laptops ... wait, what? Seriously, the ultimate test of a coffeehouse is the coffee ... and I think Caffe Romanza passes with flying colors:

the mocha frappe from caffe romanza

Did I mention the Mocha Frappe? Get yourself here.

-the Centaur

Canoe Exceeds Expectations

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Here's a draft from the past (11/30/05!) that never got published for some odd reason... probably because I was packing up for the move to California. Regardless, this is an abbreviated recollection of our date at Canoe.

Somehow, in our first three years worth of dating, my then-fiancee, now-wife and I had never been on a traditional "date" date. We'd gone dancing and had coffee, made each other dinner and eaten out dutch, climbed Stone Mountain and went canoeing, even slept on top of a building together to watch the sunrise - but never a "traditional" guy - asks - girl - out - for - dinner - at - a - nice - restaurant date.

Clearly it was high time.

SO, we made a night of it and dined at Canoe, and it exceeded all our expectations.

Sandi looked stunning in a red and black floral Puimond corset (from Madame S) and matching black flowing dress (from JC Penney's, proving you don't have to shop in San Francisco for style). I did my best to match in a red turtleneck, black leather jeans, and long leather coat from Stormy Leather, but Sandi was clearly the star of the show in her elegant ensemble and long flowing hair.

Canoe itself is in Vinings on the banks of the Chatahoochee, and riffs incessantly on its name: a fish-and-game heavy menu, canoe-shaped ceilings, and even little wooden paddles to stir your tea. As I recall, we both had fish; while the menu has no doubt changed I had something like the peppered Alaskan halibut, which now comes with mushrooms, sugar snap peas and giant couscous, and Sandi had the grilled salmon, which now comes with wilted baby spinach, spaghetti squash and carrot saute. I don't remember precisely whether this is what we got, but from the ingredient list alone these are "high schema" Sandi and Anthony meals, and I seem to recall the giant couscous being really delicious. Of course memories can be inaccurate, but I remember it being tasty.

The service was similarly stunning: the waitstaff was very attentive, our tea was rapidly refilled, and no-one gave the goth couple from San Francisco guff over her tight corset and his long leather vest coat. (OK, technically we were living in Atlanta then, but we had gotten engaged in San Francisco at a goth / industrial / fetish dance club, and a few months later we moved out here. The point is, while we looked very formal and very sharp, we didn't look very Vinings, and they still treated us wonderfully).

And I'd say more, but I now remember why this post didn't get posted: we took pictures, and I'm pretty sure they all went missing for some reason. Ah well.

It was still a fantastic restaurant, and exceeded our expectations.

Go check it out!
-the Centaur