Zippy wraps it up
Here is the conclusion of Zippy Tips for arranging group tours. Some of them are applicable for the consumer. I love what she says about insisting that the manager, or owner, BE there, and VISIBLY so.
Step # 7
After I pay the bill, and if the restaurant is generally acceptable, I ask to speak with the owner. If he isn't there, I want to see the manager or the chef. If the chef comes out of the kitchen wearing a filthy apron, note that.Say, Please sit down. I want to bring a group to your restaurant. hen shut up and note his reaction. Continue making notes. Say little. Listen a lot. Can he handle a group? Wheredoes he usually seat them? He will want to know the day and time, is that manageable for him or will the kitchen be so busy with regular guests? I need for my group to be in and out in 90 minutes, will that work? Any longer and it disturbs the rhythm of the tour I'm doing. More than 90 minutes is too long for people to sit and they will eat too much and be uncomfortable for the afternoon part of the tour.
Step # 8
I don't like what I call "pushed together" tables. I want the tables to be left alone, in configurations of 4 or perhaps 6 but no more to a table.Conversations flow better with small tables. It's more likely that everyone will get a chance to talk. At long tables the loud-mouth generally takes over and shy people are unable to speak. I like a service where there is a salad in the middle of the table when we arrive and people help themselves. If you do not eat tomatoes, someone else will. By encouraging this sharing of food, it prompts casual conversation. So I like my first course to be a help yourself course. A bread tray goes along with the salad and butter or at Ikaros a good olive oil with their warm bread. Does it seem okay with him for me to specify what I want and why I want it? I'm willing to listen to him but he's got to be responsive to me as well. I know how to handle groups in restaurants
Step # 9
I tell him that I need for him to be in the restaurant, visible to me, during the 90 minutes that we are there. Can I count on this? I know things will go smoothly if he is visible, because if something should go wrong, HE will fix it and make it right and if that happens before I am even aware of it, so much the better. I tell him that I will call him several times to confirm our reservation. I call a week before, and several days before, and the morning of the day we will be there. I let him know whether my bus is on time at our prior stops on the tour. I aim to be at the restaurant within 5 or 10 minutes of the time of the reservation. And I often ask that he be outside to greet us with a smile and a "So glad you are here!" I also want him to be available as we are leaving, and saying something like: "You're leaving? So soon?" I want a smile, a sincere smile.
Step # 10
I need to know, if I have never taken a group to this restaurant, how long they have been in business. Something about its history. Reviews and where published, although I will go to a restaurant without hesitation even if it has never or rarely been reviewed. I make my own decisions. Restaurants start up and go out of business all the time, and I want to try to get a feel for their plans. I know why restaurants fail. Are there long term employees? Who runs the back of the house? Who runs the front?
I tell my people on the bus that if they taste one morsel of food and it is not to their liking, tell me or the owner immediately and we will change it.
Well done, Zippy Larson -- thank you!
Baltimore Sun Staff/Jed Kirschbaum