Photo of the Grand Cafe in San Francisco.
When Iwas a boy Iused to love picking out the perfect outfit for my mom. Her purple pants-suit was my absolute favorite (I actually dressed up in it once - it was my first, and only, experience with drag!) Like most other gay men, I've always had an eye for style and beauty. Beauty is big business. And when it comes to restaurants - everything must be beautiful - the food, the room and the staff.
People eat with their eyes first. Food that looks good tastes better. Scientific studies have shown that people eat less when food is dyed uncomfortable colors - blue mashed potatoes anyone? Even if it tastes the same no one wants to eat food that looks unappetizing. Tell that to the bride-zillas of America! Chefs are artists and when they create gorgeous feasts - we ooh and ahh as we savor every bite.
And then there's the restaurant itself. Before even touching the food, guests base expectations on what they see when they walk through the doors. Each piece of furniture or decorative art should come together and create a cohesive vibe that reinforces the overall concept and experience. If you are in the Grand Cafe in San Francisco, you should feel as if you have walking into a fabulous brasserie in Paris.
Settings should match service - a casual atmosphere sets the expectation for casual service and vice versa - white tablecloths and polished silver dictate that servers refill wine and water glasses more often and that everyone at the table be served in unison. One of my favorite examples of settings matching the experiences are the David Burke restaurants on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. David's style and whimsy come through in every touch point.
Finally, restaurants need to remember that they are always judged by their cleanliness - from the menu paper, to the uniforms, right down to the restrooms. An unkempt restroom, like a guy with his shirt half-untucked or a gal with way too much make-up, is sloppy and unappealing. When guests experience this, they make the assumption that the kitchen is also a mess and the food will be unappetizing.
If beauty is indeed in the eyes of the beholders, restaurants have a lot of beholders to please. Taste doesn't always mean flavor - often, it means good judgment and a keen appreciation of style.