In the world of fine dining, the food may be the focus, but the customer is king. That’s certainly the case at New York’s exclusive Eleven Madison Park, where professional servers iron table linens and polish silver before diners arrive. Like any three Michelin-star establishment, they want to ensure that guests will be as comfortable as possible even before they sit down to eat. While this includes primping that is common at other elite eateries, the maître d’ at Eleven Madison Park takes an extra step in his prep that many diners don’t expect.
Every afternoon before dinner service, Justin Roller sits in his back office Googling the names of everyone with a reservation that evening. The idea is to create a familiarity with guests that will make their dining experience even more coddled and immersive. However, Roller is not just looking up names and faces so he can greet guests when they walk through the door. The maître d’ searches for deeper details about his guests’ interests so he can truly “wow” them. For instance, if Roller discovers that a couple is going out for their anniversary, he’ll find out which specific one they’re celebrating. He also keeps an eye out for people who are pictured wearing chef’s whites or holding wine glasses. Since these patrons likely know a thing or two about fine dining, they’ll receive a more advanced explanation of the evening’s menu from their server.
Roller’s research can get even more exhaustive. Guests with an interest in jazz will find themselves paired with a server who can pick their brain about John Coltrane. Even the location of a patron’s hometown can lead to an opportunity for above-and-beyond service. “If I find out a guest is from Montana, and I know we have a server from there, we’ll put them together,” said Roller. In order to handle all this information, Eleven Madison Park servers need to be charming, intelligent and supremely skilled at their jobs. In fact, the training manual for front-of-house duties weighs in at 97-pages. With such a dedication to service, Roller wants customers to have as memorable an experience waiting for their food as eating it.
- Why does Eleven Madison Park go to such lengths to offer extraordinary service?
- How have online sources contributed to the efforts of Eleven Madison Park?
Source: Alan Sytsma, “Hardcore Coddling: How Eleven Madison Park Modernized Elite, Old-School Service,” Grub Street, April 9, 2014. Photo courtesy of Ryan Travels.