What does Brian Canlis think makes a successful restaurant?

I think restaurants that understand the necessity of relationships with guests. What’s happening is that hospitality is turning into a transaction. It’s like you come and you sit down, I’ll give you good service and you give me a tip, then we both go our separate ways. It rings so untrue. Great service is actually being authentic and humble, and entering into relationships at the table and bringing yourself. People have to understand that you actually have to give up yourself in order to serve the guest properly.

To me, the key is great service. Food is a rule of the game. The food has to be amazing; if it’s not, you won’t win. In a soccer game, if you kick the ball out of bounds, the other team gets the ball — that’s a rule — and eventually, you’ll lose. But you don’t not kick the ball out of bounds to win the game. At halftime, the coach would never say, “Hey guys, let’s go out there” — it’s tied and it’s the World Cup — “this half, we’re going to not kick the ball out of bounds.” The whole team would be like, “Are you serious?”

The strategy to win is relationship, serving the guest in an authentic way. The food has to be amazing; but the service has to be exquisite. The most common complaint in the country about restaurants is always service. People never remember what they ate; they remember how you made them feel. I think Danny Meyer said that — that’s not me. Successful restaurants make people feel wonderful. They feed them amazing food; but they make them feel great. That is a successful restaurant. And that isn’t necessarily fine dining; that can be a sandwich shop.

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