How important is service in a restaurant to David Chang?

I do feel that service is very important. For instance, I think it’s a lost art. Nobody wants to be a captain anymore, career server, ma�tre d’. So when I go to per se, for instance, or the French Laundry or Daniel or Le Bernardin, you see the servers in action and you’re like, “This is why I choose not to do fine dining,” because there’s no way I could get this choreographed. It is so difficult, and I don’t think people realize when the plates are down, everyone’s doing it at the same time — no spilling, no nothing. That end of it is unbelievably difficult to do.

That’s an aspect of the restaurant world that I didn’t really care too much about. A restaurant I worked at, I remember being told that food was the third most important thing. Service is number one and décor was number two, and I was like, “Wait a second. You’re holding an entire staff meeting and you’re telling us we’re the third most important element?” I could have taken it out in the wings, like, “Well, service is everything.” Or, “I want to elevate the food and I don’t really care too much about the service.” So that’s something that we did at our restaurants for a number of years is not really care too much about the service.

All I want in my servers is to get the food hot to the customers that want it hot, get the food cold to the customer that want it cold, and know what they’re ordering. So, good service was good enough for me. But as we’ve grown, we realize what worked for us in the past doesn’t necessarily work for us in the future. We’ve tried and constantly investing in our servers to be more knowledgeable about wines, about the food, about the restaurant in general. No matter how delicious your dish is, if it doesn’t get to the customer in a timely fashion and if the server don’t know how to explain the dish, then all our work goes up in smoke.

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