How important is service in a restaurant to Tom Colicchio?

Service is extremely important in a restaurant. I always say that people will come to the restaurant for food, but they’ll come back for service. The number one reason someone comes back to a restaurant is recognition. I don’t care who you are, there’s always that moment when you walk into a restaurant and wonder, do they have my reservation? You think, “Please, they have to have it. I can’t go through this.”

And then you walk in and they say, “Hi, Mr. Smith, welcome back.” It’s over. You’re there. You’re there for life.

I think that service can be broken down into two things. There’s service, which is all the nuts and bolts around service — clearing and serving from the right side of the guest, making sure wine’s filled at the proper level, water is filled at the proper level, wine comes at the proper time, making sure that the silver is on the table for the correct course. Those are all the mechanics of service. But then there’s the other side of it, and that’s the hospitality side of it. And I think most of the time when people mention service, they’re talking about hospitality. I’ve been to restaurants where the service has been excellent and the hospitality is terrible.

You may look at that and say, “I didn’t like the service. It was stuffy,” or whatever. It’s the hospitality that they’re not getting. When a restaurant gets it right, they’re doing all those steps correctly plus they have the hospitality down. The hospitality side of it is the way that you’re treated, the way that you’re welcomed to a restaurant, the way you’re said goodbye to at a restaurant. It’s the reason why you’re going to make a decision to come back to this restaurant and spend your money again — because you felt good about the experience. You were happy when you left. That usually happens through great hospitality.

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