This is going to sound, I don’t know, kind of entitled? But I’m going to bitch about a restaurant experience. Sorry. I just need to catalogue this so I won’t forget some of the details of a really badly designed experience. I never want to duplicate this in any of the work we do, ever.
Su wanted to try Parson’s Chicken and Fish tonight because it’s from the same team behind Longman & Eagle down the street from our house, which we visit pretty frequently. The service there is fantastic, the flow through the restaurant is really nicely considered, and it’s a gorgeous experience all the way around. It’s comforting to be there.
Since we’ve been working with Matthias Merges and all his folks at Yusho and Billy Sunday, I’ve become more aware of what good service and experience design really is. I’ve gotten to be a real fan of truly amazing service and restaurant flow, which ensures that you will be comfortable, you will be immaculately served, and so on. The way Matthias’ floor staff works, the servers are rained to be attentive, alert, graceful, and above all, invisible.
Our visit with Parson’s tonight was the exact opposite. The design of the restaurant is longish booths set up in family style seating, and it’s loud. There’s room for about six at a table. The table design is terrible for family seating because you’re intimidatingly close to the people across from you, who you’ll probably not know (we didn’t), and there’s quite a few spots where, if someone needs to leave their setting, at least four other people have to get up, which was causing quite a few traffic jams around us.
You’re so close to total strangers that you have to acknowledge them, and the space is so confined that there is no other place to direct your attention but at your fellow diners. It’s uncomfortable because you want to be gracious, you want to be courteous to your fellow diners, and you’re so close to them that you will be a complete ass if you ignore them—meaning this restaurant was designed to force you to be social. Never mind that quite a few people hate being social.
On top of that, since the service staff has to stand at the head of the table, the diners on the end will quite often have a torso or an arm in their face as the staff tries to reach dishes to folks sitting towards the back of the booth. It’s pretty awful.
About the service staff being invisible: they weren’t, by a long shot. And their manner was so, I don’t know, a cartoon representation of what these kids thought good service was. While waiting for a table, Su and I plopped at the bar for a drink, and then read on our phones, because, who cares? It’s dead time. When the host grabbed us for our table, the bartender gave this weird flourish our way and exclaimed, “it’s been a real pleasure, gentlemen!” which, obviously it wasn’t because we hadn’t said more than please and thank you to him. It was so fake. I’m always put off by someone making an overly grand gesture at me, and I’m even more put off by someone being openly emotionally dishonest.
Anyway. No moral to the tale, like I said. Just cataloguing.