When he heard a table of tourists at Eleven Madison Park longing for a New York hot dog to complete their trip to the city, then co-owner Will Guidara rushed into action.
So, in the middle of a lunch rush at the three Michelin-star restaurant in Flatiron years ago, he made a mad dash for a cart in Madison Square Park — and the kitchen plated the $2 staple, making it part of the three-figure tasting menu.
Guidara’s hyper-personalized hospitality was the inspiration for a similar scene in an episode of season two of Christopher Storer’s hit FX culinary dramedy “The Bear,” he told The Post.
Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), is tasked with racing across Chicago to secure a deep dish pizza after learning a table he’s serving has a daughter leaving town who wanted to try the Windy City’s signature pie.
The kitchen transforms the pie into edible art.
On “The Bear,” restaurant employees research their diners and surprise them with personalized plates and custom experiences — like conspiring to comp a couple’s meal after learning they’re both teachers who have been saving up for a fine-dining experience for years.
In real-life, Guidara’s dash to a hotdog stand was short-distance, but just as big a crowd-pleaser.
“I ran outside – brought it to the kitchen and we served it before their final savory course,” Guidara said, of plating the $2 weiner with EMP’s finest sauerkraut and mustard.
“[I said] ‘I want to make sure you don’t go home with any culinary regrets.’ This two dollar hot dog split four ways had more of an impact than any plate of lobster or caviar because it was unique to them,” Guidara said.
He details more accounts of stealthily customizing culinary experiences for diners and making it look effortless in his book “Unreasonable Hospitality”.
“You can learn a lot about people through a simple Google or Instagram search. It’s also about just being present enough to pick up on the cues and respond to all them,” Guidara said. “You want to do everything you can to serve people in a way that makes them feel seen.”
Scanning a guest’s social media to know their dietary restrictions, mining for milestone moments like weddings and anniversaries on Instagram, and Googling a guest’s name can take a meal from zero to three stars, restaurateurs and hospitality vets who have been doing just that for years, say.
“Our team takes extra care to get to know our clients, whether through previous stays or even scanning their social media to find out their likes – and we use this knowledge to surprise them with personalized touches,” Mehrsa Ghadiri, assistant director of food and beverage at The Carlyle on the Upper East Side told The Post.
The culinary magic starts with a coordinator scanning the list of reservations, then doing a social media digest to get a sense of favorite foods, dietary restrictions or a special occasion.
Instagram is how they learned one high profile diner celebrating a birthday was vegan.
Hours before the diner sat down for dinner inside the whimsical dining room at Dowling’s at the Carlyle the pastry chef prepared a vegan birthday cake without the guest even having to order it.
“Our team saw that they were posting about some dinners out and all the food items were vegan,” Ghadiri said.
Keeping track of a guest’s favorite dish and serving it even when it’s no longer officially available is another way restaurants cater to regulars, Ghadiri said.
On another recent evening for dinner at Dowling’s, staff planned ahead when they saw they would be serving a regular who adored its beef Wellington.
But the beef-in-pastry dish had been off the menu for six months, so they started preparing it 24 hours in advance.
Similarly, when New York City-based content creator and fashion blogger Sai De Silva vacationed near Cancun, Mexico at Rosewood Mayakoba recently, she was greeted with photos from her Instagram page arranged in edible chocolate frames as a welcome gift.
“When couples who celebrated a particular milestone at Rosewood Mayakoba — such as an engagement, wedding, or birthday — return to our property, guest services will research across their social media channels or connect with their event photographer to source photos of the couple from that visit,” Rosewood Mayakoba’s resort director Christian Gonzalez told The Post.
When De Silva saw the photos she was shocked — and flattered, sharing a snap of the custom gifts with her 400,000 followers and tagging the hotel in her Instagram story.
“This was so thoughtful!! All edible treats and photos they found on my IG feed,” she captioned the post.
Other restaurants, like Midtown’s Fresco By Scotto, pick up on the breadcrumbs diners leave behind about their favorite off-menu items. Then make them appear when they make a return reservation.
That was the case when a high-profile sports executive lamented about the restaurant not having a coconut sorbet on the menu.
“We keep a private stash for him when he comes in. Not putting it on the menu makes them feel even more special because they have insider knowledge,” Jenna Ruggiero, director of marketing and special projects at Fresco By Scott told The Post.
Sean Largotta, partner at Gansevoort Meatpacking Hotel in the Meatpacking district, dished about having to source an 18-year-old Japanese whiskey for a VIP guest who dines every two weeks.
“We now keep it behind the counter just for this guest because it’s so hard to find and its serve neat waiting at his spot at the counter,” Largotta told The Post of anticipating the guest’s favorite spirit.
Guidara, meanwhile, says it’s the little things that can make a big difference. He recalled another instance as Eleven Madison Park when his team scanned a guest’s Instagram handle to learn they were a bacon aficionado.
They had the chef rework their famous granola party favor to include bacon.
“They had an Instagram account that was all about an overwhelming love for bacon,” Guidara recalled of another instance at Eleven Madison Park where the pastry chef took an extra hour to customize the takeaway treat.
And, in an more “athletic hospitality” endeavor, Guidara learned a family of four dining at the restaurant from abroad had two kids who had never seen snow. He sent staffers to secure sleds and had a Central Park-bound SUV waiting for the family after they finished their meal.
“It’s a story they’ll have forever,” Guidara recalled. “It’s like a dopamine rush every single time.”
Source by [New York Post]