“Will You Be Dining Alone?”

Many of us feel it’s still a taboo to dine out alone in the UK, but in this age of computerised gadgets, when people only ever half listen to a conversation often while looking at a screen, could this still be true?

dining-aloneMost people do usually have friends they could ask, although this is probably where the taboo started, the awkward fear someone appears lonely. However nowadays this could often not be further from the truth. Many people would love to escape to a communication free zone, for just a couple of hours, where nobody expects anything of you, and you can simply enjoy a meal and the ambiance of your surroundings. If it works for train carriages then why not restaurants?!

With this in mind, a new solo eatery in Amsterdam recently opened up specifically for this purpose; no Wi-Fi connection and with only single tables and chairs for solitary dining. Eenmaal is a temporary restaurant in Amsterdam that claims to be the world’s first restaurant catering purely to solo diners. No couples, no families, no groups of chattering friends allowed. It may be the first of many new restaurants of this nature, and a revolution in the dining experience.

There are many that think it’s a trend following on from ‘no reservation dining’ establishments that has led to this spur in dining alone, and while this could be partly true, it’s also a reflection on the contemporary make-up of our lives, and it is after all the demands of our lifestyles which make these changes happen.

Our busy lives never allow us just to stop for a minute, and take stock for ourselves, to tune out and tune in to just the here and now can be so refreshing.

Restaurateur Russell Norman speaking to the Independent in April stated “I think more and more places are welcoming solo diners because they make up a very significant percentage of the restaurant-going public,” says the restaurateur behind London’s Polpo . . . “The stigma that used to be attached to dining alone has now gone and we are comfortable in our own company or with a newspaper or a novel.. We positively encourage people to come in solo.” 

While a recent review on trip adviser for the Retro Bistrot says it all really.

‘I attended on my own for a jazz dinner and was warmly welcomed by both the staff and band coordinator. Without writing lots of superlatives I simply had an amazing evening of sublime music, beautiful cuisine and caring service. I will without doubt return and recommend you try the cuisine at the very least if not a jazz dinner. . .Simply sublime’ 5 of 5 stars.

Trip adviser has recommendations for dining alone in London so why not give it a go.

And of course we will welcome you with open arms at Retro Bistrot at any time of the day or evening. Our popular jazz evenings are on the final Tuesday of every month if you like music and a sense of communal entertainment.

Drop in, phone or book ahead via our reservations page: http://www.retrobistrot.co.uk/reservations/

We look forward to seeing you soon.

The Retro Team

PS:  Naturally we don’t discriminate against anyone wanting to bring a friend or five…!!

The Art of the Maître D

Do you get the service you should when dining out in a restaurant? Does bad service spoil the joy even if the food is good? Maybe it’s time to focus on the service rather than the cult of the celebrity chef…

As a UK audience our appetite for finding out about cooking, baking, celebrity chefs, and the restaurant industry as a whole is now a true phenomenon. The recent BBC television programme ‘The Restaurant Man’ following start up restaurant businesses with the help of multiple restaurant owner Russell Norman, along with programmes like Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, are testament to our increased interest and need for insight into the dining experience.

Perhaps we all harbor a little dream of owning our own pub or restaurant somewhere lovely and making a living, however these programmes most definitely help us to understand the difficulties involved.

We all love eating out and according to Mintel research it’s estimated that British consumers spent £32 billion in 2013 dining out. However, Mintel’s research into consumer behaviour has also seen a decline in the number of times Brits are eating out compared to a year ago, and approximately a quarter of consumers claimed they have reduced the amount they spend when they do visit a restaurant. (www.mintel.com) However the research organisation does suggest that a ‘renewed focus on the basic principle of emphasising the ‘experience of eating out, should help operators reclaim market share’.

With this in mind, the role at ‘front of house’ in restaurants could in fact be more important than simply the food. The head waiter or maître d’ is indeed the ‘point of sale’ marketer for any restaurant; they help to draw customers in, put them at ease and facilitate their ability to enjoy the overall dining experience in the aim of continued custom.

 “There’s a real art to managing the dining experience and it’s vastly underestimated. A maître d’ needs to know everything about their customer; have an excellent memory, top diplomacy skills and an ability to manage both kitchen and restaurant,” says our very own Vincent Gerbreau, maître d’, Retro Bistrot

This level of diplomacy between customer and kitchen must truly be an art in itself, and maybe it’s the meet and greet we remember more than the food itself. As long as the food is at a good standard, the overall package of the experience of dining at the restaurant has to also be good to generate a lasting impression. This is often overlooked in the television programmes to the detriment of the restaurants being shown. It’s something the experienced restaurateurs know when then offer advice, that front of house has to be professional and in constant communication with the kitchen about the needs of the customers. This juggling act is not an easy task at all and something to truly marvel at when done well.

Come and marvel at our be-quiffed Retro Bistrot maître d’ today, and try some of our exquisite food while you’re here, we promise you a great experience that will have you coming back for more. We weren’t awarded Highly Commended for Best Service in the local Time & Leisure Food and Drink Awards for nothing!

Vincent-Maitre-d