When the sign went bright boasting Foodies and Fashionistas meet at the new Westfield Centre in San Francisco last week few knew of the culinary extravaganza that awaited in the space referred to as the basement before being dubbed the food court
Having experienced the foodie Wow! factor when Mall of America opened in Minnesota, I thought I knew what to expect when Westfield opened. I was wrong. As expressed yesterday, the food court is a pleasant surprise. The real jewel however is Bristol Farms. The 15 store chain of upscale grocery stores has San Franciscans, along with visiting Iowans, Floridians, Europeans and fashionable foodinistas dropping their jaws and filling their mouths with delectables from a variety of preparation stations throughout the store.
Culinarians of all levels prepare chocolate dipped fruit- strawberries, apricots, pears and the like- chefs carve pastrami that looks as though it could almost give Katz´s Deli a run for first place sans pickles and the less boisterous personality of the carvers.
The salad bar borders on organic. The roasted potatoes were picture perfect. And, the charcuterie case, filled with cured meats that could make Mario Batali´s dad´s mouth water where he not selling the best cured meats in America at Seattle´s Salume, was one of the most appealing I have seen since leaving Manzano Grande.
And, the gourmet product line is so large that it makes you want to move to the neighborhood just so you can shop at the store daily.
So what does this mean to restaurateurs? Our competition is no longer the packed house down the street. These carvers are not slicing meat- they are slicing the bucks that the restaurant owner would have been getting if the line at Bristol Farm´s roasted nut case- with a selection of eight different warm, roasted varieties- were not quite so lengthy. Cash flow with bristol style at this store.
And although the crowd packed in as though it were New Year´s Eve in Times Square the staff at Bristol Farms showed superlative customer service skills. Dave Miller, a Bristol Farms customer service manager had a lot to do with this. He is one of the trainers constantly fine tuning the staff.
Do the red and white checked shirts fit in? No. The store is more casually elegant than that. But who am I to say that the uniforms that the company adopted years ago doesn´t work?
What does work- the store is doing massive volume. And, that means the money is coming out of the pockets of the restaurants where the customers would have eaten.
Superior customer service, great presentation, creative menu, consistent food style and taste, standardized uniforms, continual training, and a bit of theatrics. Sound familiar? It should – it´s the foundation of a successful restaurant.