Saturday, September 18, 2010

What makes a great restaurant? The Pluckemin Inn

Ever ask what makes a great restaurant? What makes any business great for that matter? There are so many factors involved in each and every business that require specialized knowledge, attention, and expertise to make them run. But if there is one common thread through every success story, it is customer service. If you had to wake up each morning and ask yourself just one question, it should be "How do you take care of your customers?"
Today we got a first hand lesson, starting with a family school appointment that ended at about noon, leaving us hungry and looking for a place to eat. We were dressed a little more than on an average Saturday morning, and my son suggested perhaps a little nicer venue as it was also a special day. So we went to several favorite spots along our route home, selected for no other reason than their order of location along the route from Morristown. The first was closed for a private party, the second was closed for lunch on Saturdays, and then we arrived at one of my all time favorites, the Pluckemin Inn. We entered the restaurant to find a group of about 20 in the tavern room, but otherwise the restaurant was closed. When someone from the staff approached us (who,  in the interest of full disclosure I knew from some of our wine events there), he explained that they were closed until 5pm on Saturdays, with the exception today of the small private group in the bar who were just about to move down to a private room for lunch. We talked a second and I told him our story, to which he jokingly inquired why they were the third restaurant we stopped at! He thought about it a split second and said "tell you what, let me check in the kitchen and see what they can do" and promptly came back with an offer of crab cakes, burgers (great here!), steak frites (also great here), or personal pizzas. I demurred, not wanting to put them out, and the reply was a sincere and resounding "no trouble at all, we can't let you all go down the road hungry!" 
And so we had a great lunch, a couple of delicious and moderately priced glasses of wine from a favorite Burgundy producer, a couple of espressos, and left an hour later - happy, fully sated and grateful forever. And all this was done graciously, with no rush, no sense of the staff being put out at all - just plain old superb customer service. All this in a truly great restaurant where we have had numerous wine maker events where they seamlessly and easily create delicious menu to pair with the wines, where they have one of the finest selections of wines you will find anywhere from good everyday affordable hand crafted small growers to some of the greatest wines in the world. Yet there is no elitist snobbiness, no intimidation and no BS - simply a pleasant and sincere attitude of "How can I help you?"  Bravo!

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