In Search of Grace, the holy grail of hospitality

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Grace in action around the world (photos by Brad A. Johnson)

After nearly a year at the OC Register, I finally awarded my first 4-star rating. (See my review of Blossom in Las Vegas). Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found a restaurant in OC that lives up to the ultimate rating. If it were easy, lots of restaurants would do it. But it’s not. It’s hard. Very hard. Almost impossible.

People constantly ask me, “What is it going to take to get four stars?”

My answer is simple: grace.

Extraordinary food is a given. As is a great atmosphere appropriate for the concept being reviewed. And service must be appropriately polished for the venue. All of these things must be world-class and in sync. But the thing that remains most elusive is grace.

What is grace? Grace is consistently the most difficult aspect of hospitality to understand and achieve.

Grace is the pace at which staff move through the restaurant.

Grace is the confidence in a waiter’s delivery.

Grace is not merely the way a chef decorates a dish, but also the manner in which the busboy removes the dirty dish after it’s been eaten.

Grace is the noise – or lack thereof – that’s made when resetting tables.

Grace is not only the way someone answers the telephone, but the delivery of their apology if the restaurant is fully booked.

Grace is knowing how loudly to play the music.

Grace is the way a manager respects his or her employee in the presence of customers.

Grace is knowing when to interrupt a private conversation, and when to join it.

Grace comes from within. It is the ultimate expression of hospitality, from start to finish, and it’s one of the most difficult things to teach.

But when you experience it, you will know it. And you will understand why it’s a crucial element of the fourth and ultimate star.

The original version of this story appeared in the OC Register along with my 4-star review of Blossom in Las Vegas. 

 I invite you to follow me and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

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