Ingredients, furnishings, and service details can delight guests hungry not just for good food, but also fresh luxury. Something as simple as offering to take your coat to orchestrating the kitchen and waitstaff to ensure plates are dropped in front of every guest at each table in perfect synchrony can make or break a restaurant experience.
Living here in San Francisco, we're lucky enough to have a competitive environment where restaurants are always reaching for fresh new ideas to inspire. Here are a few of them, some newer than others.
1. House filtered water, sparkly or still? Everyone wants to jump onto the green bandwagon, and so restaurants are not only serving organic local produce, but also taking high carbon-footprint beverages like bottled water off the menu in favor of filtering and carbonating their local tap water.
2. Wine is off the table. After the traditional opening, the bottle is kept off the table and poured for you by staff as your glass drains. This one's a double-edged sword. When done well, it makes you feel like the center of the universe, but if the service isn't crisp, it can feel laggy and awkward when your glass is empty and you're wanting a nip.
3. The empty bread basket. Food-focused restaurants with upstart chefs don't want you to waste your palette on a loaf, they'd rather you enjoy an amuse bouche or a shot of some exotic cocktail concoction from the bar before settling in to consider the menu.
4. House-cured charcuterie, pickles, and jerkies. Look for house-cured meats and vegetables from salmon to salumi. Preserving meats and vegetables is labor and space intensive, but more and more restaurants are foraying into old-world preservation techniques.