One of the most appealing things to me about being in the restaurant business is that you have a chance to share a real generosity. It seems to me that to be truly successful as a restaurant owner, a chef, a dining room leader, a sommelier, or any other position in the hospitality/service world, you have to be someone that absolutely and completely gives from the heart. And not just because you think that it might be “the right thing to do,” but because it genuinely comes from within.
At Trotter’s, we charge our patrons by way of something that I refer to as “price of admission.” That is, once you’re in, and you’ve chosen your menu (Grand, Vegetable, Red Wine, Kitchen Table, Raw, Spontaneous) and your wine(s), then there are no other charges.
If you finish your “wine by the glass” before you’ve finished your food, more is poured. If you’re still hungry, we keep bringing plates of savory food until you say, “Enough!” If you still have a half-bottle of red wine left going into dessert, we’ll bring cheese and, oh, by the way, we’ll bring cheese anyway if you even bring it up. Bottled water (Fiji or Pellegrino) is poured automatically, right when you sit down. Cappuccino, espresso, tea … drink all you want. Desserts? You have a sweet tooth? We’re just going to continue to bring them. It seems that’s what the dignity of this field is all about. Charge what is appropriate, then don’t be stingy—be generous!
I read a great story about the brilliant Fernand Point, the founder and chef of La Pyramide. He once saw a young couple in his dining room that clearly couldn’t afford the experience. For him, there was no question about it—no check. We’ve followed his lead and done that here about 200 times. Recently we had three young Navy cadets in, in full uniform, by the way. Obviously there was no way they could get a bill. That’s about the 50th time we’ve hosted members of the armed forces.
I guess the bottom line is this—it’s never about the money, it’s always about making sure it comes from the heart.