in Sketchbook

Concept: The Food Guide


At the most expensive and sophisticated restaurants, the service tends to be the same as in a diner, just more refined and thorough. But it could be quantitatively different. Elite restaurants feature exotic ingredients and preparation that require an experienced fork and palette to appreciate, expertise many of us don’t possess and for which the menu and momentary description by the server doesn’t suffice.

Enter the Food Guide. In addition to the conventional service, a food guide would join you at the table and guide you through the meal. She would describe the chef’s philosophy, where the ingredients originated, how the meal was prepared, how to eat it, what tastes to tune in, etc. At this level of restaurant, the patrons have no presumption of conducting business or chit-chat; the food is the focus and the restaurant provides a food-centric experience.

  1. Interesting idea. I like the intervention of a person to enhance the perception (and experience) of the quality of the food.

    I think there’s an interesting brand challenge if the guides are seen as “hired hands.” Any experience I can map this to involves someone in a restaurateur or chef role – someone who is responsible for the decisions the restaurant has made about what is in certain dishes. And that doesn’t map to each table the way you are describing.

    I could imagine the server role being escalated to guiding you through the food selection and consumption process. They don’t do any food delivering or dish clearing, but they might, say, debone a fish or other high-skill demonstrable food skill.

  2. Steve,

    Good points. When I wrote it I had in mind Per Se in New York, and at this price point they could conceivably double their staff of cooks: half would be on cooking duty and the other half would on guide duty. So you would have a Per Se-trained cook at your table. Not too shabby. While this person couldn’t take credit for why the food was that way, she could sincerely use the first-person plural: “We prepare the oyster cocktail by first submersing the oyster in champagne…”

    Other restaurants might want to provide a guide and yet don’t have Per Se’s resources. They could simply augment their cooking staff and the guide would spend a portion of the meal with you, then leave you alone to enjoy the food.

    I leave the financial model and the prototype as an exercise for the reader. Or maybe Whitney will work it out.

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