Scotland has countless stories of people going out of their way to offer a warm welcome and exceed visitor expectations. However there are also plenty of such of hungry customers being turned away, seconds after lunchtime officially ends.
The establishments doing that are in the wrong business. Hospitality always means going above and beyond rather than doing the bare minimum.
For proof of that look no further than Chris Corbin and Jeremy King. For more than four decades their restaurants have delivered the gold standard of hospitality in the heart of London. Unexpectedly, that doesn’t mean sky high prices.
Brasserie Zedel has a two course menu for £12 featuring steak and chocolate tart, on offer just yards from the tourist mecca that is Piccadilly Circus. They could treble the prices and still be packed but they won’t because that wouldn’t be “welcoming to guests and visitors”.
Many an eating pleasure has become a secret shame – Stephen Jardine
The real star of their show is The Wolseley, located next to The Ritz in a renovated car showroom. When you walk in, it’s as if time has been paused. On Armistice Day at 11am, service stops and staff in their black and white uniforms stand stiffly to attention. It’s only
been open since 2003 but The Wolseley feels like it has been there for ever. In London it’s the best place to spot famous faces. Celebrities love it but they don’t go for special treatment because everyone gets that at The Wolseley, they go because it is just so good.
It was sunny the last time I visited but by the time I came to leave the heavens had opened.
On the way out I was handed an umbrella. I explained I was going for the tube to the airport so wouldn’t be able to return it and they smiled and wished me a good day….”the act of being friendly to guests and visitors”.
But for how much longer? Last week Corbin and King were ousted from their empire when they lost a battle for control with a major Thai hotel group who had previously invested in the business. It thanked the pair and wished them success but said the emphasis would now
be on ‘driving growth’.
We all know where that leads. From Carluccios to Jamie’s Italian, from Zizzi to Café Rouge the drive from growth has been seen so many restaurant chains crash and burn in recent years.
Hospitality and institutional investors rarely make good bedfellows but there is something shiny about the restaurant sector that the cash rich seem unable to resist. So expect a branch of The Wolseley down your way soon with everything except the hospitality.
But why does that matter in a world where Ukraine is on fire and there are so many more pressing issues than a good fish pie? At it’s heart, hospitality is about decent human values, about looking after people the best you can and about treating people the way you would
Every time the rich investors dismiss it as being unquantifiable and unimportant, we lose a little bit of what makes us care about each other. Right now, that has never been more important.
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