The Audrey rule

The International Herald Tribune deserves to be more widely read, particularly the online edition. Not only does it have the best design of any newspaper on the web, with really useful features such as “Clippings”, but it also has some extremely knowledgeable writers on its staff, including Patricia Wells and Souren Melikian.

Yesterday the IHT published an article that warms the cockles of my heart. In London’s restaurant revolution Roger Collis wrote:

Today, eating out in London is better than eating out in Paris; food here has become some of the best in the world in a relatively short period of time – an incredible revolution, similar to that in New York, because of the nature of the way people live today and the diversity of ethnic food.

Good food in Britain is really not news these days. London in particular has had first rate restaurants for at least a decade. Instead the heart warming element of Collis’ article comes later when he quotes Tim and Nina Zagat, publishers of several well-known restaurant guides:

“…one thing that can destroy a good experience or make a modest experience into a good one is hospitality, not service, when you are made welcome by someone who looks like they’re glad to see you. Hospitality can make or break an experience. It’s the weak link everywhere we have surveyed – at any level. People are either nice or they’re not nice.”

Nina Zagat adds: “There are no schools for hospitality and training here or in the States as there are for chefs. Sixty-seven percent of complaints in our London survey related to service; while the combined complaints about the food, parking, smoking, noise, crowding, everything else, was only about 30 percent. That tells you the problem. The industry should hire nice people, hire for hospitality and understanding.

“Danny Meyer, who owns the Union Square Caf