At least one restaurant secret is right out in the open. Think about how you feel when you walk into a restaurant. The experience doesn't begin when the food arrives at your table; it begins the moment you walk in the door, with that intangible quality called ambiance. The sight of a well-set table, with a crisp white tablecloth, shining silverware, fresh flowers or glowing candles makes you feel welcomed, expected and fussed-over. The smell of baking bread encourages you to take in deep breaths of enjoyment. Background music helps set the emotional mood.
"At all of my restaurants, the staff and I work very hard to make the meal a wonderful dining experience," says Emeril Lagasse, chef and owner of Emeril's in New Orleans and several other restaurants around the United States. "We pay a lot of attention to detail, we want our guests to be comfortable and to enjoy good wines . . . I want to tantalize all the senses -- sight, smell, taste, and feel."
And when the server finally brings your food to the table, what's the first thing you do? You gaze at it!
"Chefs know that we eat with our eyes," says Joey Altman. "An attractive presentation actually makes food taste better."