You never forget the first time you walk into a restaurant and the hostess calls you by name. Your server remembers your favorite entrée. The chef makes a point to visit you during the meal.
There’s a special feeling that comes from being known.
The restaurant owners and managers we met on Day 3 of our Los Angeles Raves & Faves tour know the customers who walk through their door. They know what they want and where they like to sit. And, they know themselves. It’s a pretty dynamic combination.
At Versailles Cuban Food, this means they focus on authentic Cuban cuisine. Period.
Menu items were chosen years ago by founder Orlando Garcia, a Cuban-born chef and father of current owner William Garcia (pictured here with his sons, Jovan and Jordon, and who also work in the business). Versailles still uses his original recipes for vibrant, flavorful entrées including the Versailles Famous Garlic Chicken and the Camarones Enchilados – Shrimp in Creole Sauce (pictured).
The menu hasn’t varied since the Garcia family opened the first Versailles location in 1981. ‘Our items are true Cuban style,’ says Garcia. ‘They are things you can’t get unless your mother or grandmother makes them.’
The only change has been a trimming of menu items, down from a massive list of Cuban specialties to a still-ample selection of patron favorites. This way, repeat customers get the dishes they crave, while those new to Versailles aren’t faced with an overwhelming list of choices. Everything on the menu is guaranteed to satisfy.
‘This is not a gourmet restaurant,” adds Garcia. “It’s a family style restaurant where anyone can come in. It’s a Mom and Pop store.’
Also be sure to check out the diner-style counter at the Culver City location. It’s a favorite of the customers. We met one local who has never sat anywhere else!
At Arroyo Chop House in Pasadena, people also know what to expect. On the night of our visit, they had a sold out house—something that General Manager Patrick Kirchen attributes to knowing exactly who and what they are.
‘We’re a local joint—yes, it’s an upscale environment, but we have a lot of regular guests who come in and know our staff. It’s like their second home. That’s what we try to create,’ he tells us.
It starts with the greeting. The hostess knows many of the customers personally, and knows the tables at which they prefer to sit. After all, she grew up in the community. ‘They can call and say, ‘Hey, Erica, it’s Mike;’ and, she knows who it is, knows their preferred table, and what they like to order,’ says Kirchen.
Arroyo is also all about the prime beef. In 12 years of doing business, Arroyo has never served a steak that was not graded USDA prime. ‘It’s a commitment to quality and excellence,’ says Kirchen, ‘Customers want the best quality, best flavor. That exemplifies what our restaurant is all about.’
Arroyo is one of few restaurants to serve a USDA prime tenderloin. The result is a melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon and a Cowboy Rib-eye (pictured) that top the list of menu favorites.
‘The challenge is meeting the needs of the customers you do know, while making every effort to get to know the customers who are walking in your door for the first time,’ says Kirchen. ‘We have regulars and those who come once a year for a celebratory dinner; both deserve the same level of service.’
Both of these restaurants have an eclectic group of customers to please. Today we spotted dancing Santa hats alongside couples in formal dinner wear. Businessmen intently talking, while families gathered at the next table. We even met a man who, for 25 years, has driven his rental car straight from the airport to Versailles every time he is in L.A.
The secret is focus. Both restaurants know who they are. They know their customers. And now they know us.
We’ll be the ones asking for that table in the corner.