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An Interview with Andra Zeppelin

Pass this one along to your restaurant managers because we had the chance to chat with Andra Zeppelin, a food writer and the food editor for Eater Denver. It's her job to share about restaurants, and she let us in on the things that really matter to a professional diner. 

Andra is the food editor at Eater Denver where she reports food, drink, and restaurant news. "At Eater Denver, I try to be as matter-of-fact as possible. Our focus in on news not reviews or commentary. My descriptions are mostly factual because of our general approach, but my personality aligns philosophically with that idea. I trust my reader to understand a restaurant or a dish from the elements and facts that surround it." 

She also has her own blog, which she began after completing law school and passing the bar to foster her love of writing. "Food writing is fun! Little by little, I began contributing to local publications, then nearly two years ago became the food editor at Eater Denver," she said. "I love that I have the pulse of our local dining scene and I really appreciate that I have the ability to shed light on the work of chefs and restaurants I truly believe in."

Up front: What are the most important elements of a dining experience? 

Service, service, and service. It is the only thing that can save anything else. It is what separates a great restaurant from a good one. Attracting quality staff, training such staff appropriately, and retaining it long term is crucial to a restaurant's success. The foundation of the restaurant has to be there: good food, nice ambiance, but the quality of the service is the game changer. Treating staff like being a server is a career choice -- compensating them reasonably, offering reasonable benefits, etc, would help retain them long-term. They then become part of the family, part of the fabric of a restaurant, part of its culture. I, for one, love to see the same faces at my favorite places over and over again.

So, you're dining at a restaurant, undercover, and the restaurant manager recognizes you as a food writer. What should he do?

Two things: They should relax and carry on their job like they did before they noticed I was there. There is very little they can do to change who they really are, so just be yourself.

Secondly, if there are new, interesting, extraordinary things they are doing, I would LOVE to hear about them. I may notice them, I may not, so when you talk to me, tell me about them. Many writers get new writing ideas from these sorts of conversations and I personally love to hear what a bartender or server or restaurateur believes is the coolest thing they are doing right now. 

Let's say you're off the clock. What changes for you when you're dining out? Are the important things still important?

Familiarity is what brings me comfort. I will go back to the places that make me feel most comfortable. Most times, that means their staff has been there for a long time, that they know that I like sparkling water instead of still, that I don't like ice in my water, that I may order half glasses of multiple wines just to have the chance to taste more of them.

Have you ever caught a food writer dining in your restaurant? Better yet, have you found a write-up of your restaurant after-the-fact? Thanks to Andra for the tips and insight. For more helpful ways to make your restaurant a true success with your customers, contact us.