It’s not every day that you see the impact of Mastery across every part of the experience with a business. Not every day, not even often, because it is scarce.
The Forest Side
We were taking a short break in the Lake District and had planned to have lunch at the Forest Side, a Michelin-starred restaurant near Grasmere. We pulled into the car park and walked towards the entrance. As we did so, we were greeted at the newly open door by one of the staff who checked our reservation and, in the gentlest of ways, about our immediate needs. As we took our seats at the table, we asked for sparkling water for the table. It arrived with lightly tinted glasses and was served with panache. I noticed that the glasses differed from the following table, and it became clear that the tint told all the waiting staff what water we were drinking. It’s a subtle element that avoids mistakes.
We chose our lunch and enjoyed the exceptional food and the powerful descriptions of the food from the individual chefs who had prepared it. The portions appear small, but they are very rich; the sauces are deep reductions and all made with the finest of ingredients. Two starters, two mains, and two deserts, with some appetisers in between, and a selection of four cheeses was enough to feed us for the rest of the day and into the next. Every morsel was delicious and had layers of flavour and texture. The whole time was an experience, a memory, of calm delight.
The little things make a big difference
There was no pressure to eat at a particular pace, but staff always watched for the signals to attend a table without hovering. They wore soft-soled shoes to avoid noise and had a consistent clothing style. They were well-informed and could provide advice, but also excellent listeners. Nobody was under time constraints; the staff never showed pressure nor ever moved at pace, yet when they did move, they always did so with intention and clarity. Voices were never raised. Indeed, they could often not be heard communicating with each other, yet they did so often, and again, with purpose. Many tiny touches, like the water glasses and the quiet shoes, demonstrate the care and attention put into improving the experience. Are you doing that in your business?
Mastery vs Perfection
Mastery isn’t the same as perfection. I’m not sure that anything can ever be ‘perfect’ because there is always an element or two where, on reflection, a change would be an improvement. Mastery is about stepping beyond expertise. One aspect of the most masterful businesses, particularly for the customer-facing staff, is that they are both aware and almost invisible. It reminded me that any business would benefit from seeing their client’s needs without imposing on them. If you provide a service for your clients, are you checking in with them from time to time? are you listening to them? The masterful businesses do this whilst their clients, if they notice it being done, only have a sense of being cared for, but they notice the consequence of doing it.
Recognition for Mastery
It’s no surprise to me that the Forest Side is not just recognised by those who visit but also when compared to their peers. The AA recently awarded the Forest Side Hotel of the Year, saying the Forest Side: “Under promises and over delivers on every stay we have ever had. The team is forward thinking with a very clear vision and strategy. There is an excellent anticipation of guests’ needs and the food and beverage focus is evident in big bold flavours with plenty of technical power, all of which helps it stand out from the crowd.” If you are close, then visit. It is worth it.