“I love the new tablecloths” whispered a customer, catching my attention as I waltzed through a busy lunch-time service.
“I love them too” I said happily, beaming at the bright, sunny colours.
Stephane was chatting with a family of four in the far corner, probably not discussing the beauty of our Mediterranean cloths, but he was generating lots of giggles and happiness.
It’s quite incredible the effect a few simple additions can have on everyone’s mood. There is a feeling of inclusion, inviting early morning coffee drinkers, opening up the lunch-time experience to suit everyone’s taste, blending baguettes, salads, galettes with the classic restaurant plat du jour fare. These simple adaptations seem to have lifted the atmosphere, inciting communication, relaxed informality, like the old French Living days.
We were so busy the other day, we opened up the downstairs cellar space to accommodate our hungry diners.
“We ate downstairs today” said a loyal French Living customer, “it felt just like old times.”
She was talking about the days when we had the shop and cafe upstairs, and the restaurant menu was served exclusively down in the cellar. My heart thumped with excitement because in our 20th year of existence I had yearned to recreate that joyful, community atmosphere of the early years. The cellar restaurant space never failed to create a wonderful party, with customers cosily ensconced table to table, finding themselves talking to their next door strangers, some making friends for life.
This is what eating is all about, and this is at the heart of French life, the raison d’etre of French Living.
Food is not just fuel for the body; food is community.
Mornings are still pretty quiet. Customers have not yet realised we are open for breakfast, or for shopping at our deli corner.
“I’ll sit outside with a petit creme” I told Audrius, hoping passers-by would notice, and maybe be enticed to stop and visit.
King Street was pretty busy, particularly on the opposite pavement, a steady flow drifting down to Market Square, others joining queues for buses, all with their heads dropped. They were not checking the pavement or their feet, but managing to execute a brisk walk while tapping on a mobile device. Quite ingenious. No one bumped into another, some even managed this trick while pushing prams! So, not surprisingly, no one noticed me, or that French Living was open for breakfast. I retreated back inside to report my findings.
My morning observations generated an interesting discussion among the waiting staff on that day. They all confirmed an addictive usage of mobiles at the dining table. Apparently it is very rare not to find mobiles sitting on the table, ready to be answered. It is strange because our mobiles might seem like they are connecting us, and they do to a degree, but as my morning’s coffee experiment showed, they also disconnect us from the world around us. People are missing out on connecting with people around them, even sometimes with those who are sitting opposite them at a restaurant table.
I sincerely believe that the French Living experience is not only about wonderful food, but also about community, enjoying the company of others; communication, relishing a couple of hours of delicious conversation; and connection, letting go of our mobiles, emails, and truly connecting with people and environment.
I am threatening to introduce a cloak-room where you not only check in your coats and umbrellas, but also your mobiles! Stephane cast me a horrified look, so I think this idea may have to wait….