Omnivore - Customer impact

In this week's review of Sushi House Hayakawa, I made a point about how different customers can create different dining experiences. This was especially apparent on my Saturday night visit to Hayakawa. A bunch of diners who rarely frequent Buford Highway (my assumption, not a fact) were there, probably in part because of the restaurant's inclusion in Christiane Lauterbach's Top 15 Best New Restaurants feature in Atlanta Magazine. But it felt weird, like some breach had been made - those of us who spend a lot of time eating on Buford Highway are used to it being a safe haven from the trend-seeking mobs you might find in Buckhead or Midtown.

After I finished writing the review, I came across this post on Frank Bruni's New York Times blog about how other customers can ruin a perfectly good dining experience. He then goes on to wonder how much influence customers have over the food, not just the atmosphere. In Atlanta, the real or perceived limitations of customers' palates has influenced the ambitions of kitchens for years. But that seems to be changing. In my Holeman and Finch review, I made the point that our best new restaurants have totally disregarded the idea that customers can't handle interesting or daring food. But that doesn't mean customers don't drive change - Beleza changed its menu after opening to deal with customer expectations regarding price and serving size.

Still, for me, the greatest impact customers can have is on other diners and the vibe of a restaurant. There are places I simply won't go because I'm sure the customers there will drive me batty. Sometimes, I find myself somewhere for work and look around the room, and ask myself "what am I doing here? How did my life come to this place where I'm spending time surrounded by these people?"

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