Welcome to The Gatekeepers, a monthly feature in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite tough-to-get tables.
Photos by Frank Lee
It's been apparent since the first day that Faith & Flower opened that their general manager would be logging plenty of miles on their heels. The restaurant isn't gigantic per se, but with a lively bar scene, deep dining room and constant turns at the tables, it's not hard to see why Tyler Dow has an easy time breaking in his shoes. Eater chatted with Dow about authenticity, his personal no-tips policy and how the popular restaurant still finds ways to make room for walk-ins.
Faith & Flower is definitely one of the more popular reservations in town right now. Has it been that way since the beginning? We've grown fairly organically, actually. We made a conscious decision not over-promote our opening, so that we could breathe and just focus on service and back of house needs. Thankfully, we've seen some great media coverage recently, and we're getting a real bounce from that now.
Still, we don't really book out too long in advance. And we always try to allow for some walk-in reservations. We're usually booked for Saturday night by the Wednesday before, but it just depends on any events in the area or something going on at Staples Center or holidays or anything like that.
Has your proximity to Staples Center become a draw for business? There's some Staples Center crowds, some organic. Our geography provides a great opportunity for people to just stop by. We had very busy happy hours before Kings games — it's the convenience of it all. Our valet is reasonable, it's easy to walk.
Really, the bar has a personality and life of its own. We've begun doing a solid bar business, and it works parallel to what we're doing with the restaurant. Most people still come by looking for that focused restaurant experience that may or may not include a drink, and there is some crossover, but it's mostly meant to be two parts of a whole.
You must be doing a lot of running between the two areas all night. There are certainly times that I'd like to be able to clone myself. I put a lot of miles on my shoes, that's for sure. My M.O. is to do laps, essentially a figure eight. I'll start one way, loop the other way, cross into the bar. Over the course of an evening, if there's nothing too pressing, that's what I do. I'm a dirty hands manager. I'll interact with tables, buss plates, get behind the bar. I talk to guests a lot, to know what they need and try to help them understand our space. It requires a lot of motion.
Have you always been drawn to front of house work? I think the service aspect is something I've always done inherently. I used to be a lawyer, but I missed that energy of a restaurant when it's backed up on a Saturday night, and you have to interact with folks. There's something to that. When we get busy, I feel the most alive. I see the most opportunities to impress guests. Mistakes will always happen, though we try to minimize them. It's how we react, acknowledge, communicate, plan and execute. When we do that, people remember how it feels.
How hard is it to get a table for two on a Saturday night? On an average Saturday night as a walk-in, if you end up waiting more than an hour, you're exceptionally unlucky. We definitely stay communicative, let guests know we're working on it, and just keep them involved so they can make a decision. We've found that people are far more patient and understanding if they just know what's going on. We'll point guests to the bar for shorter turns, let them have a drink and see what's going on. We also tend not to book the bar tables via reservation, because it's a different atmosphere, and frankly we want that leeway. There are a couple of pressure release valve areas for us, like the bar and the patio, which is picking up in summer.
So do you ever have people sliding you cash in hopes of a better, faster table? It does happen from time to time. But I have a personal policy to never accept tips, ever. What will really get people the most attention and likelihood of an expedited table is how they treat us. Lots of folks have a sense of importance, and I'm certain that they are very important, and may be used to that level of important around them. But we're spending our lives giving the best possible service we can, so to have someone give us that level of humanity back, those are the people we end up bending over backwards for.
Where do you like to eat when you've got a day off? If there's a thread of Faith & Flower that's in me too, it's authenticity. The restaurant looks opulent, and can be , but we also wear jeans and like to relax. So I seek out unpretentious experiences. I can go to Bestia, Orsa & Winston — and I do — but I also love Cole's. At Tacos El Gavillan, whenever I go there, it's just the local Hispanic crowd and me. And the food is fantastic. I'm able and willing to have those fine dining experiences, but when it's just me and my friends, I'm more blue jeans and tennis shoes. I look for people that are executing well, and a place that has that authenticity. —Farley Elliott
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