This is The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of the hottest and hardest-to-get tables in Miami.
Meet Andrew Pittard, the food and beverage director of Bianca at the Delano and, oftentimes, the man standing between you and a table on the terrace (the most coveted) at one of SoBe's busiest restaurants. Eater spoke to Pittard about what goes down behind the scenes, how he's learned to keep guests happy over the years (a glass of bubbly goes a long way), and how best to minimize the wait (tip: bribes don't work, but reservations do). Here's what he had to say.
It's 8 p.m. on a Saturday night, what's the wait for a party of 2?
You're looking at probably at 40 to 45 minutes.
Is there anything guests can do to make their wait shorter?
Yeah, absolutely. What we're really proud of right now is that we have Rose Bar in the Delano lobby— we kind of changed the culture of Rose Bar now and it's definitely in that direction of crafted cocktails, mixology driven… we have a couple of different programs, like a small batch moonshine program in there now. And bartenders do a neat, unique job of really tailoring the cocktail experience to the guest that comes in, so that's something we really try to push people into just to experience before they come into Bianca— it really ties the whole evening together.
What's the favorite seat in the house?
Favorite seat in the house would definitely be on the terrace facing the orchard. It's beautiful. On a night when the full moon's out and the stars, it's just absolutely gorgeous and such a neat environment to have dinner in.
Do people offer gifts or bribes to speed things along?
Yeah, they do [laughs]. I think at this point, our hostesses are well-trained enough that … I mean, if somebody on the way out gives you gratuity, great, but it's not going to influence your seating when you are at the door and you don't have a reservation. Everyone waits, and obviously reservations are priority.
What's the most outrageous request that you or the kitchen has ever received?
Outrageous request, that's a good one. At one time we had a really well-to-do family of 12 people come in, and they wanted us to completely custom-tailor an entire dining experience for Christmas Eve, which took probably about two or three hours of just menu planning. Bringing out all the extra products such as caviar and the foie gras and all these different items and really making this entire menu specifically for that guest— we executed it that night and it ended up being a five-course menu. Stuff like that, we're willing to do it, you have to go above and beyond sometimes to make it happen. That was probably one of the most extreme experiences we've had.
Have you had any requests you couldn't accommodate?
Not really. For the most part, if we have it in house and we can do it, we do it. Our whole mentality is we don't say no, we just make it happen. We figure it out. We've had kosher guests come in and ran down right before service to a kosher deli to grab meat and come back… if we can find a way to make it happen, we do.
Any celeb sightings?
Oh all the time. I mean we have, regularly, Leonardo DiCaprio in there, Mel Gibson, Bradley Cooper, Jay Z and Beyonce, Kim and Kanye. We have just about anybody you can think of because of that property and Bianca.
What is your essential Gatekeeper tool?
The easy answer is definitely going to be the phone. This day and age, I think anyone in this industry that's a professional uses the phone as their right hand. Everything's in there, contacts, dates, everything you'll do throughout your day is right there. It's probably an obvious answer.
You've been in the industry for years now, what's the most important thing you've learned?
I've been doing this since I was 17 years old. Being humble and having humility is the most important. Understanding that you don't know everything. There's just so much wealth of knowledge out there and to even pretend you know it all is just counterproductive. I learned to absorb what's going on around me and listen to opinions. Someone else might have a better way of doing something.
Something I learned to do that we do at Bianca is walk around and pour people a glass of champagne while they're waiting if there's an extended wait period. Especially if it's a big table and we know the wait is going to be a while … we'll walk them down to Delano Beach Club and buy them a drink there and let them hang out for a little bit, and then we'll come get them and bring them back. So, the luxury of being on a property like Delano is there's so many different avenues for you to experience, so for us it gives us a lot more tools. There's so many different options as long as we keep in constant communication and really understand that we're trying to take care of them. One of the biggest things I've learned is that. It's just basic communication. If you have a guest and the wait's going to be 15 minutes, then tell them it's going to be 15 minutes and offer to get them a seat, offer to take them to the bar, offer something. And if it is more than 15 minutes, you walk back and you communicate again with the guest. I know from personal experience that if you feel like someone doesn't care or you're just another number, that's the kind of experience you get and a lot of times you don't come back.
When you're not at Bianca, where do you like to eat?
It's funny I love the fine dining side of things, but I also love just comfort foods. One of the coolest places I like - it's kind of a dive place – is Sparky's Roadside Barbecue in Downtown. It's just … the guys do such a great job, they're always changing up the beer program there, it's just … they care, there's passion there. That's what I love the guys who make an effort and a point of doing stuff right. The other place I really like as of late is this place called The Butcher Shop. These guys are making their own sausages and all these different charcuterie-type items from scratch and pairing it with these amazing microbrews. And then Zuma is probably the easy go-to for me, I love going there as well.
· All Coverage of Bianca on Eater [EMIA]