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Ryan Roman on Being Sincere With Guests, Planning Ahead and More at Mignonette

In this Gatekeepers feature, Eater chats with Mignonette co-owner Ryan Roman on how to score a table at the newly opened restaurant.

You may know Ryan Roman as the blogger who diligently raves about Miami's best restaurants on miamirankings.com, but once you visit his new restaurant, Mignonetteyou'll get to see him in a whole new light. It's a kind of holy oyster light that either grants you coveted seat at the Daniel Serfer co-owned eatery or, unfortunately, doesn't. Since Mignonette is small and always packed on weekends, Roman, who often mans the door while Serfer mans the kitchen, recommends calling ahead. If you don't, brace yourself for a heavy two hour wait (possibly without even a seat at the bar). The takeaway: reservations are golden.

What's the busiest day and time at the restaurant?

Friday and Saturday nights are the busiest for us. That's when we'll typically see, you know, a couple table turns, we'll be pretty busy throughout the night and with mostly reservations. Very few walk in spots are available since we're 60 seats, but we keep the bar open for walk ins, so there's always that. Peak time is around 8 o'clock.

So, 8 p.m. on a Friday or Saturday, what's the average wait time?

usually we'll have our dining room completely booked with reservations, so often times I can't even get people in as much as I'd like to

With a reservation, we're going to try to get you in right away. We're hoping that we've sorted it out well enough that the table are turning a few minutes before that, so that we're not making it too close of a call. I'd like to have a table available when you walk in because sometimes there are people waiting at the bar and there may not be room to have a seat while you wait and we do want to make people comfortable. Without a reservation, at that time, unless there are stools that are open at the bar—usually we'll have our dining room completely booked with reservations, so often times I can't even get people in as much as I'd like to — at least an hour and a half to two hours. Unless there's a cancellation, usually I'll have those tables fully reserved.

What do you do to keep guests happy while they're waiting?

I'll look at the OpenTable on the iPad and I'll keep looking at it as if like the mysteries of the world are going to reveal themselves to me

Well, I try to communicate with them, keep them posted on how things are coming along and I try to get a drink in their hand. If there's an unusually long wait, I'll try to get them a complimentary drink so that we at least do something nice while they wait. I'm sure there are people who are like cool, calm and collected at the door and I try to keep a cool exterior but deep down I'm like trying to figure out the puzzle of how to get them in there quicker and get them to a table. Usually that means I'll look at the OpenTable on the iPad and I'll keep looking at it as if like the mysteries of the world are going to reveal themselves to me. Sometimes they do.

Is there anything one can do to speed up that wait?

No, we're very egalitarian. Making the reservation obviously is critical on weekend nights. On weeknights, sometimes we'll fill up in the evenings, but usually it's a healthy number of walk ins so usually it's a lot easier to come in on a week night or at lunch time. And then if you're going to come in at prime time on a Friday or Saturday, if you plan ahead a few days you'll be fine.

Have you received any crazy offers for a table?

People, I think their instinct is to say that they're going to spend money and we certainly appreciate that, but we're trying to get everybody seated and happy. Hopefully everybody has a good time, but I understand sometimes I'm going to give an answer that somebody's not wanting to hear. But I'm at least going to try to be honest with them because if I promise you a table and can't deliver, to me that's a lot worse than being up front from the very beginning.

What is the most outrageous request you've had to accommodate so far?

Oh, we're so new that we haven't had anything really crazy yet, but I guess anything can happen. But so far everyone's been really friendly and the feedback's been great. We're seeing a lot of familiar faces coming back, so we really want to create a place where locals can come repeatedly and so far they've been very kind and haven't asked for anything too off the wall.

What do you think is your most important gatekeeper tool?

this is the hospitality industry and we're trying to please people

I think it's just keeping your wits really and being sincere and honest with people. That's all I can do. Sometimes it means just politely saying no if that's going to be the answer, but also if there's any way to say yes, then we do it. So, I think just remembering that this is the hospitality industry and we're trying to please people, but not promising them things we can't actually deliver on.

When you are not at Mignonette where do you like to eat?

There's a lot I love around town. I really love NAOE and Nemesis. I enjoy Niu Kitchen a tremendous amount. And, I'm trying to think of how many I'll get in trouble for not mentioning... yeah, everyone who I've ever mentioned on the blog qualifies.

· All Coverage of Mignonette [EMIA]

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