This is The Gatekeepers, where Eater roams the city to meet the fine men and women standing between you and some of your favorite impossible-to-get tables.
Jennifer Yin, 4/11/08
Still only two years old, Terzo has already been through some menu upheaval, going from one of the city's better small plates destinations to the current, more traditional small/big plate setup. The change has not seemed to affect anything, neither from the critics' point of view—it has held fast to its trio of stars—nor from the collared-shirt Marina folk who flock to Steiner Street. On most nights, you'll find Bonnie Smith working the door.
Bernitta "Bonnie" Elizabeth Smith, Hostess at Terzo: There are 18 tables in the dining room, 5 outside tables, a communal table that seats 10, and three walk-in tables. My favorite table is table #40, which is a four-top right next to the fireplace. I also like the outside table, #30 on warm, sunny days. Terzo made the Top 100 list again. Does the inclusion have any effect on your job or the restaurant? I haven't had a shift since the Top 100 list was released last Sunday, but I imagine that it will bring in a extra diners. We are so happy to have been on this list for the past two years (since opening) and hope to continue to. 8 PM on a Saturday night. What's the wait for a table? About an hour for a table in the dining room, and thirty minutes for a walk-in table or the communal table.
Is there anything I can say to make my wait shorter? We usually seat on a "first come, first serve" basis, but it’s always appreciated for the customer to be understanding, and patient of the wait time. ...How about gifts or cash to speed things along? Gifts and cash are also appreciated, but we’re fair to the customers that have been waiting the longest.
Tell us about your favorite customers. Any celebs been by recently? There is this cute local couple that come in at least once a week who are always nice and excited to be here. They never expect to be seated right away without a reservation, which is why I always try to accommodate them as soon as I can. As for celebs, I know there have been a few warriors basketball players to come in, one of the band members of Third Eye Blind, and Tim Mondavi. How do you deal with VIPs, when there are no tables left to give? I usually give them the option of eating at the bar or in our walk-in section, but if they would rather wait for a table in the dining room, I try to accommodate them as soon as possible. ...the owner’s friends? The owner’s friends get treated like VIPs as well. I try to seat them as soon as I can.
What’s the most outrageous request from a customer you’ve had to accommodate? I’ve never had a really outrageous request, but I did have one table of two that moved five different times before they were satisfied with the table they were sitting at. ...that you couldn’t accommodate? I’ve had parties of fifteen people or so come in on a Saturday night with no reservation expecting to easily get a table.
Where do you eat when you're not at Terzo? I love Greens, Blowfish Sushi and Cha Cha Cha's. You've been in the industry for a while now; any good stories? In my previous job as a hostess I received a request from a customer coming in one night that wanted me to assist setting up for his proposal. He asked me to arrange flowers and a table with a view. After all the planning, the girl denied his proposal and ran out of the restaurant crying. He just sat there for a while. My co-workers and I didn't know what to do and finally went over to check on him. He just asked for check and left. I'm not sure if he ever returned.
What’s the one Gatekeeper tool you need to do your job? Not get too stressed out and always be pro-active.