For visitors, tourists and local folks alike, Magnolia Table now beckons, testing not only motorists’ vigilance on our city’s infamous traffic circle but Chip and Joanna Gaines’ ability to master ownership and management of a restaurant. Our view: The challenges of negotiating the roundabout or even restoring an old home pale alongside ensuring customer satisfaction in a competitive restaurant business that does not long tolerate slackers. This latest endeavor may well test the Gaineses more than anything they’ve thus far pursued.
Given that business at Magnolia Table is likely to swell, its opening should send a signal to other locally owned restaurants. Too many restaurateurs open in popular venues such as downtown Waco, hoping location and novelty will draw business. Yet, unless the food is simply outstanding, poor or so-so service — and by proxy poor or so-so management — will eventually take its toll as other restaurants open to offer good food and good service.
If a restaurant proprietor has a host or hostess seating diners, that host or hostess should also ensure these customers actually receive table service. And eagle-eyed managers must demand quality, promptness and attentiveness by their staffs. Say what you will of chain restaurants: Most are managed by policies and protocols that won’t permit management and staff to consistently fail. And with plenty of investment, chain restaurants have the advantage. That’s why our local restaurateurs must work all the harder — and make sure tables are clean, the menu is compelling, the food is good — and customer satisfaction actually matters.
We’ll likely wait till business slows at Magnolia Table to take our first bite — and encourage other restaurateurs in the meantime to demonstrate their very best in a diligent way. As for those folks who resent the Gaineses’ decision to rename what used to be the beloved Elite Cafe, we side with the couple: Anyone who buys a shuttered restaurant building and endeavors to make it a success in such an unforgiving business should have the right to rename it. Magnolia Table it is.